Let Me See Your Eyes, Eric: Bayou Country Superfest 2014

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Well, Bayou Country Superfest 2014 is in the bag. It’s over and done, and I’m pretty much toast, too. Jill got up and went for a run in this unbearable heat, but I decided to settle for a mango juice and blogging. I am listening to my favorite boy toy Tim McGraw instead of my usual yoga music ensemble, so it’ll take a few day for my energy to get back to its usual spot. I’m a little revved up and on edge. It’s in a good way, but it’s a change all the same. Caffeine report: I had caffeine on Saturday afternoon but didn’t have any yesterday at all. I just pumped myself up with some juice from Whole foods and sunshine. I actually think the caffeine Saturday made it worse. I felt better on Sunday.

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Last night’s lineup at the Superfest featured Hunter Hayes, Big & Rich, Joe Nichols, Eric Church and Jason Aldean. The audience was demographically very different from Friday and Saturday night. That should have been my first clue that the music might take a different tone. I’ve always loved Big & Rich’s biggest hits, but I wasn’t in love with their show. I have found that to be true in country music more than any other genre. The songs played on the radio often don’t resemble the music of the artist at all. I imagine it’s partly because most of them don’t write their own music. I think any creative endeavor gets a little screwed up when you start trying to make mega-money on it. I know when I first started blogging, my Dad – who made a living from writng – asked me how I could make money from it. Uhhhhh …. I was instantly repelled by the idea. I’m a business person, and I know that once you start ‘selling’ something, you have to start thinking about market share, defining your market, honing your message to fit what they want or need to hear and figuring out the profit margins. I am starting to think more about doing something now, but initially I wanted to find my voice before I started trying to fit in. I think it waters down your talent. I listen to a lot of singer-songwriters who make a living on a smaller scale, and they often say they didn’t want to ‘sell out’ to the music business. I get it.

Eric Church

Eric Church

I love country music so much but last night I had trouble connecting with it. Friday and Saturday I got lost in the music and couldn’t sit down. Even though I was physically exhausted from the heat and the late night the night before, I was pumped up and could hardly sleep when I got home. Last night, I sat down for most of Eric Church’s high-energy act. He kicked it off with The Outsiders, and I loved it. He had pyrotechnics blasting off the visual show, and it looked like we were in for a ride. But, I couldn’t connect with the songs. They weren’t the Eric Church I’d heard on the radio. At one point I even rolled my eyes to my friend Jill when he stood on the stage and shotgunned a beer, spitting up all over himself. Really? I felt old. I know at some point in my life I would have thought that was freaking cool. But, I’ve since had too much pain at the hand of bad boys and their addictions. I see what happens when a 40-50 year old is still shotgunning beer and how their hard life ages them physically – if it doesn’t kill them – and renders them useless in their relationships. It’s not that cool anymore to me.

On the way out, Jill and I talked about how country music seems to be changing. The concert Friday with George Strait and Reba didn’t even seem like the same genre as the one Sunday night. I suppose this is part of the midlife journey. I am no longer the target audience with the extra income and time to follow bands around, dropping 30 d0llars on t-shirts and collecting entire albums for my iPhone. I was curious about Eric Church, though, so I looked him up this morning. In one interview, he talked about how country music has targeted 40-50 year-old females for their music – me – and he chose to focus on young males. Well … no freaking wonder I couldn’t connect with that. I’ve never been a young male in my life. I don’t know if I have a really strong business head or if I’m just insatiably curious, but I wonder about the business strategy behind most of these things. I know there’s a corporation behind Eric Church. He’s not a man. He’s a product. Even the video backdrop during the show took a decidedly different turn from the other stars. Most of them showed shots of the audience with plenty of pretty girls in cowboy boots and ponytails and kids. Eric’s face was practically the ONLY thing you saw. I don’t recall seeing one shot of the audience, and it was all face … all the time. He never took off his sunglasses, so I couldn’t even see the person. It was all narcissistic, hard-driving, addict persona. It works for his career right now.

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I remember when personal computers first came out. Apple was the front-runner at first, and then windows took over the business world. Apple now has a cult-like following, and I’m a part of the cult. They chose to plant their apple seeds with the children. They provided education discounts, and practically gave it away. Now those kids are adults, frustrated with the problems with the windows operating system, and they love the simplicity and creative capabilities of the Apple product. They will pay a prime dollar to get what they grew up with. It’s the computer that laid the framework for their early learning with technology, and it helped wire the way they think. And, then – with the iPhone – Apple gave them something powerful to carry in their pocket. Even the megastars this weekend were snapping pics on stage with their iPhones. Could Eric Church’s business strategy be to grab this particular young male audience and grow with them throughout their lives? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I know this from my life experience, though. His audience will grow up. They will see some of their loved ones be strangled and squashed by addictions to alcohol and drugs and they will have to soften their hard lives in order to make livings and sustain relationships with children and wives. Seeing their favorite entertainer shotgun beer and spit it all over himself will trigger stuff inside them that is not fun to feel after they’ve spent hundreds of dollars on a ticket, and they will be unable to tap into that rebellious, narcissistic energy.

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I saw Bruce Springsteen at Soldier Field in Chicago. It was 10 years ago, and the stadium was packed. There was no warm-up act. He played for 3 solid hours, and we stood on our feet the entire time. Bruce has never ‘sold out’. He plays all kinds of music, and he’s not afraid to take risks. His music is his art, and he shares himself in musical poetry with his audience who is experiencing life with him. His vulnerability in his lyrics … which are his lyrics and music BTW … connects him to the listener personally.  I’m sure there’s a manager or two who have had to work with demographics and the business of making money, but somehow he made it into an icon without becoming a persona. I saw Robert Plant and Alison Krauss in an amphitheater on Mud Island in Memphis on the banks of the Mississippi River a few years back. They played a few Led Zeppelin songs but with a decidedly bluegrass sound. My ex hated it. He couldn’t get the original music out of his head. I loved it. I loved the fact that this successful rocker was allowing himself to be creative as he navigated through life’s experiences and set about to try new things musically. I bought the album as soon as I could get my hands on it. I want to connect to the soul of a musician or an artist or a writer. That’s what I love about live entertainment. It’s that unique connection between the artist and the audience, the spirit of the evening, and the dance that we are all navigating together called life. Eric … I can’t see your soul until you take those glasses off. I hope one day you’ll open the windows to your soul. I can see you are a talented musician and entertainer. If you can find the intersection between that and being true to yourself, it’s going to be mind-blowing. I’ll lay down money for that.

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