Country Strong

Country Strong

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The Charleston community pack into the Riverdogs Stadium to see the country performers. (Photo courtesy of Julia Reilly)

As the sun sets, a feeling of claustrophobia settles within the masses. Every foot fights for grass to stand on. People stand shoulder to shoulder, slightly perturbing their neighbor as they struggle to get a closer seat. But the negativity slowly dissolves as the beauty of the cornfields, the tinted sunset and the chirping crickets mixes with the cacophony of fans awaiting anxiously. Just like that, a simple strum of the guitar unites thousands of strangers as a family as they all belt out the first note in harmony.

Country music has so often been critiqued for its familiar patterns of heartbreak and heartache. Yet, somehow country music fans find a way to connect with each other in a way that fans of other genres could never dream to relate to. Billy Currington, Love and Theft and David Nail came together at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park Oct. 21 to deliver the music unity Charleston so often yearns for. “Charleston strong” is a phrase that drifts up and down the infamous King Street, yet passing tourists lack insight on what it truly means. Charleston strong is belting first note of a well-known harmony. Charleston strong is a country concert.

Recently, Charleston’s strength is not as strong as it once was. Residents have been under scrutiny as far as unity goes, but for one night Currington and Nail allowed a sense of family to return. Country music fans have a way of taking a stadium and turning it into a home. It is okay to dance like nobody’s watching, it is okay to sing off key at the top of your lungs, it is okay make a complete fool of yourself. At a country concert, no one cares and everyone else is doing it, too.

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Billy Currington adresses the crowd. (Photo courtesy of Julia Reilly)

As Billy Currington sang the final note of his opening song, a sense of admiration settled across his face. Performers with genuine gratitude come few and far between these days. With the dollars raking in and the paparazzi ringing their doorbells a mile a minute, they prefer to sit in the shadows until the spotlight adds color to their cheeks. Billy Currington is an exception to the stereotype. With a smile pasted from ear to ear, Currington genuinely thanked the crowd, it felt as though he had just sent a personal card in the mail to every individual. Country singers as a group, much like Currington, have a way of making it feel as though they are sitting in the seat next to you, singing for hobby. His genuine thank you felt familiar, much like an old friend.

In the midst of one of his more popular songs, Currington cut his vocals and his band ceased strumming. Suddenly the only sound available was the voices of the masses coming together to fill in the blanks. In a surreal sense, such a moment makes the stranger singing nearby feel like a best friend. Each second of a country concert is like being in a car with the windows rolled down singing at the top of your lungs with your best friends. Pinpoint the feeling of pure bliss and freedom that seeps through every fiber of your being in moments like those. That was what was in the air at the Riverdogs stadium last week. That is the magic of a country concert.

Currington, Love and Theft and Nail seized the opportunity to tie country fans of Charleston together once more. Country music is all about unity. It takes a topic, makes it a song and pretty soon it becomes the most relatable thing in everyone’s life. As the audience takes in each lyric, they begin to relate to one another, and strangers transform into lifelong friends. Charleston does its best to take on a unified persona through fliers on best vacation destinations. Somehow, the genuine feeling of southern hospitality has gotten lost in the mix of jumbled up travel plan reviews over the years. Maybe Charleston should rethink the phrase “Charleston strong”. Maybe “Charleston strong” should reiterate its feeling of community and take on a new  persona: country strong.

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Authored by: Grace Samuelson

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