The bifurcation occurred twenty five years ago, with Milli Vanilli. That duo may have been busted, but since then it's been de rigueur, totally accepted to utilize tapes/hard drives in concert. In pop it's about the show, and a show is all about production, not music. And whether you like what's coming out of the speakers or not, in country it's all about the music. I heard bad notes and missed notes and faulty vocals and I couldn't help but realize the result was HUMAN!
Yes, while we all grasp electronic devices we're still just flesh and blood, and it's hard to relate to that which is inert, which so much pop music is. Fans love country because it reminds them of life. Themselves and their adventures. It's imperfect, but that's what you get.
In other words, you can go to Hollywood and get plastic surgery but that's not gonna mean much in country, where the most important thing is not your two-dimensional image, but your three-dimensional songs.
ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL
Possibly the tightest band I've seen this year.
Once upon a time it was about performance, not dancing. And Ray Benson knows this. The only problem Ray's got is when he had his chance, he did not deliver a hit. And that's the music business, in all genres, when the machine is behind you, when someone's paying you to make records, when they've got a radio promotion staff itching for hits…DELIVER THEM!
When you sign a deal is not when you should explore your creativity. That's for YouTube, that's for your Internet-only album (although soon all albums will be such). Don't blow your one big chance, it's probably the only one you're gonna get.
FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE 1
Just one step away from pop. You might think country is twangy, and many lament it no longer is, but the Nash Vegas acts have raps and so many of the Top Forty elements.
"Stagecoach is Coachella with SONGS!"
FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE 2
The vocal imperfections were rampant, but isn't that what live music is supposed to be, different from the record? The duo emanated tons of energy, they were doing their best to have a good time and incite one.
In other words, you can lip-synch to or even sing along with your track at the club, but all you're getting is exposure, which is why the country acts last and the pop acts don't. Sure, the single matters, but even more important is that you have an identity.
I'm still not sure who Katy Perry is, even though she's had a ton of hits.
Same deal with Rihanna.
They're plastered all over the Internet, the faux news organizations trumpeting their shenanigans, but there's nothing behind the facade.
Whereas country fans truly believe they know their favorite acts.
THIS IS HOW WE ROLL
With Luke Bryan. A number one hit that those not in the scene will instantly deplore.
But put yourself in the shoes of the audience…
You're going to college, classes boring your ass off, killing a few years before you hit drudgery, and then it comes to the weekend.
America is all about pecking order. If you're not in "People" or on TMZ you don't count. Only this is not true, your life is just as important as that of the star, you've both got to fill 24/7. And stars are lonelier than the hoi polloi. The hoi polloi have got their buds, who they laugh and get tanked up with and sing…stuff like this.
Because when you're driving down the highway with the top down and the radio blasting you gain camaraderie by singing along to anthems that describe your existence, like this.
This is the track that broke Florida Georgia Line, that got them their deal.
Criticize it as lowest common denominator, but admit it's a hit.
You're looking for your chance? Deliver something that the powers-that-be can work with.
Went to college. As did Kenny Chesney and Eric Church and even the Florida Georgia Line boys.
And he's 37.
Notice the difference?
In pop the acts are ever younger, wet behind the ears and sans experience.
If you're in your thirties your pop career has got no chance, in country you're just beginning.
LUKE BRYAN'S BAND
Whoa, can they play.
People e-mail me all day long complaining about no-talents populating the chart. But most of them could never get a gig with Bryan or the rest of the country superstars. You're astounded at the musicianship.
LUKE AND THE GROCERY STORE
He needed provisions to barbecue, he went.
Pop stars don't shop for food, hell, they don't even EAT, you're judged by your skinniness, and they've all got bodyguards and don't function like normal people, but the country acts do.
Trust was palpable at Stagecoach.
After the sun goes down, it's very dark. If you get stabbed good luck surviving. But that's not the vibe, there's no danger, because the truth is we're all in it together, and the country acts realize this.
"Baby what are we becoming
It feels just like we're always running
Rolling through the motions every day"
Up to this point Luke had been rocking, before you slow it down you've got to grab them by the throat and make them pay attention.
But when he slowed it down…
You've got to understand, you're out there with 70,000 other people, in the middle of nowhere, cell service is spotty because of the overload, you're disconnected in a way you never are, and when the song wafts over the assembled multitude the magic seizes your insides and melts them.
Come on. Life is fraught with so many left turns and disappointments, about the only thing we can count on is music.
Which is why we go.
And when done right it unhooks us from the b.s., sets us free to be our better selves.
"Do I turn you on at all when I kiss you baby Does the sight of me wanting you drive me crazy Do I have your love, am I still enough Tell me don't I or tell me do I baby"
This music thing is funny. I'm inundated with the musings of the believers, but when I listen to what they're foaming at the mouth about it doesn't resonate.
I remember when it used to be different. When I lived for the music.
But that was back when we were addicted to Cousin Brucie and Murray the K and then free-form FM and MTV, they drove the culture, music doesn't drive the culture today.
And then you go to Stagecoach and you realize for these fans it's not casual, it's all consuming, it's so important. And when the music plays you can comprehend it, you don't need a decoder ring, and it's not about being hip, there's no self-consciousness involved, you just dedicate yourself to it.
Which is what I did.
And I'm telling you now, and I'm not Freddie but I'm certainly a dreamer, I was stunned how little response I got to my Stagecoach blogs, proving that my audience doesn't know and doesn't want to, if I said the same things about Coachella they'd be overloading me.
And I don't understand this, how a mass of people can dismiss a sound and its fans so easily.
But I guess that's America. Where we're no longer in it together, where you're so busy getting ahead that you don't care about me.
But that's not the way it is in country music.
Say it's not what it used to be, berate it all you want, but know that in country everybody's in it together, the acts and the audience. Nothing's evanescent, everybody's in it for the long haul.
And when you stand there in the California desert, with the wind blowing back your hair and the palm trees swaying as the sound floats over the landscape you tell yourself there's nowhere you'd rather be.
You come home and play the songs you heard for the very first time.
You go to Wikipedia to learn more about the acts.
You let your mind drift and realize what you want to do most is go back and repeat the experience.