Oh my God, this is my song
I’ve been listening to the radio all night long
I couldn’t believe it was really him.
I know I rail against albums, I know I decry the state of modern music, but the truth is I know every lick on Luke Bryan’s “Crash My Party” and I’ve been looking forward to his appearance at the Hollywood Bowl since May, playing the tracks over and over again on my phone. I felt like an adolescent, paying my dues in regular life living for the event that’s going to change my life. Maybe that’s what the gig really is, a cementing of our bond with the artist, proving that we truly are attached.
Now as a result of the infamous L.A. traffic I missed most of Cole Swindell’s opening set, which irked me, but when Lee Brice took the stage I told myself…I could do that.
Not really. But in an era where we’re overloaded with slick productions no one can humanly re-create Brice and his band were on stage with no hard drive help singing songs whose meaning I could understand and relate to, it might not have been edgy but the experience was one I was familiar with, you see it began with the Beatles. Sure, we loved their music, we adored them, but they also inspired us to pick up instruments and play, practice and form bands, we needed to not only get closer to the magic but create some ourselves.
And that’s what they’re doing in Nashville, capturing magic and distributing it to those who care, and if that population is not enough you’re Taylor Swift, desirous of being the biggest and reaching everybody when the truth is we’re all human, and now that Taylor has achieved her goal she can no longer live her life, date in private, make mistakes, and that’s what we all want to do.
For a fabulous town I did not see a single celebrity at last night’s gig. But I did see 18,000 people who knew every word, who had their hands in the air singing along at the top of their lungs. They were communing with the music, they were making it their own, and there’s few such enjoyable moments in life.
THAT’S MY KIND OF NIGHT
Might sit down on my diamond plate tailgate
Put in my country ride hip-hop mixtape
Little Conway, a little T-Pain, might just make it rain
And there you have it right there, the conundrum of today mixed in with some derision. Yes, that’s the complaint about Luke, the lyrics, that it’s all about trucks and scantily-clad babes, and some of it is, but the production is so damn good, the changes so infectious that you can’t help but get caught up in the groove and sing along.
Not to yesterday’s country music, there’s no western in these songs. They’re a curious hybrid of rock and country and rap. Hell, we heard “Timber” and other hits of the day between acts. That’s right, all the genres are intertwining, and if you’re a purist who hates rap and country you’re gonna be left out, sorry.
KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE
It’s the sound of the guitar, something Tom Petty specialized in, back when he knew great tracks were not only about sound and attitude, but changes too. And “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” has them.
I discovered this high in the mountains, hiking listening to every Luke Bryan track extant, it immediately jumped out, which is what we’re all looking for, something that embraces us with eight arms that won’t let go that we think is only our own when the truth is it’s everybody’s.
She’s like a song playin’ over and over
In my mind, where I still hold her
I had the chance and I should’ve told her
Should you? Let them know how you feel?
It’s easy when you’re married, when you’re committed, but before that, when you can’t get them out of your mind, when you can’t sleep because you’re fantasizing and wondering whether they feel the same way you do… Can you reach out and be honest? Or are you too inhibited?
We don’t live in an honest society.
But that’s what we want so much.
And until we figure it out we want a track to ride shotgun and empower us to be our best selves.
“Roller Coaster” went to number one. Maybe because Luke Bryan is the biggest act in country music. But the truth is we’ve all got our summer memories, romances that were unanticipated, that we thought were flings but ultimately realized were not.
THIS IS HOW WE ROLL
The mixtape’s got a little Hank, little Drake
A little something bumping, thump, thumping on the wheel ride
And you wonder why Florida Georgia Line’s album entered last week’s chart at number one… That’s right, those guys you despise captured the cultural zeitgeist better than any other act this year.
The truth is everybody’s multicultural, Drake’s a half black Jewish rapper who rules his domain and you don’t have to be an inner city denizen to adore his music.
Yeah, we’re proud to be young
We stick to our guns
We love who we love and we wanna have fun
Yeah, we cuss on them Mondays
And pray on them Sundays
Pass it around and we dream of that one day
That’s Luke’s part on the original, he sang it along with cowriter Cole Swindell last night. And you might abhor the gun and religion references, but the truth is on some level life never changes, we reach adolescence, we imbibe, we test limits and then we go back to doing what’s expected of us.
Same as it ever was.
DRINK A BEER
When I got the news today
I didn’t know what to say
So I just hung up the phone
We’ve all gotten that call. Sometimes just a voice mail pregnant with bad news. Our hearts are at loose ends, we don’t know where to turn.
I took a walk to clear my head
This is where the walking led
Can’t believe you’re really gone
Don’t feel like going home
This is the song that made me a Luke Bryan fan. Because I’m a sentimental wuss, I remember all that once happened and never will again, and the people who are no longer here to experience it.
The ones cut down too young by cancer.
The ones flummoxed who took their own lives.
The ones who lost their lives through no fault of their own, unlucky in life.
There’s a resignation in the vocal, an ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other, but in a haze.
COUNTRY GIRL (SHAKE IT FOR ME)
So what we’ve got here is a bunch of not so young men singing songs whose words we understand and relate to atop tracks with hooks so sharp you cannot emerge unscathed.
And not everybody is aware. But those who are need to go to the show the way you need to buy a new iPhone. They need to put on their jeans and boots, maybe sneakers, trucker caps and cowboy hats, and drink and dance and have fun.
And if you follow the news you know that’s tough, life is depressing. But you scratch up some dough and even if you’re way in the back you feel included, it’s a big tent. Some may be Republicans, some may be Democrats, but at the country show it doesn’t matter.
And since the politically correct police are absent the big screen features booty-shaking and flirting and all the stuff those with legislative power are trying to exorcise from everyday life. Sure, bad things happen, but life is for the living, for the playing, and you never feel as alive as you do at a country show, where the humanity is in evidence, people performing who grew up in Fresno and other godforsaken backwaters and practiced so hard that they got roles in the country music circus, where how you look is secondary to how you can play.
PLAY IT AGAIN AGAIN
Sittin’ ’round waitin’ for it to come on and here it is
That’s right, I waited the entire summer and now it’s gone.
I’m not exactly sure what I experienced. Luke jumped up and down, pranced on stage, but to him it was just another night, he didn’t strut, didn’t demand adulation, he was just doing his job, singing songs we all knew by heart. Usually they beat their chest and keep telling us how much better they are than us, can you hear me Kanye?
And the truth is some of us are smarter than others, but genius is an overrated construct. We’re all brilliant, all geniuses in our own way and the road to excellence is paved with desire and hard work and when you break through we all want some of what you’ve got.
Especially when you can repeat the trick, too often today you’re a one hit wonder, you own the scene for a summer, then you disappear, can you hear me Robin Thicke?
And then there’s Luke Bryan. Who has a smidge of charisma but is not trading solely on it, who looks like someone who was your frat brother in Georgia, the one who played all the parties and drove to Nashville to make it. And we all know people like this, most come back with their tail between their legs, but a few break through. And most use their newfound fame to join the parade of the fabulous, to live behind gates and go to parties the rest of us are never invited to. But these country guys, they don’t seem to change, they seem to still be the same people, thrilled that they’re traveling this great country of ours in a plethora of buses picking Les Pauls to the adulation of a throng of thrilled fans.
It’s a communal rite.
And it may not be forever, little is.
But it feels so damn good today.
And she said, play it again, play it again
And I said, play it again, play it again, play it again
Luke Bryan – Spotify playlist