The fans were yelling in our direction: "You guys are awesome! We love you guys!"
"They think we're Jars of Clay," deadpans Clark Leake, bassist for The Waiting. Then in case I missed the humor, he adds, "That's a joke."
The reality is, these fans definitely know the four guys I'm talking to make up The Waiting. They'd just heard the band perform a 30-minute set at a Christian music festival.
The crowd was definitely into the band's unique style of light rock, especially those who'd shoved their way to the front; these fans had no problem singing along, even with the band's newer songs.
I tell the guys I'm surprised the audience seemed so familiar with the tunes from their recently released album. Before I can apologize for how that sounded (like, I can't believe people really know your music), lead singer Brad Olson, says quickly, "I was surprised, too!"
"It's been crazy how people have been responding to us," says lead guitarist Todd Olson, Brad's older brother. "They really seem to like the new album."
And it's no wonder The Waiting has a strong following. There's something refreshing about this Georgia-based band. I mean, after two well-received albums, and several years of intense touring, these guys are still surprised by a crowd's positive response. In a business where it'd be easy to have an overblown ego, they seem rather unaffected by the rock-star attitude. They seem, well, normal. Even ordinary. And with the exception of Todd's short, bleached hair, there are few "outward signs" that these guys are rockers.
"Mom would kill Brad and me if we got earrings," says Todd with a mischievous smile.
"I grew my hair long once," says Clark, "and I looked in the mirror one day and thought, Uhhh, my hair looks kind of dumb. So I cut it. I just don't want to get into the 'rock look' thing."
As I talk with these guys, I realize they are very concerned about how they come across.
"I'm just terrified of coming off like snobby rock stars," admits Brad, "and I think I overcompensate sometimes. … Todd gets on me for putting myself down."
"It really concerns me when he puts himself down in front of an audience," adds Todd. "He'll do that and I'll have to talk to him about it. …
"We really do feel our music is special. We feel it's a gift God has given us. But we just don't want to look like we're letting our music go to our heads. We don't want to put ourselves above the audience."
"Our audience is important to us," adds Clark. "We don't want to ever treat them wrong. Or ignore them or not have time for them. … Actually, it's humbling that anybody would ever like anything we do. I pick up a guitar and start working on my craft, and people respond in positive ways. Hopefully, none of us will ever take that for granted."
As we talk, I wonder, Who wouldn't like these guys? There's a genuine friendliness that just seems to be a natural part of who they are. As a result, they can't help but make some new friends as they tour the country. Friends who, by the way, like to give them stuff.