Stagecoach-Day Two

They brought swimming pools.

You want to watch sports at home, but nobody wants to sit on the couch and watch a concert. A concert is an event, where you go and soak up the atmosphere, and what you see is secondary to what you hear, music is unlike football or movies, when done right it enters your ears and sets your mind free, offering a journey into the past, the future and parts unknown. Despite living in a technological age, the consumption of music has not changed, it has maintained its mystery, and that’s its appeal.

And that appeal is undeniable.

I know twenty thousand people more go to Coachella. But they’re spread out, at Stagecoach they all end up in front of the main stage, there’s an endless sea of people, it feels so tribal, so powerful, as if music has recaptured its rightful place upon the entertainment landscape. Everyone has shown up to listen. And the artists delivering the message…

Resemble not a whit the rest of the entertainment icons.

In country, you can be thin, you can be fat, you don’t have to be good-looking, you just have to sing songs we connect with.

It’s a reflection of life. Where everybody has their own little clique, which orders their existence. That’s what you understand when you go to Stagecoach, life isn’t about Hollywood, it’s not about Silicon Valley, it’s about the people you know and the environment you live in. Which is why people are happy to stay home in Texas or Arkansas or Iowa or Pennsylvania…their comrades and environs give them order. You might think you want to be a TV reality star, but then you get home and find out your own personal cult has rejected you and nobody on the coast wants you and the choice you made doesn’t enhance your life, but detracts from it. Fame without portfolio sucks.

Then again, the young don’t know that.

But the old do.

And that’s one of the fascinating aspects of today’s country music. Sure, there’s Hunter Hayes, wet behind the ears, but the biggest stars are deep in their thirties, like Eric Church and Jason Aldean, they’ve got a few miles on the odometer.

And speaking of the odometer, one thing I love about country music is the way they paint their trucks, it makes my heart beat faster. Because, you see, I get excited about music and the show and the experience, it makes me feel alive.

We started off with Jason Isbell… If only his album was more consistent, like Ryan Adams’s “Heartbreaker” or “Gold,” everybody would know his name. We’re waiting for alternative country’s superstar. We had Steve Earle with “Guitar Town,” but now when the whole world could be listening, the scene is a bit too insular, it doesn’t realize the album must be spectacular through and through, but Isbell’s a start.

And I spent a long time talking with Jeff Hanna of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. I loved hearing the band’s history, but even more his personal history. Yup, we’re old enough to have had multiple wives and children and to gain perspective, we boomers may be ragged in appearance, but we’re rich in experience.

And then we went to the RV village.

That’s where they had the pools. Filled up at a $1 a gallon.

They start drinking at 8 AM, supposedly curfew is 1:30, everybody’s got a cornhole set, no one’s wearing many clothes, if you grew up on the east coast the freedom was palpable. These people drove to the godforsaken desert, they’re not limited, where they went to college and who their parents are is irrelevant, it smelled like…freedom. And fun.

Then back to the tent to hear Don McLean do “American Pie.”

Turns out everybody in America knows it. No matter what their age. It’s like you’re born with a chip with the lyrics.

Most aged acts get tired of performing their hit. I don’t think McLean does, because of the crowd reaction.

And they also knew all the lyrics to the Dirt Band’s “Fishin’ In The Dark.” They’re not gonna know the words to what’s on Top Forty now decades in the future, but infectious stuff like this, which has deeper meaning, or a sense of humor, because you see, what’s smart sustains.

And then Hunter Hayes.

And he was good, but what stunned me was the sea of people. So far back that the video screen was way out of sync with the sound. Not that anybody was complaining, they were all singing along.

Same deal with Jason Aldean. Who looked like he had just been in the backyard drinking beer and barbecuing.

Yup, the country artists have not only appropriated the old rockers’ music, but their ethos. They don’t dress up, but down. They let the music do the talking. Production at Stagecoach is nearly nonexistent. It’s all about the music, baby.

And palm trees. And mountains. And yes, dust.

Oh, and also legs and breasts and sunglasses and smiles. While everybody rich is running behind gates, it’s thrilling to be amongst the people, who are harmless, they keep apologizing if they bump into you, they’re not your enemy, for they realize we’re all in it together.

So, so long manufactured media. Wherein the “New York Times” and the “Wall Street Journal” refuse to give respect to this scene, despite it dwarfing those of the inner city. Just because it’s in the paper, that does not make it true, never mind important.

And so long music you can’t sing along to. How did we get so far from melody…

And so long giving lip-service to fans while doing your best to avoid them. Try getting a meet and greet with Top Forty titans. They don’t want anything to do with the audience, they’re too busy courting corporations.

Not that today’s country music is pure. It’s a machine. It sometimes has lowest common denominator lyrics. It has its own media infrastructure.

But in the desert, you don’t see it. In the desert, it’s about the music. The acts and the fans bond as one and it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks or does, whether they acknowledge the scene or they don’t.

The world is run by women. And at Stagecoach they outnumber men. And sure, they’ve all put on their look. But what they want to do most is hang on the fence and sing along with songs they know by heart.

Got a problem with that?

I certainly don’t.

It’s thrilling!

One Response to Stagecoach-Day Two


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  1. Trackback by On The Download | 2014/04/28 at 01:46:16

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  1. Trackback by On The Download | 2014/04/28 at 01:46:16

    Arcade Fire manager responds to Grammy conspiracy theories


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