By RANDY GONZALES
Their husbands wanted to watch basketball Friday night, so Rachel Ediger and Diana Branch went to Aaron Shust's concert by themselves.
They weren't disappointed, standing through much of the evening's performance at Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.
"I enjoyed it," Ediger said. "I worshipped and just enjoyed the music."
"It was awesome," Branch said. "That's why I was here, because I was so impressed we had acts like this come to town."
Shust, a nationally-acclaimed contemporary Christian singer/songwriter, was joined on stage by newcomer Lauren Daigle. Also performing was the pop-rock band MIKESCHAIR and acoustic pop-songwriter Jonny Diaz.
Before the concert, Shust said he enjoyed playing in smaller venues. Friday was his first time in Hays, although he has performed in Kansas before. Shust also was looking forward to performing in Beach/Schmidt.
"I'm excited about playing in a theater tonight," he said. "We play in a lot of churches. These churches are beautiful ... but there's something about playing in a neutral location, in a theater that's just absolutely beautiful."
Shust, 38, earned the Gospel Music Association's Songwriter of the Year and New Artist Dove Award in 2007. His song, "My Savior, My God," was named Song of the Year. His latest album "The Morning Rises," is his fifth. Among the songs he performed Friday was one of his personal favorites, "Wondrous Love."
"I was most familiar with the final songs; I enjoyed them all," Ediger said.
Branch said she was most familiar with MIKESCHAIR, but found she knew other songs, too.
"I guess I knew more of Aaron Shust than I thought I did," she said.
Ediger and Branch both were pleased to have a Christian concert come to Hays. KPRD Radio (88.9 FM) tries to put together a few concerts a year. Friday's audience was filled with young people.
"Just great talent," Branch said. "Furthermore, just great having (an evening) of Jesus Christ and our God."
Ediger said she enjoyed the opening act, too. Diaz, the younger brother of former Atlanta Braves outfielder Matt Diaz, had the near-capacity auditorium in stitches with humorous songs and anecdotes.
"I liked the first guy's funny lyrics," Ediger said.
When Diaz first came on stage, he quickly learned his guitar wasn't plugged in.
"We're off to a good start tonight," he joked before his guitar was plugged in.
Diaz was making his first trip to Hays, too. He tours in the spring and fall and plays single dates the rest of the year. This is his second tour with Shust. They all travel together in a bus that sleeps a dozen people.
They were scheduled to play in McPherson on Saturday night and be in Colby tonight as part of a tour that will hit more than 20 cities.
Diaz warmed up the crowd with an amusing song titled "The Opener."
"It's fun," being an opening act, Diaz said with a laugh. "It's a challenge every night to come out, not know what to expect from the crowd.
"I just enjoy getting to introduce my music to new fans every night."
Even if your guitar is unplugged.