By RUSTY PRAY
If Eric Durrance has his way, the Southern Grand Slam will start with a bang on July 6 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte.
“We’re the opener, so we’re going to bring it really hard,” said Durrance, founder and lead vocalist for Tobacco Rd Band.
Tobacco Rd Band, out of Tallahassee, is on a bill with Jim Brown, Billy Dean and Darryl Worley. Gates open at 4 p.m.
Music will begin at 5:30 p.m. Fireworks will follow the concert, which is co-sponsored by the Charlotte Stone Crabs.
“We try to do many things throughout the year to keep our connection to the community close,” said Jared Forma, Stone Crabs general manager. “This is just one small thing. We’re happy to be able to provide this for the community.
“Hopefully, the community will support it so we can do more. We’d love to do a couple concerts a year.”
Turn-it-up Southern rock is what Tobacco Rd Band will bring to the stage when it kicks off the Fourth of July weekend finale.
“A lot of our music has traditional country lyrics to it, but the music is high-energy rock and roll,” Durrance said. “So, it’s a mix between the two. Country music fans like us, but people who may not enjoy country music also like us because of the rock influence.
“We’re able to please a lot of different types of people.”
Worley, the headliner, is a proven country star. His albums have produced 18 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, including three number ones: “I Miss My Friend,” “Have You Forgotten?” and “Awful, Beautiful Life.” “Have You Forgotten?” spent seven weeks at number one. Nine other singles have reached the top 40.
Dean, who has been recording since 1990, first gained national attention after appearing on the television talent competition “Star Search.” His albums have produced 11 top 10 hits on the country charts.
According to its website, Brown offers a “range of music in style and emotion from a tender sentimental love song, ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes,’ by Keith Whitley, or an edgy rocker like ‘Take It Outside,’ by Brantley Gilbert.”
Durrance writes the songs for Tobacco Rd Band. He said 75% of its playlist at the Slam will be original. Mindful of the holiday, he also plans to hit a few patriotic chords by “throwing in some American classics.”
Durrance, who was born and raised in Tallahassee, said his lyrics are inspired by the classic country artists whom his grandparents listened to: Hank Williams, George Jones, Marty Robbins, Jerry Reed and Merle Haggard.
“As a teen, I got into rock world, so classic country and rock ‘n roll are my influences,” he said.
The show, he said, will be up-tempo, high-energy, fun. Because of the nature of the holiday, I want to make it emotional. I want to pull at the heartstrings a little but still keep it fun.”
Durrance, who plays guitar, is joined in the band by lead guitarist Ben Castro, bassman Dale Shumate and drummer Joe Markham.
“It’s going to be a blast,” Durrance said.
Tickets are $20 each if purchased in advance and $25 each at the gate. To buy tickets, call 941-206-4487, stop by the stadium box office, 2300 El Jobean Road, Port Charlotte, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday or go to www.milb.com/charlotte- stone-crabs/events/southern-grand-slam.