Kacey Musgraves saved my life. Fact.
That might sound a tad dramatic, but I single-handedly hold her responsible for fixing something inside of me that was once very broken.
In 2013, when her debut offering came out, I read a review in The Guardian, played a few seconds on-line, then immediately bought the whole damn album. It was the only thing I listened to for weeks.
About a month later, I moved to a small town for a new job where I didn’t know anyone, and I was miles and miles from my family. It was a big step, and one that turned out to be a big mistake.
Pretty soon, the sky came crashing down. There was this elephant constantly sat on my chest, leaving me unable to breathe. I couldn’t eat or sleep, I was anxious, afraid and miserable. And so I turned to Kacey to put me back on the map. Wherever I was, driving in the car, going for a night run along the dark streets, taking a walk into town…she told me to follow my arrow, and she told me there would be a silver lining.
She helped me see I could be strong when I wanted to be weak. She taught me how to be pushed through the wringer, but still come out the other side. She helped to grow and change me for the better, and I’ve never looked back.
I know it might sound silly to talk about someone you don’t actually know in this way, to put them on a pedestal and give them this power over your life, but that’s what her music does for me. For you it might be Jazz, Rock, Garage or House; that artist that helps you get out of bed those mornings when all you want to do is shut the door on the world, crawl under the covers, and give up.
So when I wake up this morning for my final day here at C2C, my body bruised, feet aching, and my head pounding, I know I’m getting up and putting on my pageant dress for my favourite girl, no question.
I take the short bus ride to the 02, fighting the urge to vomit and head straight for Town Square. Once there, I bump into my cowboy clan once more, who are all currently clutching coffee cups as if their very lives depended on it. It’s clear we are all a little sore today after the rowdiness of day 2, so we head into The Brooklyn Bowl for low lighting and some mellow sets.
It’s packed out and there’s nowhere to stand except right at the side of the stage behind the bands looking out at the audience, which is in itself a pretty cool view; and I spy set lists littering the floor.
We stay for a few bands, mainly on the soft drinks, apart from my friend, The Walking Dead, who clearly has an actual death wish, as he is supping a frozen Margarita. Nice.
We head into the main stadium just after 5, me tagging along into the VIP section for the second time; once again proving the old adage that it’s not what you know, but who you know.
Chris Stapleton is up next and I’m pretty keen to see him play, given how good he sounds on his records.
I’m not disappointed. He takes to the stage with wild long hair, a low perching hat, and a jar of somethin’ he’s drinking.
He begins, and it hits my ears like blackstrap molasses, viscose, dark and robust. His voice is like a saxophone playing, with a gravity and richness emanating from somewhere deep within his chest.
The stage is moody-dark, and he works through lyrics about wandering travellers, complex relationship, and of course, plenty of verses about whisky. His songs are those to make love to, to fall in love to, to build worlds upon, and then break them apart.
He’s sensational, and I’m swaying along hypnotically, in perfect ecstasy.
His set ends, snapping me out of my trance, and the crowd are stomping their approval, but there’s no encore, much to their disappointment.
We re-hydrate quickly, then hop back to our seats in plenty of time for the lovely Miss Musgraves.
Bob Harris takes to the stage by way of introduction, then the lights go down and a handful of raspberry suited, hat-wearing fellows file out like little Mariachis, and take their places behind their instruments. They are wearing strings of bulbs around their necks, lit up like fireflies, and I feel like I’m at a backyard truck stop.
The crowd begin to roar when they see Kacey stride out, white cowgirl boots, silver sparkling top, and a short white satin skirt, wide like a tutu.
She strums her guitar, opens her mouth, and my world tumbles out. She’s exquisite.
Her voice is milk and honey. High, sweet, and clear, cutting through my skin as easily as if it were fine gossamer and she a blade.
She chats to us in between songs, her wicked laid-back sense of humour coming across, and I feel like we are old friends. She tells us how she adores London, about singing in The Royal Albert Hall, and about her Grandma’s favourite track on her new album. She’s everything.
She tells us she loves Disney, and indeed with her expert whistling, and dark locks, she could be Snow White herself. She excitedly delivers her country take on A Spoonful of Sugar, which is the best dang rendition of the Mary Poppins classic I’ve ever heard, bar none.
I am singing along, enchanted, as she works her way through her repertoire. I know every lyric, every pause, and every lick.
When I recognise the first strains of Silver Lining, the notes reverberating from the pedal steel guitar, my breath catches in my throat a little. I squeeze my fingers into my palms, savouring the moment, and I can’t help it when the tears spill out of the corners of my eyes, tracing tracks down my cheeks. I don’t care. Their salty wetness falls from my chin, and this moment is forever imprinted in my soul.
She changes out of her skirt, and is back on stage for the rest of her set in a sparkling one piece, and a fringed belt as she croons about being late to the party.
She ends with Follow Your Arrow, and I sing along and whoop with sincerity. The crowd stomps once more, and she returns with a tambourine, her boots lit up and flashing, for an encore of the Nancy Sinatra classic, complete with Tarantino bass-line.
When it’s over, so am I. I’m completely content and full to the brim with happiness.
My cowboy compadres have to take their leave, with trains home to catch, and lives back in the real world to return to, and so it’s just me and the Naval Officer left to share a few more minutes together over whisky, as the concert comes to a close.
We head out into the night, smiles on our faces, and go our separate ways. Like a dream, I’ve lived through an age these past few days, having some of the very best times of my life here at C2C, and I will most definitely be back next year, you can bet on that. Country Music is the truth in the blood pumping through my veins, and the determination in my soul.
This weekend has been an inspiration, a revelation, and a pleasure; filling up my bottle up with lightening in the most fantastic way. Because when it comes down to it, that fire, that grit, that truth, is really all you need in life to say what you think, and do the things you want to do. As Kacey says, you just get so many trips ‘round the sun. You only live once. So get out there and make the very damn most of it y’all.