Eli Young Band, Easton Corbin, etc. at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 7/6/2013
Thirteen thousand pairs of cowboy boots, quite a few itty-bitty shorts, and a bunch of dudes in surfer-cowboy duds lined the rows at the Woodlands Pavilion this past Saturday for 93Q's annual country-music festival, aptly named "A Day in the Country." Given the name of the event and the attire of choice, I was fully expecting a day of fiddles and twangy choruses, but when I walked up to the gates well after the starting time of 2 p.m., it was not good ol' country music I heard blaring from the pavilion, but the '90s alt-rock music of Staind.
That's right, Staind. Aaron Lewis, Staind's former front man and current solo country artist known for such hits as 2011's "Country Boy" (featuring Charlie Daniels, George Jones and Chris Young), was not singing his country tunes at the close of his set, but was instead pulling from Staind's catalog.
It's not that Lewis playing "It's Been Awhile" was a bad thing; I much prefer the Aaron Lewis of his Staind days to this newfound-country-musician thing, but it seemed a little odd (or awesome, depending on your vantage point) to play on a ticket billed as such a purely country event.
That's basically how the day went, though; "A Day in the Country" was a little less country, a little more rock and roll. It kind of became a country-mouse-meets-city-mouse kind of show.
Up next, after an infinitely long break between sets, was Joe Nichols -- or as I like to think of him -- the dude who graced us with the country classic, "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off." Sporting a plain white tee and some skintight jeans, it was easy to see why this alt-country stuff is growing in popularity.
EYB's Mike Eli
From the moment Nichols took the stage, there was something strangely and utterly likable about this guy. He ran through his catalog -- playing hits like "The More I Lie" -- much to the delight of a crowd all singing along in unison. But it's more than just the music that these fans find interesting about Nichols -- he's got a personality that shines well past the stock tequila-and-antics themes in his music. He's just a really charismatic performer.
That country-star persona was most evident when Nichols and company covered, of all things, Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back," done to the tune of, well, some good ol' country music. It was too awesome, not because that song ever needed to be covered by a country musician, but because it was done with major tongue-in-cheek humor.
Nichols prefaced the cover by saying that since everyone else is jumping on this country-rap bandwagon, he might as well throw his hat in the arena. And throw his hat in he did; all the shorty-shorts and cowboy boots jumped up to dance along with the song that should never have been, and it was actually kind of cute. Nichols definitely knows his biggest selling point is his personality, and he uses it well.
Flash forward to Easton Corbin, the next performer to take the stage, right before headliner and partial Tomball natives the Eli Young Band. The lineup choice made no sense to me once Corbin took the stage; his placement next to country giants like Eli Young was just asking for a ragging on the poor kid. He's not ready for the near-headlining spot. If Joe Nichols was the epitome of personality, Easton Corbin was somewhat resemblant of a wet blanket. He tries hard enough, but something doesn't vibe.
All of the songs in his set, which was quite twangy and very much rooted in old-school country, ran together at points, presumably because they are all slower, couples-skate ballads. Even when the tempo was sped up, they still collided against each other, leaving it difficult to tell where one began and the other ended.
After a few Merle Haggard shoutouts and some traditional tunes, Corbin busted out with a cover of Gary Allan's 2007 megahit, "Watching Airplanes." It was a pretty decent cover; and Corbin definitely has the vocal chops to hang with the big boys, but he seems uncomfortable in his own songs, yet surprisingly comfortable in a borrowed ditty.
Strange but welcome; it was finally something to sing along with, but it's probably never a good sign when your most memorable song is someone else's.
One "Chattahoochee" and an annoying Brooks and Dunn cover to close out Corbin's set, and we were on to the show's headliners, Eli Young Band. The crowd was pretty geared up for the near-Houston natives by this point; being out in the sun from about lunchtime on will make the 10 p.m. hour seem quite late, and EYB is more popular than they've ever been at this point. Plenty of "Crazy Girl" shirts dotted the audience, which had grown to a sea cowboy and trucker hats and beer cans by this point.