Concert Review: Same Trailer, Different Tour
On the kickoff night of her "Same Trailer, Different Tour", performing at the Bowery Ballroom, Kacey Musgraves drove home a particular belief of mine; good country should be like good liquor. Each taste should land on the palate and linger in a dozen different provocations before it fades. You should serve it in moderation to appreciate the full effect. When you consume it in a crowd it should bear you all up into collective joy, and when you’re alone, it should make you think about every ex you ever lost.
I wasn’t sure what kind of crowd to expect going in; it’s the rare country show I hit up in New York, and I hazarded “folks who look like me and old white dudes.” I was part right. Before the lights dimmed I watched your standard cross-stich of young earbud junkies spread out across the floor, though not too far; the show was sold out. I’d caught one of Musgraves’ tweets months back hinting at a small-venue tour, I’d filed it away, and now here was that tweet unpacked into full-capacity adoration. Couples leaned up on each other amidst crowds of eager young gay boys, clutches of the over-fifty set all got ready to nod approvingly, and while the crowd skewed young it never condensed into a particular scene. Which was expected -- Musgraves makes country for folks who rankle at the Aldeans and Underwoods of the world. She’s Grey Goose for the people who’ve gone a lifetime getting offered Dubra. Same Trailer, Different Park carved an emotional shortcut to country’s universality, if your upbringing or your previous reconnaissance never let you find your way in.
Then the lights went down. Opener Brandy Clark laid down an acoustic set of quiet stunners. You’ve heard her handiwork on country radio coming out of LeeAnn Rimes, Band Perry, and Miranda Lambert (see “Mama’s Broken Heart,” co-written by Musgraves and their regular collaborator Shane McAnally) and now she’s promoting a solo record due any month now. I plan on buying it, and it takes a fairly good pitch to get me to shell out cash for music that doesn’t come in the form of a concert, but Clark draws on the acerbic, aware gaze that gives Musgraves and McAnally’s songs their stopping power. It’s about time we had more talents like that out under the lights where they belong. Enough said.
Musgraves took the stage to a roar of love. For everyone in the place like me, who’s been wearing out all 40 minutes of her debut record through the last six months’ highs and lows, she made us all fall in love again, somehow. Luckily there wasn’t just the record to play through, though alongside “Mama’s Broken Heart” and some new material, play it she did, all 12 songs worth. And each one had a crowdsourced chorus of few hundred fans, yours truly included, who knew every word. Musgraves’ songs really bloom live; “Blowin’ Smoke” picks up a dirtier, sneerier swagger, and “Back On The Map” marches like your drunk sorrow-scoured self across the bridge in the dark. “Merry Go Round,” though risking overexposure, becomes still just as seizing and immediate as first listen if the pedal steel is moaning from the speaking fifteen feet away. We sipped our watered-down marked-up beers and we grinned like it was our best friend up there on stage. Musgraves parlays her classic prettiness into a subtle stage presence. She gave her band plenty of time to shine, but it’s hard to contain a surging stardom-in-infancy when you’ve got a whole room of hard-earned fans hanging on your every move. Tossing treats like covers of Weezer and the Cardigans, and teasing us with putting off barnstorming self-actualization anthem “Follow Your Arrow” until the very last, and then looping through linchpin line “roll up a joint/…I would” about five or six times, Musgraves basked. I wouldn’t’ve been surprised if someone yelled “Mhysa!” (That’s for the nerds.)
Where we all went after we left the Ballroom was unclear; I decamped to Brooklyn to catch the tail end of a friend’s leaving-the-city celebration. Everyone else wandered to the bar or back to their apartments on the LES and Chinatown and SoHo, or trooped onto the trains to head to outer boroughs or the sprawling dark of the Tri-State. We’ll think back on that evening under an Instagram filter softening the light and sharpening the detail. We’ll drink it in like the first glass of wine that made us understand why people shell out thousands for bottles of this stuff. We’ll drink it like the bourbon we can’t afford but we buy anyway because we go to sleep with our heads swimming. We’ll hear Musgraves sing “I ain’t got no one/sleepin’ with me” and look at the empty half of the bed, and remember that girl who came to that show with us, remember that she’s not around anymore. And once that dirty sting in our chest fades, we’ll go to Musgraves’ website and refresh the tour schedule, looking for something closer than 4 hours away.
Or maybe that’s just me.