|my love affair with texas country and why i'm losing faith in it
||[Oct. 19th, 2009|01:15 am]
Susannn AKA @motelcowboy
|||||Reckless Kelly - Ragged as the Road||]|
I was introduced to the Texas country genre in April 2007 on my first trip to College Station, TX. I learned how to two-step to the song "Wear My Ring" by Bart Crow Band at Midnight Rodeo, located in the heart of Northgate and immediately fell in love with the unique blend of rock, country, blues, and swing. I began to listen to artists like Reckless Kelly, Ryan James, Cory Morrow, Aaron Watson, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Roger Creager Randy Rogers Band, and Wade Bowen almost obsessively and learned nearly every song on every album by heart. I was twitterpaited with hearing Willy Braun sing that he was never getting over Jolie, amazed listening to the energetic fiddle playing of Brady Black, and in awe of the guitar stylings of Grady Cross. Each song had the same basic theme -- "We're hard-working people just like you, and we want you to listen to what we've built our lives on."
Now, before my introduction to Texas country, I'd listened to a wide variety of genres -- oldies when I was a young girl, pop when I was an adolescent, indie-alternative as a teenager... I'd even had stints with the "emo" and hardcore genres when I went through a very brief goth phase as a sophomore in high school. Never before, however, had I ever found a genre that established such a connection with its listeners and made a conscious effort to reach out to its fan base. With Texas country, it wasn't about the celebrity of it -- it was about the music.
Since then, I've been through quite a few changes in my life. My long-term relationship ended, I changed jobs quite a few times, I made and lost friends, I went through a "party-hard" phase that contained quite a few nights of binge drinking... and I've come out on the other side a completely different person. Through it all, the one thing that remained the same was the music. It was there for me as my best friend when I felt like everyone else deserted me, and it kept me sane through the times that I needed it the most. Even if everything else in my life failed me, Texas country was the one thing I could lean on. The artists always loved and respected the fact that I was one of their concrete fanbase -- rather than being the girl who was there just to look cute and get the guys, I was there to listen to my favorite artists and let them know how huge of an impact their music had on me.
In September, I saw Bart Crow Band, my first love in Texas country music, for the sixth time. My connection with Bart Crow was established the first time I saw them. I'd messaged the band on MySpace letting them know that I'd be at their concert at the Executive Surf Club and expressing my love for their music. After the concert was over, I went up to Bart, the band's namesake, and told him how much I'd loved their performance. He thanked me graciously and asked my name. When I told him, a look of excitement came over his face. "Susan from MySpace?!" He exclaimed, leaving me stunned and happy that he would remember me from one simple thing. That was my first experience with connecting with an artist, and it gave me high hopes for the rest of the musicians I would meet.
At the concert in September, my boyfriend, a friend of mine, and I stood in front and sang the songs back to the band. Towards the end of the set, Bart began to tell the audience how thankful he was for his success, how much he loved his wife and his God, and how grateful he was for the fans who loved his music. Not five minutes later, a blonde girl came up to the stage, stuck out her chest, and smiled at Bart. His eyes immediately wandered down, and he was history. After the concert was over, the girl began to flirt with the very married Bart Crow, saying, "You should call me!", all while his eyes were completely transfixed on her chest and the other fans were ignored. He gave her a pen and paper to write down her cell phone number, and my faith in Bart was lost. This was the man that I'd met so long ago, even before he'd gotten married, before the band's success and impending release of a third album.
A few weeks later, when my boyfriend and I went to see Wade Bowen, I took a step back and looked at the crowd surrounding us. A good majority of the girls had on miniskirts or shorts and cowboy boots, expensive shirts that made the most of their non-existent cleavage, perfected makeup and hair, and noses high in the air. They made sure that everyone around them knew that they spent a great deal of money on their clothes and they were going to look down on anyone who got in between them and their chance to be all over Wade Bowen or the opening act, Zack Walther and the Cronkites. I'd never been a fan of the cliche country girl look, but when it dawned on me that this is what the Texas country scene is now about, I began to view it in a hostile light.
I honestly believe that a good majority of the artists on the scene today forget who their fanbase is. They forget the reason they sell albums, the reason they sell tickets, is because of the people who know the ins and outs of their playing rather than what the artists look like. They forget that the whole reason they're playing for a crowd of sorority girls and frat boys in the first place who only know the artist's songs is from the reason is because of people like me -- people who aren't interested in trying to make fools of themselves for the sake of looking "cool". The entire philosophy of the genre is to separate itself from its parent genre of Nashville country and establish a connection with the fans based on the music, rather than the fame. You won't find someone like Scott Wiggins playing at a huge arena in Dallas because that's not how the band views itself. You won't find someone like Aaron Watson sneaking off into a corner with some trashy cliche cowgirl right after telling the crowd how much he loves his wife. It's sad, however, that certain acts are the exception rather than the rule.
I've found more and more that the artists are devolving into what they hate -- celebrities. They have gone from being thankful for having fans singing their songs back to them to being played alongside Nashville acts like Taylor Swift and Toby Keith. They have taken the fans who have made them who they are for granted, and the fans are not happy. Those who bought the albums from the very beginning are becoming wary of supporting artists who can't be bothered anymore.
I feel as if my music, my Texas country, my one constant for nearly three years, has been bastardized into something it never thought it'd be. I, as a devoted fan, am incredibly thankful for acts like Aaron Watson who never seem to forget that it's not just him that's achieving the success, it's his band, his fans, and his family that are achieving it, too. I long for the time when the venues weren't packed to the gills with fairweather fans who only know a few songs from the radio and are more concerned about garnering as much attention from the opposite sex as possible than they are about the music they're listening to. I wish I could go back in time, re-live all the concerts I went to when the artists were grateful to speak to someone who had so much love and respect for what they did for a living that they couldn't help but gush, and take in more than I did. However, it is the absence of these things happening now that make me cherish the memories I have even more. I want to believe that Roger Creager is still a good ol' boy from Corpus Christi and Randy Rogers hasn't become too big for his britches. I wish I could believe it.
Until then, I will only give up on my scene if Reckless Kelly fails me like everyone else on the scene has, too. You're the only thing I've got left, guys. Please don't fuck it up for me.