It’s a hard thing trying to be all things to all people. Especially in Country Music. Especially now. Especially if you’re a woman. Kacey Musgraves finds herself in the same weird position that k.d. lang and Dwight Yoakam did before her. She’s a smart, retro-minded act in a genre that exceedingly prides itself on willful ignorance and distance from it’s past.
Armed with funny, insightful songs and a girlish voice, her show is better suited to an attentive crowd that knows how to listen, and how to follow along with a perfomers whims. This was not that crowd. Country music doesn’t produce that kind of crowd. Folks came to sing along to the songs they knew, and hoot and holler over the talking. Instead of viewing the night as an interaction between performers and audience, they acted like it was a TV show with no screen between them and the performance.
None of which is El Paso, or Kacey’s fault. I blame the mainsteam audience Kacey has to placate. We don’t really need to go into how much the country audience has changed or look at pictures of the trashed stadiums anymore. A George Strait cover and a few bars of “Como La Flor” by Selena were big hits and seemed natural. The Bob Marley cover and the request to put lit cellphones in the air like lighters felt forced. But, again, this is a pretty quirky, singular artist by Nashville standards and telling the crowd how to react emotionally to canned moments seems like a concession to the CMT crowd. Reggae singalong at a country show? Yes, because that’s what country music is now. If it’s the price that Kacey has to pay to stage eccentric shows with neon saguaros and light up Nudie suits, I’m all for it, I guess. She has a fun, self-deprecating way about her that’s likable and stands in contrast to a history of brassy, brash country ladies.
Which isn’t to say that the show wasn’t fun. It was. I had fun and I hope Kacey had fun. I hope she continues to have fun and do the fun, kitschy stuff she likes to do. Country music is better for having her around, and hopefully, she’ll find the niche she needs to to stick around. Lord knows we need her.