“Oh, shit, look at them boots. I know she’s mad as hell at Kip Moore right now in them boots.”
Now, re-read that in your best good-ole-boy, South Carolina accent and you’ll be right there with me in Cayce, South Carolina. Yes, I was the “she” this lovely group of gentlemen was talking about, and no, for the record, I wasn’t mad at Kip Moore. I don’t really know what I was thinking, but I was actually minding my own business trying to get a photo on the way out of the venue. All I know for sure is this was a concert quite unlike any other I’ve ever been to.
Right outside of Columbia, South Carolina, sits Columbia speedway, which hosted NASCAR races from the 1950’s through the 1970’s. Recently, it’s been turned into a concert venue which can accommodate all the current COVID-19 restrictions that vary throughout the country. I’ll paint the picture for you. A slight turn off of Charleston highway onto a field with a track that hasn’t been used in years revealed a rather empty grass parking lot.
I’ve been to many concerts in my day and I have never seen a parking lot this empty for a name with as much draw as Kip Moore. This past Thursday, we headed in with blankets to fight the 41 degree temps (and y’all, that’s really cold to use in the South), folding chairs, masks on, and mostly went through the usual concert security proceedings. Bag check, security scan, ticket scan, and we were in. I would say the only difference in the entrance process was the mask requirement.
We trekked on to our seating cove, which is really just a 12×10 area in the grass roped off near the ground, meant to hold between two to four people and evenly distanced by six feet each across the lawn. Upon first glance, it seemed like a pretty good deal to me. We set up shop and about ten minutes after the eight p.m. showtime, Kip came out on stage and we were rocking.
I’ve seen Kip plenty enough to know what to expect at his shows. He’s the best. He played songs off of his newest album Wild World, a few from Wild Ones, and a couple from Slowheart. Somewhere near the beginning, he played “Beer Money” and “Somethin’ Bout a Truck”- pretty close in sequence and not too far into the show. I remember thinking we were going to have more slow songs coming closer to the end if he were to play them at all.
There were moments that were super fun, like when he played “The Bull,” dancing around on stage and hopping up on the amps; that almost felt so normal. But, there were times where it seemed weird. It’s almost as if when things slowed down, like during “Last Shot,” we all slowed down enough to look around and think “what’s going on here?”
As the show progressed, he made another remark about his fingers being so cold he could hardly play his guitar, and he was right. It was freezing. I would’ve thought the shots of Jack Daniels in between songs would be enough to warm him up in spite of the thin t-shirt and jeans he had on, but not so.
To be fair, he’s the very first artist to perform at this new venue. None of us knew what to expect, and I think that includes Kip and his band, as well. It all just felt so different than everything we’ve come to expect at a country concert. I was so excited walking into that venue my heart could have beat out of my chest. I was ready to go in, drink a beer, and sing my little hear out with him after months without any live music. I’m usually going to see somebody every other week, so I was desperately looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I never even got to the alcohol because you had to go through quite a process just to get that. Download an app, walk quite a far distance in the freezing cold, and wait until they were ready to even go pick it up via a notification on your phone.
The show continued and I tried as hard as I could to feel like I was at a regular concert. And I was to a degree. But something was just off. It almost felt like the tiny ropes that kept us all a hefty distance apart, physically, also became mental blocks as well. This goes for Kip too, who is consistently one of the best live entertainers in country music.
Not surprisingly, he came back out for an encore that consisted of a faster, more electric version of “Crazy One More Time,” which I think was my favorite part of the show. I remember gasping out of excitement when I realized what he was playing. I want a studio version of that rendition ASAP. That one doesn’t ever get old, does it? The last song of the night was the newest track from him, “Don’t Go Changing,” and it was also really fun. I think the encore was the most high-energy portion of the show. I remember thinking ending with that song was so fitting. Hearing “this world is turning crazy” resonated so much. What else is there to say about life right now?
Recently, Eric Church remarked rather poignantly at the CMA’s that “music is the only thing that’s going to save the entire world,” and he’s right. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that just being able to go to some version of a “concert” gave me a taste of hope. Seeing Kip and his band on stage doing what they love gave me hope. Seeing other people who wanted as badly as I did to have a taste of normalcy gave me hope. No, it wasn’t the show I had necessarily expected, nor hoped for. It was weird at times, and like no other concert I have ever been to.
But, ultimately, it felt hopeful. One day, we will get back to “normal.” We’ll have packed concert halls and venues again. There will be shows that have so much beer slinging and sloshing on the hardwood floor that if you dance too much you may not stay up on two feet. We’ll see Kip again, at our favorite venue, with a full set. And hopefully he’s not freezing his little fingers off.
I’m really glad I had this experience because it only makes me all the more grateful for what the world was and what we can get back to. After all, isn’t that what we all love so much about country music? What kind of hope would we have without it. I’d love to ask those lovely gentlemen of South Carolina what they think, though I don’t know if the word “hope” would be the descriptive word that comes to mind for them.
For me, hope seems like the only word I could use, and that’s all I really need.