Now that the kids are old enough to tie my shoes and buy their own, we’re looking for family fun that doesn’t involve giant rodents serving pizza.
So one night when nothing was on TV but reality show reruns, the family headed to the auditorium for a country music show. All I can say is that things have changed since the Coalminer’s Daughter wore banana curls and evening gowns and stirred hearts with a sweet look and a warm smile.
The little chickie that bounced out on stage was dressed in jeans tighter than Glad wrap on gravy and had something besides coal coming down her chute. The music was so loud my ears popped, but I figured the Captain of my Love Boat was reading lips because his eyes never left the stage.
The next act was a young man about the same age as my knee brace, wearing a cowboy hat and a belt buckle. Everything else was airbrushed on and shook like the space shuttle on re-entry. If everything under that boy's hood hadn't been fastened down, he'd have thrown a rod.
Sons One and Two loved the show. They couldn’t hear a word I said to them the entire night. Nothing promotes family bonding like an enforced lack of communication between generations.
The next concert we attended was an outdoor concert in a cow pasture far, far away. It was easy enough to find using Google maps--we went straight down the Highway to Nowhere and turned left at Old McDonald’s farm. When the smell fogged the windows and the exhaust system starting spewing cow pie pellets like machine gun fire, we knew we’d arrived.
To many people, the idea of an outdoor concert involves finely crafted classical instruments blending together in layers of harmony, while platters of cubed cheese skewered on confetti-wrapped toothpicks perch on prepared platters waiting for a lady in a perfect black dress and hair as smooth as the mayonnaise on a tomato sandwich to take a tiny bite.
Welcome to Manure Fest 2010. This was the venue for Country/Rock at its best.
In 1969, concert-goers at Woodstock made it through overcrowded conditions, inadequate toilet facilities, and intermittent rain showers for three days of peace, love, and music at a dairy farm. After wading through puddles that smelled like the dumpster behind the Diaper Kids Day Care, watching grown men engage in a beer-soaked slapfest in the line for the Big Boys Room, and observing scantily-clad socialites stuck stiletto deep in Carolina clay, I have a lot more respect for the love-in generation. There was something flowing through this crowd, but it had less to do with love than with liquor.
Now while I’m the first one to admit that watching a beer-soaked neo-cowboy trying to balance his designer spurs on a flimsy folding chair is better entertainment than a Saturday night sitcom, I couldn’t help but notice that the entire office staff of the firm Bimbo, Floozy, and Skank was crowding the stage like it was an open audition for Hooters Goes Honky Tonk. I’m pretty sure one had pants designed by Snap On Tools.
But when the Zac Brown band came out and laid down tracks to America the Beautiful that were as smooth and sweet as icing on a sheet cake, backed up by expansive screens bearing footage taken on the band’s recent visit to entertain our overseas troops, the sweet smell of loyalty and faithfulness and pride washed away the smell of bitterness and contention and cow manure and what was in our hearts made us forget what was on our shoes.
I could never understand how Woodstock’s three days in a rainsoaked pasture could lead to warm feelings for anything but soap. But when a crowd of folks as diverse as a grab bag of grocery store candy rose together, hands in the air, and swayed like amber fields of grain to honor our country’s finest, my heart exploded like the Grinch’s Christmas morning cardiac growth spurt.
Zac and the boys played more songs, all of them as smooth and deep as the grass at the Masters. We sang along and clapped our hands and danced under the stars. And when the band broke into Bob Marley’s One Love, this crowd of cowboy contenders and Saturday night socialites cheered together for a world where peace was more than a refrain on the evening air.
The people cheered, hands stretched toward the stars like they could capture the harmony and bring it to Earth.
And the band played on.