Country Music

Dixie Chicks vs. Donald Trump: Summer's Most Entertaining Feud

The Dixie Chicks are not doing interviews with local media on their summer tour, and it’s hard to blame them. It might as well be a law that every newspaper and blog article previewing the tour (yes, even ours) must refer to “the incident,” and rehashing her long-ago comments about George W. Bush is probably the last thing lead singer Natalie Maines wants to do. Besides, she and her bandmates, who reach the Woodlands Pavilion this Saturday night, have devised much more topical ways to get under GOP voters’ skin.

No sooner had the Chicks opened the U.S. leg of their MMXVI tour in Cincinnati in early June than a new prime target emerged: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, cutting a striking figure indeed with doodled-on goatee and devil horns during “Goodbye Earl.” To be fair, Trump appears as part of a collage with other unsavory celebrities like O.J. Simpson and Chris Brown, and with opponent Hillary Clinton in the animation accompanying “Ready to Run,” but coverage of the tour has focused heavily on the group’s making much sport of the Republican nominee. Attention-starved as Trump seems to be, somehow it seems like he might still be OK with that. In terms of sheer entertainment value alone, the idea of him engaged in a Twitter war with Maines sounds even juicier than his feud with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren earlier this year.

The Chicks’ rhetoric is also a sharp contrast to the rest of the this summer’s touring circuit. If other artists have aired similar sentiments onstage, it hasn’t resonated nearly as much as the Chicks’ Trump-mocking. Judging by the kind of headlines that followed the Cincinnati show, which were dominated by talk of the Trump caricatures, it’s easy to tell how many artists have failed to follow suit simply by the lack of similar coverage. (Many celebrities speaking out against him seem to save much of their criticism for social media, oddly like Trump himself.)

But alienating their fans is one thing the Chicks probably never have to worry about again, and such freedom has obviously been liberating for the group; at this point, the people who are behind them are with them come hell or high water. For her part, Maines has been needling Trump on Twitter since at least January, when she said “As long as Donald Trump’s decisions for America are as solid as his decision about his hair, we’re in good shape” after one of the GOP primary debates.

“He’s great entertainment for a reality show,” Maines told The New York Times the night of the tour kickoff. “He’s scary as hell for president of the United States.”

Things are still a little tender closer to the Chicks’ home turf, though. Houston’s two major country FM stations, 93Q and 100.3 The Bull, can’t give away enough Dierks Bentley tickets (also coming to the Pavilion this month), but aren’t extending the Chicks the same courtesy. Wednesday, Preston Jones, one of the more level-headed music writers in Texas, wrote an article for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram analyzing the results of a straw poll the paper conducted last week on Facebook, simply asking if the Chicks deserved forgiveness for Maines’ anti-Bush comments. It was a hardly a landslide, but the “Let it go” folks carried the day. A small sampling of the nearly 100 comments as of Wednesday night:

Emily Yahr, a reporter for the Washington Post, even flew to Ireland earlier this summer to sample European fans’ reactions to the tour. Then, just to be safe, she double-checked by attending a Chicks concert in Virginia.

At the sold-out Dublin concert at 3Arena (capacity: 9,500), the image drew some of the loudest cheers of the night. In Virginia at Jiffy Lube Live, with an audience more than double the size? The cheers also exploded, if you needed proof that anti-Trump sentiment runs deep.

At the Virginia concert, Maines engaged the crowd even further when she called out various posters that fans were holding in the air: More than one sign read “F.U.D.T.,” a Trump call-out and reference to Maines’s famous “F.U.T.K.” T-shirt, a not-so-subtle message to country star Toby Keith, who publicly feuded with Maines in 2003.

“F.U.D.T. — I like it,” Maines said approvingly.

Uncharacteristically for him, thus far Trump has remained mute on the Chicks. But anecdotal evidence suggests he’s at least aware of them. Speaking last month at a Las Vegas technology forum sponsored by computer-equipment manufacturer Cisco, House of Cards actor Kevin Spacey said, “when [Trump] hears the term broadband he thinks you're talking about the Dixie Chicks,” according to Business Insider. “And if you mention firewall, Trump thinks that will be an even better way to keep the Mexicans out.”

Every good drama needs a great villain, and Trump gets better every day. This week, he even had a crying baby tossed from a campaign event. Obviously the Dixie Chicks don’t need to make him out to be a jackass much more than they already are, because he’s doing an excellent job of that all by himself.

Poor Chicks. Nobody seems to be interested in talking about their music anymore — except their actual fans. Live Nation reports that Saturday’s show sold out basically everything but the guest list within minutes of tickets going onsale. So if you’re there Saturday, the same people who may laugh and cheer when Goatee Trump shows up during “Goodbye Earl” may also kiss their dates during “Cowboy Take Me Away” and dance on their chairs during “Ready to Run” and “Sin Wagon.” Maybe they’ll even stomp their feet to the Chicks’ cover of Beyonce’s new “Daddy Lessons,” or make the “smartphone firefly effect” during Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” By the end of the show, Donald Trump may be an afterthought, and nothing would probably make the Dixie Chicks happier than that.
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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray