A paler shade of red(neck)

by Lauren Cartwright

My summer of fun is almost over. These lazy days have been spent going to concerts, sipping frothy drinks and reconnecting with old friends. Last Friday I went to concert I have been waiting for all year. Country star Kenny Chesney was in Raleigh. I’ve been told that liking him makes me a secret redneck. If listening to country makes me a redneck, then I suppose I am.

Kenny has disappointed me that last two years. Not in his concert performance, but for two years I’ve been turned down for press photo credentials. Does Kenny not feel my love?

My friend Amanda and I have gone to see Kenny in Raleigh for the last three years. It’s officially become a tradition. As much as we love the music, we also enjoy laughing at all the people in the crowd. And the lawn – with cheaper seats and grassy slopes – is where all the crazies come out to play.

We had reserved seating this year and another old friend, Erica, joined us for the evening. After the opening act of Dierks Bentley – who leaned off the stage and kissed a girl two rows in front of us – we headed out to find someone to write about.

We decided to head to the lawn with the commoners for a little crowd browsing. From the lady with the lit-up cowboy hat to the guy with bib overalls and no shirt, the folks at the concert were almost as entertaining as the music. There were people passed out; there were young and old fans; there were people rolling around, making out.

Country fans are big on PDA.

Kenny didn’t really play any of his slow love songs but the fans still took any advantage to suck face. I always have a feeling that during those conversations the words, “I love you more than my truck’s gun rack,” are uttered.

Of course this year, as many drinks as the three of us consumed, we may have been the ones being laughed at. But I’m not sure that even matters. Pieces of the evening are slowly coming back into focus and the pictures that were on Erica’s camera tell most of the story.

There’s the one from the beginning of the evening where Erica and Amanda are peeking through the legs of a cowboy in full leather regalia atop six-foot stilts.

There’s another one a few hours later of me dancing after consuming the secret number of drinks that makes white people think they are awesome dancers.

There’s the one of Amanda snoozing in the back seat on the way home right after we discovered that McDonald’s stops serving dinner at 3 a.m. and begins serving breakfast. Who knew that? And also, at the drive-thru they get an attitude if you try to pay with a $20 bill that has been ripped in two. I’m not sure how that happened either.

Over my three-year stint as a amateur concertgoer, I’ve noticed that country acts seem more in touch with their fan base than rock and roll bands. At the Dave Matthews concert in Raleigh, fans weren’t even allowed to use their cell phones to take pictures of the opening act, let alone Dave himself.

At Dave Matthews, everyone’s bags were searched and people were patted down. But at every country concert I’ve been to, fans can boldly take pictures. If you are sitting close enough to the stage at a country event you can walk right up to it and snap a picture. I didn’t even try to hide the camera this year. I just carried it right in while talking us through the VIP gates.

It’s not that they aren’t making as much money as Rock bands. Billboard Boxscore’s top 10 list of highest-grossing concerts for 2005 lists Kenny Chesney as fourth and the only country music performer in the top 10. He grossed over $60 million in ticket sales last year.

After the concert, we picked up these three nice people from Virginia and gave them a ride to the downtown bars. Scary, right? No worries. I told them I had a chainsaw in the back and they should be scared of me. We went to see my friend Erin at Rush on Glenwood, a place that spins techno music – see I’m not a total redneck. I like all types of music. And I bet someone in that parking lot really did have power tools and a gun rack in the back of his truck.

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