WILLIE NELSON'S COUNTRY THROWDOWN
@ THE SAN DIEGO COUNTY FAIR
w/ Adam Hood & Dani Flowers
I can't go to a show at the San Diego County Fair without mentioned the San Diego County Fair itself. It is quite the institution when it comes to publicly sponsored fun. Two comments, and that will be all:
1. The San Diego County Fair is synonymous with the definition of the word "sublime" as used by Edmund Burke in the 18th century, as in "the horrors and harmony of [the] aesthetic experience." BEAUTIFUL AND TERRIFYING, in other words.
2. The San Diego County Fair is an economic powerhouse- according to a source it is only one of two Fairs in the Western Fair Association (which is itself AWESOME, btw.) NOT to receive public money. Think about it. Pays it's own way- powerful incentive for institutional independence.
A note on the venue. It's my believe that the stage that they use at this event is "the" stage of this size for a large size concert. I'm quite sure I've seen the same stage here, as well as other locations, and I am left with the distinct impression that there is one, and that it moves around, and that you need to know where the stage is going to be in order to reserve it- I'd imagine up to a year in advance. Despite the fact that the Fair is probably the best customer for "the stage," they don't use the space very efficiently- or I guess they chose not to last night- with only a tiny "pit" area with seats, and then the race track seating. My observation is that this was a choice made to make the crowd easier to supervise, particularly considering the "hot button" topic of marijuana smoking at concerts as it might impact the current "debate" over local ownership. Personally, I think letting Del Mar "take over" the fair considering the Fair's present economic strength is ludicrous. Yeah Del Mar City, maybe if you PAID for the Fair, you might have a point.
We arrived in time to catch the full set of night-time opener Jamey Johnson. With all deference to lastfm, I think his play count of a half million is deceptively low: Lastfm is heavily weighted towards Artists who have emerged AFTER lastfm itself began to be used around the world. If you hop on over to Myspace, the overall playcount of 18 million speaks to an Artist popular at least 2-3 years ago. If you look at his Wikipedia it shows an Artist who had a break out single in 2005, didn't deliver on the follow-up full length, withdrew for a year or two, switched labels and came back with a songwriting style and sound that allows him to cross-over to the pop charts. Despite his ability to cross over on the Album chart, his singles have "stayed country" which is either what he wants or something he's trying to work on.
Given what I heard and saw last night: 8 piece ensemble, guitar rock solos, the answer is for him to deliver his own (better) version of the country-rock stylings of American Idol winners, but I suspect from his direct lyrics and black-shirt and jeans persona that Jamey Johnson is a bit of the moody artiste, and I wouldn't want he or his fans to take this comment the wrong way. I can see why he was opening for Willie Nelson, and I think the crowd was into it. They were certainly in seats and paying attention during his set. Seems like he should be able to write up a cross-over country rock hit, probably a ballad.
Between Johnson and Nelson they had two solo acoustic performers do one song each. Adam Hood and Dani Flowers. Flowers has no record yet but a publishing deal with SONY/ATV which makes me think she has been around in some capacity other then as a performer. Hood has 80k last fm plays, which makes me think he must have played earlier on a different stage and got this slot as a reward or something. Pretty good mechanics- and something to apply to a rock milleu, where you could have bedroom one man artists alternate with live bands in a basically seamless fashion at a venue as small as soda bar or Casbah- just have the solo artist play the atari lounge/pool room while the next band sets up. You could get the show done in half the time.
I know Casbah does this but they always have BANDS in BOTH rooms: You don't want alternating bands, you want alternating bands and one or two person projects. Just from a sheer economics/logistics perspective there is something SO REWARDING about a one person musical act- and as long as the songs are good people don't give a shit, be it country singer/songwriters or synth music.
Headliner Willie Nelson is a legend- someone whose Wikipedia Willie Nelson Discography Page tells an amazing 20th century story. Let me tell you a fact about Willie Nelson: In 1984-1985 he had FOUR STRAIGHT Pop number one singles. Four in a ROW, man. That is ridiculous. Who put out all four number one hits? Columbia Records. 1984 is when the "music industry" had it going on.
Now 78, Nelson continue to play because he loves what he does, or at least that the distinct impression I got from his PERFORMANCE rather then the catty comments of haters in the Audience. Nelson's style is not a Vegas influenced hit parade, but rather a genuine attempt of an aging Artist to stay true to the essence of his nature. The set lasted an hour, he played two hits and we were all treated to his inestimable style of guitar playing which is best summed up by this quote from the Acoustic Guitar Forum last October: