When you hear people say, “The world has certainly changed since—” the timeframe is generally more than 20 years. But things—even though as we endure the seemingly endless COVID-19 conditions, which make one day seem pretty much like another and so time takes on a different dynamic from our personal perspectives—are accelerating such that what is arguably recent history at most seems like a quainter period of time.
Case in point: in London, on March 10, 2003, Natalie Maines, lead singer of the band then known as the Dixie Chicks, said to a concert crowd, “We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.”
The war she referred to was the Iraq War, which overthrew Saddam Hussein. It was the war that was part of the search for WMD. It was the war that included pronouncements from Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf that were so absurd and disconnected from reality that he became known as “Baghdad Bob.”
Here we are 17 years later, when the current president says things—at home and abroad—about his political foes, people from other countries, the media, judges, elected officials, and others that make Maines’ comment a case study in “Why was that a big deal?” Who talks about things like the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that makes what Baghdad Bob was saying seem as though it was sage, thoughtful commentary.
Maines’ comment in 2003 pretty much tanked the band’s career for a number of years because it was taken to be the height of insult, something that just wasn’t said, especially when one was in a different country. (Maines was born in Lubbock: one would imagine that proud Texans would have vociferously stood up for one of their own. After all, George W. Bush may have moved to Texas, but he was born in New Haven, Connecticut.)
Seventeen years seems like a century—or more—ago.
This came to mind because this week the band—Maines, Martie Erwin Maguire and Emily Strayer—changed it name to “The Chicks,” explaining in a posting, “We want to meet this moment.” A moment when the connotations of words like “Dixie” aren’t discerned with nobility: as you may recall from your American history class 17-or-so years ago, there was the Mason-Dixon Line; in 1861, the states south of that line seceded from the United States (you’d think that our Baghdad Bob might decry that as treason, but no).
Similarly, the group Lady Antebellum changed its name to “Lady A.” In this case, “Antebellum” refers to that period south of the Mason-Dixon line before the Civil War.
In a world driven largely by “brand equity,” credit must go to both of these groups for realizing that words matter.
Rolling Stone published a piece titled “14 Veteran Touring Artists on Life Without Concerts.” Underscore the veteran because 17 years ago none of them were anywhere near the definition of “young.”
On the one hand, the comments from these people (Buddy Guy, Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty, Sammy Hagar, David Crosby, Judy Collins, Tom Petersson, Chrissie Hynde, Mavis Staples, Bettye Lavette, Southside Johnny, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt, Philip Bailey) give you a sense that the music industry is an industry like, say, the auto industry, where you have to work to make your living, and for them, work means performing.
Listen to Fogerty: “All of this opening-up talk is pretty scary to me. I’m afraid we’re probably end up going backwards. . . . You go do a concert with 10,000 people, and then find out afterwards that some of them died? I don’t think any of us will really be ready until after we have a vaccine and people feel safe again. . . . I’m an older person, and a lot of people my age have died. Maybe some other guy thinks it’s a good idea, but I’m not dying for Donald Trump. I’m not dying for the economy.”
Listen to Hagar: “I’ll be comfortable playing a show before there’s a vaccine, if it’s declining and seems to be going away. I’m going to make a radical statement here. This is hard to say without stirring somebody up, but truthfully, I’d rather personally get sick and even die, if that’s what it takes. We have to save the world and this country from this economic thing that’s going to kill more people in the long run. I would rather see everyone go back to work.”
The dead don’t attend concerts and buy tequila.
Speaking of concerts, Live Nation has announced “Live from the Drive-In,” a series of concerts that will occur in Nashville, Indianapolis and St. Louis starting July 10, with Brad Paisley headlining in all three cities, supported by Darius Rucker and Jon Pardi in Nashville, Jon Pardi and Yacht Rock Revue in Indianapolis, and Nelly and El Monstero in St. Louis.
According to Tom See, president, Live Nation Venues—US Concerts, “Around the world, we’re seeing a real eagerness from our fans and artists to safely get back to the concert experience.” Well, some artists.
The physical layout is that there will be an 18 x 18-foot space for each vehicle. That’s essentially two side-by-side parking spaces. Then there will be a 9-foot space left empty, then another space for a vehicle and its 18 x 18 foot space. The spot directly behind a vehicle will be left empty, but pairs of vehicles will be diagonally adjacent. Each vehicle will be a able to bring a maximum of four people.
People working the concerts are required to wear masks. Concert goers aren’t. They are “encouraged” to wear them if going to use the restroom facilities.
Here’s something that should make attendees feel safe and sanitary: “Each restroom unit is equipped with hand sanitizer and each restroom cluster has a handwashing sink.” Somewhere Dr. Fauci is weeping with joy about that sink.
There is no need to sneak in liquor or cans of one’s favorite beverage because they are permitted. Glass bottles aren’t, so you’ll have to decant your Santo Fino Blanco tequila into a plastic container (Hagar sold his Cabo Wabo for $11-million in 2010; he and Guy Fieri came up with this new brand in 2019).
Video: The Chicks -- “March March”
Directed by Seanne Farmer. From Gaslighter, out July 17 on Columbia.