By Lisa Morgan
I have to thank Goldenvoice for once again giving country music fans an opportunity to see some of our music genre’s greatest, most legendary icons. For a moment, we were captivated by those who lived and created and brought us into a world gone by – an era where artists and their music were tangible, authentic and unprocessed. Seeing Steve Earl, Merle Haggard, Mac Davis, Eric Burdon, Mickey Gilley and others, took us back to a place where the person behind the music was just as important as the music itself, and the music was just as good in person as it was on the album. We witnessed what timelessness looks like and sounds like. We watched these experts, with decades poured into their craft, bring us the songs they poured their hopes, dreams and fears into, some of whom are lucky to have survived the music industry at all and the demons it exploited. We saw these true troubadours, once almost forgotten, draw crowds that overflowed these smaller venues to the side of the “Mane Stage”. If we could get close enough, we saw the gratitude on their faces as they absorbed the thundering cheers of those who recognize that an artist’s value should appreciate, not depreciate, over the years, especially when they can still deliver the goods in velvet voices, and with skilled hands. We could see the weariness too – their eyes have seen much, and their hearts have grieved the losses of their brothers and sisters they once shared stages and stories with. But we also watched them light up as the crowd responded to the music they bled for. Those treasurable moments will never be lost on us who were there.
Goldenvoice also brought us the best of what is known as “arena country”. Artists who try to walk the line between the authenticity of the ones performing on the stages to their left, and what will commercially entertain and sell records in a highly competitive and demanding industry. Nobody in this genre makes it to the top without an incredible work ethic, no matter how much money they have behind them, and Goldenvoice brought us the cream of that crop. While there were many moments where I had to ask myself, “Is this an artist, or a DJ?” no genre does a better job at bleeding a heart patriotic, than country music, a gift not found in any other genre these days. It felt good to feel good about my nation, if only for that moment. And of course, there were the typical, cliché themes of trucks and drinking, something that the genre is also known for. But at this year’s Stagecoach, it somehow felt like too much.
When the long-timers of country music sang about drinking, you usually also got the other part of the truth – the losses and sadness that went with it. Walking back to my car with a 13 year girl in tow, we were rammed into, fallen on and near groped by drunks completely past their limit. All the work that some of these girls put into dolling themselves up, came completely undone as they stumbled and rolled in the dirt and grass, nearly taking innocent passers-by like us out with them. As I walked through the festival and drove down the streets to get home, I passed casualty after drunken casualty with their head and hands in the dirt. It was disturbing. Understand this is not my first rodeo. What I saw qualified why I have heard over and over again that the volunteers and people working security prefer the reputed refer smoking Coachella attendees to the drunken Stagecoach attendees, even though their numbers outweigh them by several thousand.
Rolling Stone reported on “Why Country Music Was Drunk All Year” in 2014. Billboard reported on it as well. 2015 isn’t looking any better. Perhaps arena country will take note and maybe address this issue like George Strait did when his daughter was killed by a drunk driver. He was one of the first to stop liquor sales an hour before the end of his concert. But I suppose those who could make changes in their message and their sales would lose ground to those in the industry who just don’t care. It seems something should be done, or arena country artists will eventually kill off their fan base. And those who manage to survive it will be thirsty for something entirely different.