Country fans are standing loud and proud and the rest of the city is noticing.
In recent years, country music has left Nashville and found its way to many major American cities. Philadelphia, known for its contributions to the R&B and hip-hop communities, seemed to be resistant to the country music world.
But with many upcoming events and a full list of concerts, country music’s popularity is growing both in Philadelphia and among students. The country music stereotype lies somewhere between the “The Dukes of Hazzard” and Jeff Foxworthy.
With artists like Shania Twain and Faith Hill crossing over with more mainstream hits, many were introduced to more modern country music that they could relate to.
Still, country musicians have found it hard to thrive in Philadelphia. It could be that no major country artist was born and raised here, or perhaps it is due to a disassociation between the Philadelphian way of life and the Southern and Western culture. Maybe it’s the stereotypical notions that are ingrained in the average music fan’s mind.
“I think that the people of Philadelphia, especially the youth, are so entangled in the old school image of country that is no longer true,” said Kristin Zartman, a senior communications major.
“They believe that country music is all about the Southern twang, but in the last few years the music has evolved.”
Philadelphia’s very own country music station, 92.5 WXTU, is very proactive in bringing events and concerts to country music fans. Embracing the idea of community, not only among country fans but throughout the city as a whole, WXTU has strived to participate in several large benefits and programs.
They are participating in this October’s 60-mile trek to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The station is also holding their own American Idol-esque contest, giving the winner the bragging rights of singing the national anthem before the NASCAR Busch Series Race at the Dover International Speedway.
Several upcoming concerts at small and large venues alike boast big country names. Lyle Lovett is coming in just a few weeks to the Kimmel Center, and the Keswick Theater in Glenside will host three major country acts within the next two months. Coming in September is the highly publicized Pat Green concert and only a month later both Vince Gill and Travis Tritt are holding shows.
Lee Ann Womack, known for her hit “I Hope You Dance” is coming to the Lenape Regional Performing Arts Center in Southern New Jersey Sept. 24 and country superstars Rascal Flatts are making their way to Philadelpha Oct. 13 when they perform at the Wachovia Center.
This is in addition to this summer’s sold-out concerts by Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney.
“Most shows that artists put on at the Wachovia Center have two or three dates that they have to add on because of the demand,” explains country music enthusiast and senior Jamie Baker. “And I love Kenny Chesney!”
However, perhaps the biggest concert coming this fall is Farm Aid 2006. Held at the Tweeter Center in Camden, Farm Aid works to encourage the sale of products from family farms in an attempt to foster more growing opportunities for family farmers.
It is a serious problem across the United States and has found a voice at our waterfront. If the good cause isn’t reason enough to go, perhaps the artist lineup will encourage attendance: Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews are scheduled to perform.
For those of you not up to the big ticket prices of larger venues, check out a few local acts coming to Philadelphia over the next couple of months. Tin Angel at Serrano, World Cafe Live, and the Perkins Center for the Arts are all hosting up-and-coming country acts.
Every Thursday night Michael’s Cafe in Bensalem, Pa., holds a country night, complete with free country line dancing lessons. Similarly, Montana West in Quakertown, Pa., holds country nights on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Aside from line dancing and drink specials, Montana West holds bikini bull riding, something you can only find in the suburbs.
What will the future bring for country music in Philadelphia? Junior Nick Cataldi speculates, “It’s still the minority, but it’s definitely getting more popular in this area.”
Noting the large audience of a Brooks and Dunn concert he recently attended, “As country slowly becomes more like pop more people will be receptive to it,” Zartman added.
So grab a pair of cowboy boots and a cute straw hat (let’s face it- you can find them just about anywhere on South Street) and jump on the country bandwagon!
You never know – maybe one day you too will think Kenny Chesney’s tractor really is sexy.
Jessica Cohen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.