American flags lined the top of the tent and gently waved with the cool breeze. At the top of the hill, golf carts and ATVs idled in the parking lot, waiting to transport fans of Gospel music to the tent below. As you walked by the Snack Shack, you could smell the aroma of good southern cooking that will make you hungry…even if you just ate. In all of Gospel music, this can only mean one thing – it’s Memorial Day in Carnesville, Georgia and Indian Creek Baptist Church is ready for their 17th year of great music, fellowship and honor to those who’ve served our nation.
Thursday night began at seven o’clock with Gary Farmer (member of Indian Creek) welcoming everyone from the stage. At Indian Creek, Memorial Day isn’t just a convenient time to have a Gospel sing; it is a time to truly honor those who have served our nation. To begin, they asked all the Veterans to stand; then, they honored each branch of the service. After that, they called up Robert C., a member of Indian Creek Baptist who served in the Navy during Vietnam. He led us in the Pledge of Allegiance followed by opening the evening in prayer. Once everyone was seated, Danny Jones joined the men on stage and gave a shout out to the church. He said, “This area the tent is on was an ocean yesterday because of the weather they’ve been having recently.” In 24 hours, the team at the church erected everything for the weekend. On Thursday alone, they put down gravel on the grounds.
The first artist on stage at Indian Creek was Jeff & Sheri Easter. As the sun’s rays came down on the tent that was surrounded by lush green trees and pasture, the acoustic guitar led into their first song, “Small Town.” No other song would have been more appropriate! Next, they went right into “Over and Over Again;” which received a hearty applause. “It’s good to be in Carnesville, Georgia!” Jeff Easter exclaimed, “You know what I like? Being in a tent full of people that talk just like I do!” LOL! He took a moment and introduced Sheri, who was wearing heels for the first time after her ankle surgery. Sheri added, “My Doctor said it would be simple, but when I walked out of the hospital I felt like I was falling apart!” Jeff laughed, “When she said that it reminded me of a song we sang in the sixth grade…” Then he went into the classic Hee-Haw song and the audience finished it! Morgan was introduced next and Jeff made sure to emphasize that she was recently engaged. “And the mystery man is right here!” exclaimed Jeff, pointing to their drummer. Then, “And he’s about to be Landon Smith Easter!” The crowd chuckled at that. Morgan was featured on “Someone’s Listening” and then Jeff explained how he likes to sing this next lyric to Sheri every day, “I love you, darling, I love you…” After, the band was introduced and Jeff shared how his favorite instrument was the steel guitar. So the band played “Beulah Land,” beginning with the steel and ended with all the instruments on stage playing “I’ll Fly Away.” When the fun instrumental finished, Sheri picked up her recent devotional and began to share one with the audience. She shared how so many people no longer feel loved and how this emotion is the leading cause of insecurity. After reading an excerpt from her devotional, they sang their mid-tempo ballad, “Jesus Loves You.” This lyric always brings a sweet spirit to every venue they sing it in and Thursday night was no different. As the last notes rung out, Sheri encouraged everyone, “Do me a favor, take someone’s hand and whisper these words, ‘Jesus loves you…’” They encored the chorus, but without the music and without the original tempo. They slowed the melody down and each word became something everyone could really meditate on as they sang. When the moment passed, Jeff called up his cousin Jared (who was playing the steel guitar) to sing an old Country tune called “Worn Out.” But Jared wasn’t the only one Jeff brought on stage before they ended their set. Their drummer’s brother, Logan Smith, was riding the bus with them that weekend and so Jeff called him up on stage to sing their closing song with them. Jeff said that when he first heard Logan sing, he sounded like Vestal Goodman. So, for the rest of the night, Jeff called Logan “Vestal.” Logan took Morgan’s part as they sang “This Is What Heaven Means To Me.”
Before leaving the stage, Jeff called the ushers up and they took the offering. While the buckets were passed, Jeff had “sister Vestal” sing “I Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now” with them, as the audience clapped along.
The Primitive Quartet came on stage and opened with their popular tune, “I’m No Longer An Orphan.” The first few songs were delivered back to back; these were “Better Than Good To Me,” “Empty Me,” “Who Is The Rich Man Now?” and “He’s Still Passing By.” Reagan introduced the group then and spoke of the privilege they’ve had to be in ministry for 44 years. He explained, “We’ve been around the best people in the world and I thank God for that shelter. We didn’t have to be in a workplace with vulgarity and bad language; we’ve been blessed to be with the people of God.” After a brief intro of each member, Mike exclaimed, “Let’s pick!” …And off they went into a familiar tune. When they finished the fast band solo, Randy said, “Now, Mike, settle down!” LOL! Then, “We’re going do this Irish melody that Dotti Rambo wrote some beautiful lyrics for.” That song was “He Looked Beyond My Fault And Saw My Need.” This instrumental features Mike Riddle on the acoustic guitar and Jeff Tolbert on the fiddle is one of my favorites, but that night we enjoyed an extra treat. About halfway through, Jared Easter came up and joined them with the steel guitar. I wish you could have heard how the steel harmonized with the band! It was beautiful! Their following song was a personal tribute to those who laid down their lives for our country, it was a song called “Blood Bought By Freedom.” After Jeff sang another tune, they invited folks to their singing at the valley and then they closed with a special request – “Highway That Leads Home.”
Intermission lasted 15-20 minutes and then both groups came back on stage and sang together. If you’re familiar with the Indian Creek sing, you know that anything can happen on the second set and tonight wasn’t any different. They kicked off with everyone singing “I Saw The Light.” For the second song, Danny Jones suggested a request from the audience and could you guess what someone called out? “Honey In The Rock!” And they did it! Jeff Tolbert did the whistling part and everyone chuckled at the different parts. As fun as it was, Jeff Easter exclaimed, “Now Danny, I have a request!” So they lined everyone up for an epic re-singing of “Peter was a Fireball.” Since Larry was the only bass singer on stage, he was volunteered to do that part. Jeff Easter explained, “Now when Morgan taps you, say, ‘amen,’ and when Sheri taps you, say ‘Peter was a Fireball.’” With these instructions, they kicked off the song. All went well for a while and then everyone on stage sang “Peter was a Fireball,” Sheri tapped Larry but instead of repeating the line he said, “Amen.” Jeff Easter stopped and exclaimed, “Now, that wasn’t right! You were supposed to say ‘Peter was a Fireball!’” Larry replied, “But you just sang that so I sang ‘amen.’” Everyone laughed and Jeff made him do it over again. As you can tell, it was a humorous time! Both Primitive and the Easters each sang another song and then Danny and Jeff brought up Dean (the sound engineer) to sing a song. Danny said, “Get your cameras out! This has never happened before!” Dean sang the classic tune, “Why Me Lord.” After a hearty applause, Jeff Easter formed a scrap iron quartet assembled of Larry, “sister Vestal,” Jeff Tolbert and himself. Together, they sang the classic “Just A Little Talk With Jesus.” When they finished, Danny Jones interjected, “You may not realize this, but both the Primitive Quartet Band and Jeff & Sheri’s band are nominated as the Top 5 Bands in the Singing News Fan Awards. It would be a shame to have them here together and not hear them play something!” Together, both bands jumped into a rousing rendition of “Glorybound Train.” Watching those musicians play that piece was like observing a master as they painted a work of art – it was something to behold! Afterwards, Danny shared, “Not only have you heard some of the greatest talent tonight, you’ve heard some of the most sincere Christians you will ever meet.” The evening closed with Larry praying and then a few folks stayed on stage and sang as everyone left.
Conclusion: If there is one word that can sum up the sing at Indian Creek, it’s this – unique. Though we can agree that each sing is unique in its own way, there’s just something different about this one. Maybe it’s the team of volunteers from the church who always greet you with a smiling face, or the ability to eat fresh, home cooked food at the Snack Shack or even the fun times that come when Jeff Easter gives Larry Riddle a hard time about singing the right words to “Peter was a Fireball.” Regardless of what it is, you can always count on Memorial Day under the “tent” to be one that you will remember and enjoy.