BamaJam: Day one (June 9, 2009)

[T]ime for another weekly assignment from Mama Kat. I’ve been away from the blog for a while, but I’m gonna bend the rules a little and explain what’s kept me away for the past few days.

Last weekend, for three long, fun-filled days, my sleepy, map-dot hometown became a music Mecca — a destination sought after by thousands upon thousands of people from 47 states and several countries — and I was right in the middle of it.
I love country music. I love other kinds of music as well, but country music strikes a special chord because it’s easy for me to relate to the messages in a lot of the songs.
When I heard the lineup for this year’s BamaJam Music and Arts Festival, I knew I wouldn’t be able to pass it up. I went to the inaugural BamaJam last year, so I knew a good bit about what to expect, but this year’s outing surpassed my expectations by a country mile or two.
I had a hard time forking over the money for a three-day pass at first, but rationalized the purchase by reminding myself this would be the only time in my life talents like Taylor Swift, Brooks and Dunn, Kid Rock and Alan Jackson would be on stage a mere 15 minutes from my front porch.
I purchased the ticket, which coincidentally came with 10 dollars worth of free gas, and my excitement began to build as Thursday rapidly approached.
When the first day of BamaJam finally dawned, I went to the bank, rubbed half a bottle of sunscreen on my arms and face, put on the polarized sunglasses I bought from the Bass Pro Shop, threw a folding chair for me and one for my cousin in the back of my truck, and headed out as fast my four-cylinder engine would allow.
I was forced to slow down when we got to town, however, and by the time we turned on highway 167, traffic slowed to a crawl. Some time later, we reached the gravel road that marked the entrance to the 800-acre festival site. When we finally pulled into the field that served as the parking lot, my spirits were almost as high as the black cloud that loomed overhead. The threat of rain wasn’t enough to deter the massive crowd that was already there, and it sure wasn’t enough to dampen my mood.
We reached the main stage — which was at the bottom of sloping hills that acted like a bowl for stadium seating — and, since we were thirty minutes early for the first concert, we were able to stake claim to a prime spot about fifty yards away and just a little left of center stage. I became rather acquainted with our little spot, because I stayed right there for the next eight hours or so.
The weather wasn’t bad, but my cousin figured we should wet our whistles anyway to keep from having to make an unscheduled visit to the medical tent, and I was glad when she returned with two eight-ounce glasses of lemonade. I drank mine sparingly to prevent an unscheduled visit to the Porta-Potty.
Forty-five minutes after we arrived, the opening act, Alabama’s own Jamey Johnson hit the stage.
If you’ve never heard of Johnson or his music, you’re missing out.
Sure, he looks a little like Grizzly Adams, but the man can sing.
He’s got a voice deeper than a well, and his last album’s got more hits than Google.
He stood on that stage, easily won the crowd over with his raw, unpolished sound and had us singing along to every song, even after he broke a string on his favorite guitar, Old Maple, and was forced to switch to another anonymous one before he continued belting out his hour-long set.
Luke Bryan took the stage next and the crowd, which continued to grow in anticipation of Taylor Swift’s show later that night, swayed along to several of his catchy songs about what his friends told him when he couldn’t remember how he got home from the club last night, the vehicles he created memories in growing up and his ability to grow his own groceries.
Then we got to see John Anderson, and he was amazing.
His unique voice was as good last Thursday as it has ever been, and the 55-year-old legend put on a top-notch show. He sang crowd-pleasing number-one hits like Swingin’, Black Sheep and Straight Tequila Night, and his performance was as good as Money in the Bank.
Near the end of his show he was joined onstage by Johnson and George Jones, who crooned He Stopped Loving Her Today, much to the crowd’s delight.
Night was beginning to fall, and, by the time Blake Shelton took the stage, so was the rain.
I had seen Shelton before, and I knew a rainstorm wouldn’t slow him down.
I was right.
Maybe he had a little less Bud Light sweet tea to drink before the show or maybe it was the fact that, like Johnson, his latest album is full of great songs, but Thursday night was the best Blake Shelton concert I’ve been to, and I’ve been to three.
One thing that makes a Blake Shelton show enjoyable (besides the songs) is the amount of time he interacts with the fans. He tells stories and jokes, regularly converses with the audience. For example, he saw someone waving a flag with a picture of Hank Williams, Jr. on it and said, “Hey, that gives me an idea.” Then he launched into his version of If Heaven Ain’t a lot Like Dixie.
Then, pretending to draw a blank on what song came next, jumped right into a much less annoying more entertaining version of the jingle.
Thankfully, the rain let up soon after Shelton was finished, and everyone waited on pins and needles for Taylor Swift to close out the night.
Say what you want about her, but Taylor Swift deserves respect as a songwriter and a performer. She is extremely talented, and she proved it Thursday night.
Not only did she sing like there was no tomorrow, but she put on one heck of a show.
She danced and sang her way around an elaborate set like a seasoned veteran twice her age, and the only pauses were the six times she changed clothes while we watched transitional video packages.
The show was more than a concert, it was a production.
She took elements from her videos and incorporated them into her stage performance using multiple set backgrounds, background dancers and costumes.
For example, the video for her song Love Story is set mostly in medieval times, so she came out in a long dress, the background was a castle like the one in the video and the dancers were dressed like court jesters and people at a ball.
It was about this time I realized my attempts to woo Taylor were bound to fail.
I swear we made eye contact once, but I was unable to get to her because of the mass of pre-teen girls in “Hey Taylor” tee-shirts screaming her name and singing along.
We stayed through the first song of the encore, just to make absolutely sure she hadn’t noticed me and, as a result, was now uncontrollably and irrevocably smitten.
Unfortunately for her me she had not, so we made our way toward the exits.
I would like to take this opportunity say if you’re ever at one of Swift’s shows, whatever you do, don’t leave early.
Apparently, I missed her performance of Should’ve Said No, which involves falling water that spells a word while she stands in the middle of it.
I have been kicking myself for days for that, and I am simply trying to save you the pain and regret, because I care.
Aside from my missing that last song and the fact that my failure to reach her might have cost Taylor Swift the chance at another love story, day one of BamaJam was an unforgettable one, but it wasn’t the last.
Day two held more surprises, and a situation I almost didn’t get out of, but you’ll have to come back tomorrow (or the next day) to read about them.

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