Wal-Mart Country: No Shoes, No Shirt, No Music
The summer concert season is about to begin, and that’s when most big name artists start their annual ritual of playing the large outdoor amphitheaters located across the U.S. These glorified sheds are basically just big square boxes for a stage, with facilities able to hold fifteen to twenty thousand paying customers. We are accustomed to hearing the basic outdoor warnings about using sunscreen, wearing light colored clothing and hats. It’s finally time someone spoke about the real danger that has plagued concertgoers and the listening public for many years: Wal-Mart Country.
What exactly does Wal-Mart Country mean you are asking, and what’s it got to do with music? You know that all Wal-Mart stores are bland, sanitized structures that are built to maximize income, with absolutely no deviation allowed for any originality or style. Same store layouts, same signage, thousands of similar stores all across the country, all designed to soothe the average customer while maximizing profits.
Wal-Mart Country is the description of a type of music being played by today's so called “Country” artists. You know the names, but here’s a partial rundown to start; Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, and Brad Paisley. These singers all have the same basic sound, same image, and sing about the stuff that is guaranteed to increase their fame and fortune. Yes, their goal, like Wal-Mart stores, is to get the hard earned money in your pocket to be put into their pocket. They’re masters at spinning phony tales about pickup trucks and flag waving heroes. The original Country music artists from the 40s, 50s, and 60s were real people singing about everyday problems. You didn’t have to be beautiful to sing songs; even average looking men and women could, and did, become popular. Good shit kickin’ honky tonk music can’t be faked, and that’s why it doesn’t exist anymore. You have to go all the way back to Hank Williams to hear it start, and while you’re at it spend a little time with Lefty Frizzell, George Jones (who recently dropped his body, probably sick of all the Wal-Mart Country singers everywhere), Buck Owens, and Wynn Stewart. It was the song that mattered then, where today you better look like a model, or don’t even try to get a song recorded.
What’s wrong with singing, swaying and sippin’ wine coolers to Chesney, the longtime mayor of Wal-Mart Country? To borrow a phrase from John Lydon – Chesney gets the cash, and you get the lies. It’s a robbery of your precious time on the planet and your money. Let’s say you went to a gala event thrown by the master rip-off artist Bernie Madoff before he was imprisoned. You didn’t know that the champagne, caviar and entertainment were paid with stolen money. If someone asked you how the evening went, you would probably say it was very enjoyable. If you found out Madoff was a thief, stealing from others to pay for his extravagance, you would never spend an evening with him again. Switch the name Madoff for Chesney, and you now become an accessory to fraud by willfully participating in Kenny’s charade. Don’t try and say, “I didn’t know”. From here on out you’ve been informed about how his con game works. You are responsible for your musical decisions. If anyone now buys Chesney downloads or concert tickets, you are contributing to a massive Ponzi scheme that only benefits him. No shoes, no shirt, no music.
If you do find yourself at an outdoor music venue this summer take all necessary precautions. Drink a lot of water, limit the amount of fried foods you’re eating, and have a designated driver. If it’s a “Country” music concert at least you’ll now be aware of the scam. Also know that Bernie Madoff will be laughing hysterically in prison while you’re at the concert. He always appreciates when a well-planned heist has been pulled off. Welcome to Wal-Mart Country.
Have a nice summer,