Florida Georgia Line Reliant Stadium March 19, 2014
Florida Georgia Line are easy to mistake for "bro country": they rhyme "Bocephus" with "Jesus" and would sooner walk as drive around in anything other than a candy-painted Silverado. But "bro-country" implies some sort of douchiness at its core, and these two guys are anything but clueless. They know exactly what they're doing; they're just unusually dedicated to having fun. It's just what they do.
Not that much different from Sinatra, when you think about it. More or less.
Perhaps a better term for the duo of Brian Kelley (Florida) and Tyler Hubbard (Georgia) would be "viral country." Certainly their breakout single "Cruise" has conquered everything in its path (6.3 million downloads and counting), but it's merely the biggest earworm on their platinum 2012 debut LP, Here's to the Good Times. Wednesday night Kelley and Hubbard tapped the keg and invited over 74,880 of their closest friends, for an enormous tailgate party that had to have been one of the most audacious debuts in RodeoHouston history.
Neither as surly as Jason Aldean nor as glib as Blake Shelton, these guys are freaking adorable. Their lyrics are full of wonderful puns like "if the neighbors disapprove, they can go to Helena, Montana" and enough plugs for Chevy trucks to make rodeo sponsor Ford squirm like a worm on a hook.
They've got some moves too, stunting like Run-DMC early in the show on "Party People" and "Get Your Shine On," and eventually spending more time on the railing than the average bull rider. They pulled out the old firefly-smartphone trick for "Get Your Shine On." Hubbard has an efficient, no doubt well-rehearsed window-rolling motion he does in "Cruise."
The songs are solid Bud Light country, honky-tonk by way of T-Pain -- big riffs, bigger choruses, huge drums, massive hooks you could use to load a container vessel at the Houston Ship Channel, and lots of '80s arena-rock posturing. "Tell Me How You Like It" climaxed with everyone down front throttling their guitars in unison a la Skynyrd, and I could have sworn the band broke into Dio's "Rainbow In the Dark" in the middle of "People Back Home." The set had about as much subtlety as a monster-truck rally, but that's not exactly what you should be looking for in a band that wants its fans to "party 'til it hurts." (I wonder if that ever happens.) And with that many impressionable ears, the whole thing was resolutely PG-13, of course.
At this early stage of their career, Florida Georgia Line are the creators and curators of a fantasy world where the cooler never runs dry and every girl is fine enough to make a young man say "Dayum, Baby" several times over. Its connection to reality is tenuous at best, but taking it seriously is missing the point. We should all be allowed to have as much fun as these two.
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This was so much more fun than Rascal Flatts would have been. Their cover of Alabama's 1992 hit "I'm In a Hurry (And Don't Know Why)" was a perfect choice for two guys who never seem to pause long enough to reflect on much of anything. But the most telling selection they played Wednesday was "Back Home," a song-length shoutout to everyone who helped put them on that stage, including their minister and various kinfolk. Florida Georgia Line may be party guys, but bad boys they ain't.
I had to listen to Drive-By Truckers on the way home just to get some grit back in me, but that's as it should be. Florida Georgia Line are an unstoppable force; in the moment, it's intoxicating. Wednesday, the only losers at Reliant Stadium were shirt sleeves.
Personal Bias: Former party person.
The Crowd: Every white person under 25 from Santa Fe to Magnolia was there, it seemed. And jacked.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
Random Notebook Dump: Shut your mouth and get your ass on the plane.
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