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Sturgill Simpson, Gregg Allman perform at “Country in the City”

Sturgill Simpson opened the first of three “Country in the City” concerts in Century City on Saturday, July 19.
Sturgill Simpson opened the first of three “Country in the City” concerts in Century City on Saturday, July 19.

This summer, Century City has turned an implausible situation into an open event for the public to enjoy: visitors can experience some of the makings of a Southern country music performance without ever leaving the corporate scene of Los Angeles.

The Annenberg Space for Photography and KCRW have collaborated to produce a free concert series called “Country in the City,” to bring to life the Annenberg’s latest country music-themed exhibition, “Country: Portraits of an American Sound.”

Century Park, the lawn adjacent to the Annenberg Space, transforms into a well-kept, state-of-the-art outdoor concert venue. Characteristic of the classy and polished Century City, the lawn boasted clean facilities, organized stage and crowd maintenance, and of course, thousands of country music fans and connoisseurs of all ages.

On July 19, the Country in the City concert series kicked off its three-Saturday run with its first concert, with headliner Gregg Allman and opening act Sturgill Simpson.

Prior to the concert, visitors lounged on the lawn with picnic blankets, touring the Annenberg Space, grabbing some eats at food trucks and beer gardens, and simply taking in the lively, yet relaxing ambiance of a bustling summer night concert in the middle of a tranquil corporate lawn.

With the stage strategically placed so that almost all guests enjoyed an unhindered view, Simpson commenced festivities with a balanced variety of country tunes.

Simpson’s more upbeat selections had seated audience members instinctually rise to their feet and start dancing to some “honky-tonk” music.

Of course, Simpson also performed a mixture of quintessential country love ballads.

Some Simpson songs of choice included “Sitting Here Without You,” “Water in a Well,” “Long White Line,” “Poor Rambler,” “Medicine Springs,” “Life of Sin,” “Railroad of Sin,” and his lead single from his latest album, “Living the Dream.”

Simpson is known for being able to refine classic country styles from various eras, preserving their characteristics while incorporating his own baritone voice and personal style.

His sophomore album, “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music,” was released earlier this year.

Around 8 pm, Allman took to the stage to an excited crowd, the majority on their feet, eager to greet the country star and welcome him to Century City.

As an anticipated act, the energy levels of the audience seemed to amplify with Allman’s stage presence and enhance the concert experience as a whole.

Allman performed singles, medleys, original songs, and covers of other artists, including “Statesboro,” “Angel,” “Don’t Keep Me Moving,” “Stormy Monday,” “Ain’t Wasting Time,” “Bullets,” “I Found a Love,” “Sweet Feeling,” “Melissa,” “Midnight Rider,” “Love Like Kerosene,” and “Whipping Post.” Allman concluded the night with an encore song, “One Way Out.”

Allman is famed both for his collaborative work as one-half of the Allman Brothers Band as well as his later solo career. As a Grammy nominee and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Allman’s soulful singing and songwriting is exemplary of quality Southern rock and American music in general.

The atmosphere, an ideal blend of what Century Park offers and what the Annenberg and KCRW were able to create, was the cherry on top of the cool summer night. The huge lantern lights provided by KCRW provided a sense of romance and whimisicality, whereas the bordering beer gardens and other food vendors made for a friendly, bustling environment around the concert area.

The Annenberg Space for Photography also graciously arranged extended opening hours during the concert series so that audience members are able to meander and check out the inspiration behind Country in the City.

Whether it was for a family outing, a cute date, or a girls’ night out, it was clear that a wide range of people were drawn to the Country in the City series for various reasons, whether it be for the food, the music, the entertainment, or the atmosphere.

This Saturday, July 26, Grammy winner and Alabama native Shelby Lynne will headline the second concert with Jamestown Revival as openers.

The final “Country in the City” concert will take place Saturday, Aug. 2 featuring five-time Grammy winner Wynonna. Nikki Lane, whose most recent album was produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, will serve as the opening act. The concert series is free and open to the public, but tickets are required.

The Annenberg Space for Photography is located at 2000 Avenue of the Stars in Century City.

For more information, call 213.403.3000 or visit http://www.annenbergspaceforphotography.org or kcrw.com.

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