Kurt Bardella: Country music is a community built on heart; after the shocking tragedy in Las Vegas, it will rise up with strength and resilience
I became a country music fan -- and started a daily newsletter about it -- after seeing how powerfully the music could bring people together, he writes
Editor’s Note: Kurt Bardella (@KurtBardella) is the creator and publisher of the Morning Hangover (@MorningHangover), a daily country music email tip sheet. He is also the former spokesman for Breitbart News, the Daily Caller and several Republican members of Congress. The views expressed in this commentary are solely his.
Up until 2011, I was one of those people who never gave country music a chance. That all changed that spring, when a friend of mine had an extra lawn seat to a show out in Bristow, Virginia, headlined by Jason Aldean and Eric Church.
That night I experienced a positive energy unlike anything I had ever been a part of before. Thousands of people from all walks of life were there, singing together to these stories about love and loss, life and work – it didn’t matter where you came from, there was something to relate to for everybody.
I became a fan of country music that night. I love it, because for every moment, every mood, every story, there is a song.
Sometime between two and three Monday morning, I got a phone call from a friend who runs a music label out in Nashville who wanted to make sure I was OK – because something tragic had happened during Jason Aldean’s performance at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas.
At least 58 people were killed and more than 500 were injured when a gunman fired round after round of ammunition into the crowd there from a window on the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel.
This heinous act of violence really hits close to home. I have friends who were there who could have been killed or injured. Thankfully, they are all accounted for. Heck, this festival has been on my calendar all year, and until last week, was something I was planning to attend.
You see, two years ago, I started a country music platform called the Morning Hangover, because I wanted to share the connectivity I experienced at live country music concerts with as many people as possible.
Up until that point, I had never interacted with anyone in the country music ecosystem. I had spent the past decade working on Capitol Hill for members of a Congress and as a media consultant. I came into country music as a true outsider, which is why I was shocked to be so embraced by the Music Row community in Nashville. Two years later, I now go to multiple live shows a week, visit Music City at least once a month and have forged some amazing friendships within the country music community.
The fact, that amid all the chaos that unfolded this morning, people from Music Row were reaching out to see if I was safe speaks volumes about what kind of community this is and how truly special it is to be a part of it.
I know for a lot of people who don’t follow country music, it’s easy to stereotype the genre as music for Southern rednecks telling stories about tractors, trucks and “Small Town USA.”
On the contrary. I’ve come to think of country music as a stenography of our ongoing American story, told in a beautiful, compelling and creative way. These songs can capture a moment in time and bridge the emotion with the experience in way that is timeless.
When our nation confronted the aftermath of September 11, 2001, Alan Jackson graced us with “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning.”)
When the political discourse in our country reached the peak of divisiveness last year, Tim McGraw released “Humble and Kind.”
When our nation falls short of the promises it has made to our veterans, try listening to Brad Paisley and John Fogerty’s “Love and War.”
When death unexpectedly takes a loved one away, you can seek comfort in Cole Swindell’s “You Should Be Here.”
When a life-changing love comes into our life, Thomas Rhett’s “Die A Happy Man” is there to help you find the right words to say to that special someone.
There’s a lot about this attack in Las Vegas and the damage it caused that we don’t know about yet. But what I do know is that the country music community will face it with strength and resilience.
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There is no other genre of entertainment that allows fans to have accessibility to artists that country music does. These entertainers let us into their lives, their families, their stories. They come from humble beginnings and never let success change the fabric of who they are. They never take their fans for granted, and feel responsible when things go wrong.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Jason Aldean is scheduled to headline a Nashville benefit to raise money for hurricane relief called “Country Rising” in Nashville on November 12. It is sure to be a very special night that will reflect what country music is all about – heart.