Nickelback, Gentry and guests perform back-to-back concerts

Friday, October 24, 2003

Eddie Montgomery grew up in Kentucky listening to Merle Haggard, Charlie Daniels and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Ryan Peake grew up in the province of Alberta, Canada, listening to Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams Jr.

They took their musical educations in different directions, Montgomery becoming half of the popular country duo Montgomery Gentry, Peake playing guitar for the hard-driving alternative rock band Nickelback. But both still value music with the authenticity of Haggard's and Cash's. "They lived everything they sing about," Montgomery says.

The two musicians' paths will nearly cross this weekend when Montgomery Gentry and Nickelback play at the Show Me Center on successive nights.

Montgomery Gentry and guests Emerson Drive perform tonight.

Saturday night it's the Grammy-nominated Canadian rockers Nickelback preceded to the stage by Three Days Grace and Trapt. All three bands have hits in the Top 10 on Billboard's modern rock chart, Nickelback's "Someday" at No. 4, Trapt's "Still Frame" at No. 7 and Three Days Grace's "(I Hate) Everything About You" at No. 8.

The names Lynryrd Skynrd, the Allman Brothers and Hank Williams Jr. invariably come up when the subject is Montgomery Gentry's music. Those bands can be heard in Montgomery Gentry's sound, a hybrid of traditional country and old-school rock 'n' roll.

Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry grew up playing five or six nights a week in clubs around Lexington, Ky. Charlie Daniels, Patty Loveless and Keith Whitley were in the area doing the same.

For awhile, Eddie and Troy were in a band headed by Montgomery's brother, John Michael Montgomery, now a successful solo artist. "We were basically pushing John boy at the time," Montgomery said from a concert stop in Pennsylvania. "We wanted to get him a deal."

When John Michael was discovered, Eddie and Troy started honing their own sound. It took a while for anyone to notice. He thinks the music he and Troy made together might have been too in-your-face back then. "At the time people were doing a lot of love songs," Montgomery said. "Me and Troy didn't sing about love."

At least not the treacly way much of current country radio does. Love is lurking around somewhere in hits like "There's a Cold One Comin' On," "Lonely and Gone," and "She Couldn't Change Me," but no couples will be picking one of these as "our song."

The duo's hit, "Hell Yeah," now at No. 15 on Billboard's country chart, includes a chorus about the guy at their concert who works too much and starts drinking too early. "He yells out Johnny Cash/And the band starts to play/A ring of fire as he walks up/And stands there by the stage ..."

The rollicking tune was written and recorded before Cash's recent death and was a sure-fire hit anyway. It gets an even bigger reaction now. "People go nuts," Montgomery said.

Nickelback guitarist Peake listened to so much country music as a child because his father played bass in a country band. He listened and then, as sons will do, he started pushing away his father's music in favor of the sounds of Megadeth, Anthrax and Metallica.

He and the other members of Nickelback grew up in Hanna, Alberta, a town of only 3,000 people. Fortunately, many in the town were musicians. "The band scene was almost incestuous," he said. "You moved around until you found the right fit," Peake said in a phone interview from the road in Houston.

That fit is Nickelback, named by bass player Mike Kroeger from his change-making experiences working in a coffeehouse.

Being in a small town meant there weren't many places to play, and club owners were more interested in cover tunes than originals. "We would have to make special trips into the city to get the newest songs to learn," Peake said.

Nickelback got their break by going to Vancouver, B.C., to record seven songs written by lead singer Chad Kroeger. That got them onto the road and a chance to record more. Their second album, "Silver Side Up," has sold more than 9 million copies worldwide. The anthem "How You Remind Me" became radio's most played song of 2002.

The band does not spend much time chart-watching, Peake said, but does keep an eye on the business side of being rock 'n' roll musicians. "If we don't keep a close watch on it, nobody will," he said.

One of the high points of being in the band for Peake has been its performance at the American Music Awards. They didn't win, but they met musicians they only dreamed of being in the same room with five years ago. Peake hung out with Willie Nelson that night.

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