My friend was joking, of course. We were watching Paul Cauthen perform the semi-satirical “Country As Fuck” from his recently released album Country Coming Down at the Palomino Festival in Pasadena, CA.
And my buddy meant that as a compliment: from the moment Paul Cauthen stepped on stage for his a-little-too-early-for-an-LA-crowd 4:15pm time slot, everyone at the Rose Bowl knew that they were in for a show.
And all eyes were on Paul lest we miss anything epic.
First, there was Cauthen’s look: white shirt unbuttoned down to mid-torso. Huge, reflective shades that evoked the Pit Vipers from his “Country As Fuck” music video. Guitar shoulder strap emblazoned with his nickname, “Big Velvet.” Mouth open seemingly at all times, gulping in California sunshine as he stared out into the crowd.
His band started into the first song, “Cocaine Country Dancing,” a fun, funk-influenced banger from his 2019 album, Room 41. Cauthen’s hips started swinging before he even stepped to the mic for the first time. And before his set was over, “Big Velvet” brought every dance move in the book to his unique funk/rock/country mash-up set.
His shoulders swayed. His boots kicked and slid across the stage. His hips thrusted ever so slightly to the beat, like a grittier Elvis or, dare I even say it…Luke Bryan?
But although we often poke fun at the bro country set for dancing on stage, there was something less nauseating about Paul’s moves. Everyone (not just the ladies) was feeling it and eating up the “Big Velvet Energy.” And he had a seemingly endless supply for what was a far-too-short, 30-minute set. We’d all been baking in the sun for four hours, and Paul Cauthen finally brought the party atmosphere we’d all been prepping for with thoseparking lot Fireball shots.
The inaugural Palomino Festival’s aim was to be more about the music than it’s bigger, bro-ier older brother, Stagecoach. And the organizers achieved that aim with a mellow, acoustic vibe and a list of artists curated from Stagecoach’s less-mainstream, intimate Palomino Stage.
Cauthen fit the bill with his unique voice and genre-melding, defiantly independent sensibility. But with a few dozen hip thrusts and a little “Cocaine Country Dancing,” Paul let us all know that he’s also an entertainer with a capital E.
And he gave us permission to both appreciate the music and to let loose (as you should at a festival).
So, do yourself a favor and catch Paul on tour sometime… if you have the stamina for all that Big Velvet Energy.