"Bad Liver and a Broken Heart" and other calculus-related love songs (Dierks Bentley and country music in general)

Dierks Bentley and the Travelin' McCourys!“Ma’am,” he says, gesturing with his flashlight, “your purse.”

I stare at him, holding out my ticket stub.

“Your purse,” he says, a bit cheesed off (a new phrase in my vocabulary, brought to you by Microsoft Word’s thesaurus (Observe Internet-less (aka camping) me relapsing into pre-thesaurus.com era ways.)). “Open your purse.”

“Oh.” I undo the straps on my bag and start extracting my wallet, camera, Google maps print-out—

“That’s enough. You can go in.”


“Yes, go in. There are people behind you, ma’am.”

I glance over my shoulder at the line-like armada bunched around the alcohol/snacks table and step into the theater.

It’s a small crowd for a concert, but a full house. On stage, an American flag is draped over the banjo table. A frizzy-haired woman in cowboy boots (whose name I never did catch) is singing alongside a man who looks like a cross between Jesus and an underweight Santa-for-hire in the off-season. The audience buzzes through the theater as though it were a neighborhood barbeque, a constant hum beneath the music.

This, the first and only country concert I’ve ever been to, is from Dierks Bentley (blonde, beautiful, amazing accent)’s “Up on the Ridge” tour with the Travelin’ McCourys. The opening act (Jesus-Santa) is Hayes Carll. My getting here was a small phenomenon: after hearing about it on the radio, not finding it on official web sites, eventually finding it on smaller, central-PA-oriented web sites, and staring at the screen in bewildered disappointment because it was sold out, I grabbed a seat within ten minutes of someone else surrendering it.

I first started listening to country music in eleventh grade, three years after moving to Central PA, every other Saturday while I worked ahead on calculus homework (All bizarre life changes are probably in some way linked to calculus. (“She thinks my tractor’s sexy,” “I’d like to check you for ticks,” etc.—great for calculus homework)). I don’t think the me who lived in Chicago for nine years could have predicted this; now I wake up to Froggy every morning.

I like that, unlike pop and rock concerts I’ve seen on YouTube, there isn’t any lip synching or elaborate dance routines. The music focuses on our most rudimentary (and least sinful, according to the Russian Orthodox Church) instrument, the human voice, just as it seems to focus on life as an expedition and not a means to the money and fame we sell our time for.

When Dierks Bentley gets onstage and the stage lights come on, people start singing along. The crowd is happy and loud. A man in boots and a plaid shirt edges past my seat the third time that night for a “beer run,” followed by a dozen other men in half a dozen other rows. A few sixteen-ish-year-olds in miniskirts and white tank tops (If you’ve heard of Dierks Bentley, you know why.) two rows ahead of me stand up to dance, plastic cups in their hands, and I realize why my purse was checked. A few songs in, a couple gets up to square dance.

In my zip-up denim sweater and dangly silver earrings, clutching a sitcom-journalist-style notepad and a pen, I’m completely out of place. Everything country music seems to stand against—stress, change, hair gel, technology, democrats—I am (except the hair gel). I am the money mongrel, the frazzled yuppie, the watered-down city wimp making business arrangements on his cell phone in a lawless countryside bar; I am the anti-country.

That exact reason, I think, is why I like it. Country music gives me a taste of a life I wasn’t born to live, probably wouldn’t enjoy living, and will never get to experience. The people behind the colossal red sphere blockading the business district we fight to keep blue the weeks before election day, who probably don’t have Netflix, blogs (Though I’d love to read a farmer’s blog.), or even Internet access, who probably wring more life out of any given moment than I do, are all here—talking, drinking, laughing, and all in the most beautiful, most stereotyped no-cell-phone-signal-within-fifty-miles Central Pennsylvania country accents. I don’t fit in, and I love it.

And, to help you visualize the experience, here are some more small, low-quality photos of Dierks Bentley and the Travelin’ McCourys:
Dierks Bentley and the Travelin' McCourys!

Dierks Bentley and the Travelin' McCourys!

And then Hayes Carll joined them on stage for “All My Ex’s Live In Texas”:
Dierks Bentley, the Travelin' McCourys, and Hayes Carll!

And Dierks Bentley:
Dierks Bentley!

Dierks Bentley!

Dierks Bentley!

(If you actually want adorable calculus-related love songs, and not just music I associate with math homework, click here.)


~ by science cow on July 30, 2010.

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