If some of Kid Rock's fans are surprised to see a bluegrass band opening dates on his Cheap Date Tour this summer, the five members of the Packway Handle Band feel much the same way.
"We've never done anything like it," singer-banjoist Tom Baker says by phone from a tour stop in Cincinnati. "We've played on some stages in the same ballpark in terms of size at some festivals, but that's the only similarity. Everything else is totally different for us, but it's just been fantastic all along. I can't say enough good things about the people we're working with at these shows -- the musicians, the crew, the catering. They've been super-welcoming so far."
And so have the crowds, Baker, 36, is pleased to report.
"I've been to a lot of concerts where the opening band was basically ignored; that's the fear when you get into this kind of thing," he acknowledges. "But I feel like the show from the beginning has gone over very well and keeps getting better and better as we get more comfortable with it."
Packway Handle is no stranger to Kid Rock die-hards, in fact. The Athens, Ga., group has performed on the Clarkston-based artist's last two Chillin' The Most cruises, playing both formal and informal sets. "We'd be hanging out in an elevator or something and people would come in and freak out when they see this band playing music for them," Baker says with a laugh. The group also "got to hang out and play some music with (Kid Rock), which was extremely cool."
And after its sets on the summer tour, the quintet is also busking around the venues. The ultimate goal, Baker says, is to win some new friends who will be on board for Packway Handle's subsequent visits, and for the group's next album.
"We're sitting on a handful of songs that we all really like and are excited to record," Baker says. "That's what we're hoping to do this fall. That would be the next step for us, out that new record together and tour behind it. And after this tour, we're all real excited for what might come next."
Kid Rock, Foreigner and the Packway Handle Band
6:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 7-8, and Aug. 11-12, 14-15, 18-19 and 21-22.
DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township.
$20 tickets are sold out, but promoters say some may be released over the course of the run.
Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
Send your thoughts and comments to