I went to a country music concert hoping my expectations wouldn’t be accurate. They were.
My company for the night — a dark army of cowboy-hatted silhouettes, armed with countless beer bottles — stood illuminated by the sliced sliver of a moon and inebriated by their weapons of choice. Had that same moon rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise, it would have perfectly mirrored the consistent, frowning contour of my lips. I don’t blame the majority of it for hiding. I wanted to, too.
I was a walking juxtaposition to the rest of the crowd — chino shorts and chukka boots, my chambray shirt buttoned to the brim. That was okay, though. My friend had offered me a free ticket, and I had adopted the restless, college, ‘screw it, let’s make memories’ mentality for the night. Nothing in my composition finds country music enjoyable, but, obviously, it produces a strong magnetism for certain crowds.
I thought that I might be able to find some redeeming characteristic — a quality about the concert, the people or the night — to combat the cynicism that plagues my outlook on country music (and on life in general). I thought I might be able to tap into said magnetism and enjoy, for a night, a microcosm of the world that I’m typically distanced from.
Jesus, that was quite a romantic outlook, wasn’t it?
We met up with some of my friend’s cousins when we arrived. They had secured a spot on the prime tailgating strip of the parking lot. Let me, now, nuance the surrounding scenery for you: trucks. Red. Black. Big. Small. There were beers, too. Many beers. In cans, bottles — their various brands festooning nearly fifty percent of the shirts in attendance. Many of those shirts neglected sleeves. It was too hot for flannels.
There was, undoubtedly, a distinct brand of vivacity to the tailgating epicenter. Truck beds bounced and rocked to the blasting bass of karaoke parodies of Top 40 hits. Some riders jumped, in those beds, to the beat of the bass, causing the truck to coalesce with their synchronized pelvic thrusts.
Heated cornhole competitions pervaded down the long line of vehicles. Countless groups of guys and girls shotgunned beers as though the longevity of their second amendment rights depended on it. Truck doors demonstrated their dexterity, doubling as veiling outhouse doors for the night.
I turned down more beers than were being shotgunned and subsequently slammed and smashed on the ground, it seemed. One stranger questioned me further, as to why I failed to accept his invitation for free alcohol. I told him the truth: I don’t like beer. I’m under the drinking age, too. So, of course, I’ve never experienced the taste of any type of alcoholic beverage in my life. My response didn’t meet his expectations, though. As if any response would have.
“If you don’t like beer, and you’re from Indiana, there’s something wrong with you,” he said.
I didn’t dare tell him that I didn’t like country music either.
We attempted to gather our conglomerated group for a picture before fighting the crowds into the actual concert. A kind stranger came through, agreeing to take a quick iPhone photo for us in front of a line of trucks. As soon as we uncomfortably squeezed into the frame, another stranger, a college-aged girl, ran from her group and posed, back bent, butt protruding, directly in front of the photographer.
Glimmers of humanity, why do you seem to hide at country concerts?
By the time we made it into the venue, two of the four acts had already performed. The third act played the part of being somewhat famous by country music standards, as he held the fact that five of his singles had ascended to the top of the country charts over the audience’s heads throughout his performance.
He didn’t even play an instrument for most of his songs. He relied on his powerful finger pistols and a plethora of winking patterns to woo the crowd. If you, dear reader, haven’t found time to peruse WebMD lately, let me inform you that the employment of finger pistols and resting on one’s laurels are flagrant symptoms of severe assholery.
The featured musician wasn’t much better. His crowd interaction appeared to be more forced and scripted than a WWE fight, and the paramount of his audience involvement consisted of him hoisting a bearded fan up to the stage and shotgunning a beer with him.
He needed to be sipping on some tea, though. Looking beyond the lyricism and cliche country themes of his songs, it could not be ignored how strained and, frankly, terrible his voice sounded. Even my country-music-loving friends admitted it. Yet, they patiently waited for that one song they love to be played, waited for their mind to mimic the radio, while reality delivered a cheap, raspy imitation.
The following day, my friend asked me if I found anything about the concert enjoyable. I told him that I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it; I was expecting to experience it, and I did. It happened, and that’s what I wanted to happen. I didn’t discover any profound redeeming feature, but something in that country music resonates with that mass of human beings, and they get to feel the mesmerizing thrills and sensations that my preferred brand of music delivers to me.
So, we snapped a blurry, party-aesthetic picture at the concert, my friend and I, and I acted like I was having the time of my life. Because life was happening, and even the delirium created by the country music cacophony couldn’t steal that away.