When a concert is good, it’s really good. Will Hoge at the Memorial Opera House was one of those concerts. On Friday night Hoge finally made his stop at the Valparaiso staple as a part of the Imagine Music Concert Series. The show, which started with fans cheering in their seats and ended with a group dancing in front of the stage, was the first of this year’s Imagine Music line-up.
Will Hoge, a singer/songwriter from Tennessee, is one of many different artists that will make their way to the historic theater this year. Hoge has been on many tours and has played shows for small and large crowds alike, but making a trip to the Opera House’s intimate theater was something he found value in.
“A lot of the time when you’re at those big festivals with 30,000 people about 18,000 of them are just there to drink beer and have a good time and that’s not always the ideal audience.” Hoge explained. “In situations like this with theaters you might only get a couple thousand but they spend their hard-earned money to come out and see a show. We really enjoy it.”
Imagine Music’s concerts draws in many loyal, hard-working Valpo residents, but there’s always room for visitors. Jason Murphy, who moved to Indianapolis from Valparaiso, said that he made the trip back due to the opportunity he had to see one of his favorite artists again.
“I’m huge, huge fan. I first saw Will Hoge 12 or 13 years ago at the House of Blues in Chicago and that was one of the shows that’s always left a huge impression on me,” he said.
It wasn’t just Jason who made the trip back to Valpo, he also brought his brother Chad along for the ride.
“It’s going to be an absolutely great night.” Chad stated. “I’m really excited to see him because my brother’s been a big fan for years. Everything looks great, our seats are great, and it’s really cool to see a high-quality performer here in Valpo.”
When the lights dimmed and Will Hoge and his band took the stage for their set it was an instant electric atmosphere. Hoge powered through dozens of songs, played a few of acoustic songs, and even sang with only the power of his raw voice and a single harmonica. Throughout the night he stopped to talk to the audience, connecting to them through stories about casinos in Indiana, his experience with the Grammys, and one not-so-great gig as a wedding singer - among others. As much as Hoge put into his audience they were quick to give as much back. They cheered, clapped their way through ‘Middle of America’ and stomped their feet to ‘Even If It Breaks Your Heart’.
When the night was seemingly coming to a close a group of people made the concert livelier than it had been. A singular group made their way to the front of the stage and decided that it was time to make the space standing-optional. Soon after many more joined the small group in front of the stage to dance their way through the encore. The event was a rare occasion a concert at the Opera House, but it made the night that much more fun for everyone involved.
Overall it’s safe to say that the night was a hit. Once the band left the stage for the last time and the attendees were making their way back from the makeshift dance floor, it was clear that everyone had experienced a show they’ll remember. Brad Koeppen, co-founder of Imagine Music Productions, LLC. said that Will Hoge and his band delivered more than anyone anticipated. “I have to say that everyone I’ve talked to have said that this is the best show they’ve ever been to. The music was great, the people were really into it, and it was an awesome show. It was really kind of the perfect night.”
Will Hoge will be a tough act to follow, but there’s still a full year of concerts for the Imagine Music Series. It’s still hard to imagine, though, that Friday night will be forgotten by anyone who was there to witness that “perfect night”.