Colfax Avenue was buzzing on Thursday night as people gathered outside the Bluebird Theater to catch the last few tickets to see Rayland Baxter. The singer-songwriter from Nashville was in town promoting his latest album, Wide Awake, on his Hey Baby Hey Baby Tour.

The opener for the evening was Odessa, who serenaded the room and set the evening’s tone for a wonderful night of music. It didn’t take long for the venue to fill up as everyone eagerly awaited Baxter to hit the stage. A few moments later, he emerged from the basement green room in a knit beanie, bleach-stained overalls, and lightning bolt socks to go with his choice mustache. Baxter and his bandmates walked on stage as Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” started playing.

They ran through the majority of his new album, opening with “Strange American Dream”, which speaks to the ever-changing nature of what it means to be an American during this crazy time in our country. This upbeat ear-worm will stay in your head for days, so beware. Some of the highlights of the show were songs like “Angeline”, “Sandra Monica”, “Amelia Baker”, and a little tease of the Grateful Dead‘s “Fire On The Mountain”, which Baxter sang with a big smile on his face.

The band stepped offstage as Baxter played “Everything To Me”, which prompted everyone to grab a loved one and sing along to one another. Afterward, the band then jumped back on and went into one of the hottest tracks off the new album, “Hey Larocco”. As with most of his music, Baxter’s writing on this song possesses a relatable quality which forces you to listen just a little more intently. In the song, he recounts an incident where he intervened in a fight that his friend was in while attending Loyola University in Baltimore.

As Rayland Baxter explained in an interview with Native Magazine, “I just was like, ‘Get off of him!’ And I tossed this guy back, but he was wasted and fell backward into a tree, and a broken branch sliced his head open.” Baxter elaborates on the song’s backstory by saying, “The campus police showed up immediately and were like, ‘Did you do this?’ I was like, ‘Uh, yeah. But . . .’” Baxter was then taken to jail on second-degree assault charges where he spent 3 nights behind bars and was kicked out of school for a year. The incident caused him to move back to Nashville and pursue his musical career, following in the footsteps of his father, Bucky Baxter, who played pedal steel alongside Bob Dylan on his Never Ending Tour. However, keeping pace with the album’s theme, “Hey Larocco” is not meant to be a resentful tune, but more of one that reveals a silver lining during hard times.

Towards the end of the set, the band stepped off once again as Baxter invited Wesley Schultz of The Lumineers to join him on stage to play an amazing rendition of the Talking Heads‘ “This Must Be The Place”. He followed that with a touching solo rendition of “Willy’s Song” and ending the evening with “Let It All Go, Man”.

Thursday night was a special performance that truly felt like it had it all. Relatable storytelling, upbeat electrical jams, anthemic sing-alongs, tear jerkers, love songs, special guests… and the guy can whistle like a true champion. It’s no surprise to see his success grow the way it has. Thanks Rayland Baxter! We’ll see you again next time.

For information on Rayland Baxter’s upcoming tour dates, head to his website here.

Below, you can check out a full gallery of photos from the performance courtesy of photographer Andrew Rios.