PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | There seems to be a bit of a musical civil war going on in America. The terms have been made clear, the battle lines have been drawn, and the armies have amassed.
The battle rages over country music, and the sides couldn’t be more different. On one side, you have the shallow, commercialized pop country, basically composed of love songs with an added occasional twang, or blathering about beer, trucks, or pretty girls in tight shorts. The opposing side is deep-rooted and a bit rougher around the edges. You won’t see them topping the country charts or appearing in beer commercials, and they are determined to “put the “o” back in country,” as Shooter Jennings so eloquently put it.
What you will get, in the case of someone like Sturgill Simpson, is truth. Truth about alcoholism, truth about the struggles of getting through hard times, and truth about drugs, for better or worse. Tuesday, at the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA, Sturgill shared that truth with a sold-out crowd.
I arrived just before 7 and made my way inside to the outer bar area. There were a few people milling around, but it seemed fairly quiet for a sold-out show. I realized my mistake as I entered the main hall. I was apparently late to the party as the majority of seats at the tables had been taken already. The hall was a dull roar of people talking, laughing, eating, and drinking before the show began. I’m pretty used to most venues—clubs big and small, amphitheaters, arenas, and theaters—but the dinner theater setup of the Birchmere is one that I just can’t quite get used to. Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful venue, steeped with history and blessed with great acoustics, but…well, more on this later.