The first concert I ever attended was George Strait, with my friend Josh, at the McNichols arena in Denver. It seems a lifetime away, but I have been revisiting that concert and the larger season of my early adolescence the past several days. Last week I heard a beautiful episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast called, “The King of Tears.” It’s all about how country songs are built on specificity and detail, like a “lipstick letter ‘cross the mirror,” a picture tacked to a wall and a letter “dated nineteen sixty-two.”
I was an avid consumer of early 90’s country music: Garth Brooks, Diamond Rio, Tricia Yearwood, Brooks And Dunn, Alan Jackson, Wynona Judd, and, of course, George Strait. I owned all those cd’s. I listened to the weekly country chart countdowns on the radio. I learned to line dance.
It was a short-lived phase. I can’t stomach country radio now. But there is a lot of non-radio country music in my library. Just this year I’ve spent an inordinate amount of earbud time with Caroline Spence, Angaleena Presley, and Jason Isbell.
I only ever went to two country concerts, both of them George Strait.
This morning’s breaking news about a mass shooting at a country music concert in Las Vegas takes that placid western nostalgia and turns in bloody.
God help us.