Little Big Town At The Nokia

I didn’t know lesbians liked country music.

We refused to pay $25 to park. That’s an insult. We live in Los Angeles, the suburban city. That kind of fee is why we hate New York. We left our car in the dark, for $10, and that’s when we encountered these two women. They label country music as redneck, but I think that appellation is chosen by people who’ve had no experience, who’ve never listened to country radio, who’ve never gone to a country gig. Because I’m here to tell you this CMT Sugarland/Little Big Town/Jake Owen triple bill was attended by short ones, tall ones, big ones and small ones. Of all ages and sexual persuasions. Turns out that it’s not how you look, what your sexual persuasion is, we’re all the same underneath. We’re just human beings on the planet, trying to have a little fun, trying to get by. And nothing makes you feel better, more alive, than raucous music you can SING ALONG WITH!

I’d like to tell you the Nokia fits its billing. That it’s a palace, about to put the wrecking ball to the Gibson. But like too many other institutional structures, not one cent was spent that wasn’t necessary. You get functionality, not quality. And inexperienced staff. I felt like Nigel Tufnel in search of the Wachovia lounge. I got wrong directions incessantly. From ushers who didn’t even know where it was, or if it even existed.

And there’s something cool about the performance space. But, it’s also akin to a vast barn. And the sound WAS NOT GOOD!

We were dead center in row Q. And when the tape started to roll, it was almost incomprehensible.

But it turns out this was the tour’s sound reinforcement, not the hall’s. Jake Owen was so loud, you’d think it was Lynyrd Skynyrd, when Ronnie Van Zant was still alive. Or the original Black Sabbath.

And it could have been. Because when good-looking Jake was done, New Radicals’ "You Get What You Give" started pouring out of the speakers.

Then the house lights went down and spotlights found the four singers onstage…

Last night in Memphis
Tonight in New Orleans

Remember when you used to buy "Rolling Stone" and read the chronicles of bands criss-crossing this great nation of ours? This was what you aspired to, to get on the bus, leave your hometown behind and LIVE! Seeing the country, getting high, laughing, having a good time.

Most of the hip-hoppers don’t even go on the road. The superstars take chartered jets. The whole journeyman aspect of music has been lost. Unless you’re an indie rocker or a country musician. But there’s not much money in indie-rocking, you’re riding in a van. Whereas country music has a vast audience, it can support those tour buses.

Lord I was born with a suitcase in my hand
Living in a life that few could understand

That’s how I used to feel. My parents seeded my music addiction, but when I got carried away they couldn’t understand it. Why did I spend ALL my money on records? Why did I have a secret desire to move to Los Angeles and work in the music industry? What HAPPENED to me?

I heard these records. In them was a power and a belief. The bands were pied pipers. I’d follow them ANYWHERE!

But then there was too much money involved. The gatekeepers were more interested in being stars themselves. Everybody got whored out. The one thing you COULDN’T believe in was the music.

But now I’m sitting at the Nokia, with people from all over the L.A. Basin, not only the Westside. And I’m singing along at the top of my lungs. Thrusting my arm in the air. I’M WITH THE BAND!

Right before Little Big Town hit the stage, there was a slide on the big screens. Saying they liked it if you sang along.

Remember singing along? Picking up a guitar and playing Beatle songs? I defy you to work your way through the Top Forty. Those are not for singing, but MOVING! They’re for dancing, they’re for fucking, but they’re not for singing. And I love to sing, I love to participate. I love to BELONG!

And the thousands in attendance now BELONGED! We had no pretensions. We affected no look. We weren’t making the scene, we were here for the MUSIC! To PARTICIPATE!

I’ve chronicled my love for Little Big Town. Almost incessantly. And the reason I do is because the music makes me feel so GOOD! It’s a companion. For both exuberant moods and depressed ones. It’s a friend I can take anywhere. And that’s what I’m looking for.

If you go to: MySpace Little Big Town, you can hear "I’m With The Band". The second song on their soon to be released (November 6th) album "A Place To Land" and their present single. Tell me it’s country. Tell me you can easily categorize it as shitkicker. NO! This sounds EXACTLY like the rock and roll of the seventies. The Eagles’ rendition of "Seven Bridges Road". And hang in there until just past a minute and a half, when the track starts to ROCK! With those guitars that hooked you way back when, that made you want to play yourself.

And while we’re at MySpace, play the second track, "A Little More You". Isn’t that what we all want from the object of our affection, A LITTLE MORE? This infectious ditty hooks you on the very first listen. And sustains its charm no matter how many times you hear it.

But the biggest applause was saved for the final MySpace track, "Boondocks". By this point, almost the entire audience was standing, stomping their feet, heads in the air SINGING ALONG!

It was a revival meeting. Religious if you believe music is your God.

I feel no shame
I’m proud of where I came from
I was born and raised in the boondocks
One thing I know
No matter where I go
I keep my heart and soul in the boondocks

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the boondocks are "rough, remote, or isolated country". That’s what rock and roll used to be. It wasn’t for our parents, it wasn’t for the mainstream, it was FOR US!

But somewhere along the line, our music got corrupted. By corporations and politicians. It was not only carved up by businessmen, it was created according to their prescriptions. It lost all its soul. And I know too much country music is made according to a formula, but not Little Big Town, it’s pure unadulterated HONESTY! You know honesty. It’s not Seven jeans. It’s not hair and makeup. It’s what’s inside. It’s what you’re truly attracted to.

The headliner was Sugarland.

Jennifer Nettles emoted "Stay" as Kristian Bush strummed along on his guitar as the assembled multitude stood and swayed.

And when they were done, they were joined by Little Big Town, Jake Owen and Kenny Chesney’s guitarist and they lit into that old country chestnut…"Pour Some Sugar On Me"?

Yes. If you want to know where rock and roll went, you should tune into country. There you’ll find what you used to know as music. With verses and choruses and words you can understand. Along with searing guitars. The rock tradition continues in Nashville. And the audience knows it.

The audience doesn’t care if their music is ghettoized. They’re happy to pay $49.50 for a triple-header akin to the old Fillmore East. For an EVENING of music, an EXPERIENCE! A performance with no wall between them and the stars. Rush the stage at the end of the show and you can not only get your cowboy hat signed, you can shake the musician’s hand.

Just before Little Big Town took the stage, they played a video montage. And the last clip blew my mind, because I’d SEEN IT!

Surfing YouTube for live Little Big Town footage I found these four barely twentysomething fans on a couch singing "I’m With The Band". If you want to know what it was like in the sixties, watch this clip

Little Big Town Cover: "I’m with the band"

We did exactly this. We learned the chords, we bought the songbooks, we started performing, with dreams of making it.

Some of us did, most of us didn’t. But those that didn’t… We never lost that spark. And that spark was fanned into a conflagration Sunday night at the Nokia. You would have gotten it if you’d been there, you would have been converted.

This is a read-only blog. E-mail comments directly to Bob.