I live too far away from the coasts to care about Coachella all that much, and have done far too much time in both the ACL and SXSW trenches to get too excited about anything that happens in far west Houston anymore. So instead, I have started looking forward to the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo's annual entertainer lineup announcement, which was announced early, early Monday morning, much more than any piece of news regarding those other three festivals.
But like other critics do with those three events (sometimes obsessively), I have come to enjoy reading each year's rodeo lineup like tea leaves to see what it "says," not only about the rodeo itself and the State of Music in 2013, but the city of Houston as well. And the 2013 talent could be the strongest lineup in the rodeo's history, almost across the board. Yeah, I said it. Speaking objectively, it's hard to find a weak spot anywhere.
I assume tweens will do what tweens tend to do and be delighted with the Demi Lovato/Austin Mahone twofer. This year's classic-rock spot, Styx, might make some people laugh, but the Styx that came to The Woodlands in May of last year showed an abnormal amount of pizzazz and theatricality for the graying-rocker set.
This year's country artists are either at the top of their profession or some of the hottest rising stars in Nashville. I personally think Jason Aldean comes off as a massive tool, but he owns the rodeo's current single-night attendance record. Toby Keith might not be to my taste either, but the man can sell some Ford pickups, not to mention albums. Respect to the moneymakers.
Kenny Chesney I have made peace with after last year's Reliant Stadium show and his cutting Charlie Robison's "El Cerrito Place," by one of my favorite Texas songwriters. (More on that in a bit.) Kenny's tour partner Tim McGraw won me over for good last year with the unstoppably awesome "#TRUCKYEAH." The old, old men of the bunch, Alan Jackson and Gary Allan, are right as rain.
Among the younger set, Lady Antebellum may not be all that country, but musically and emotionally speaking, who could really argue with Fleetwood Mac in cowboy boots? The Band Perry are verging toward crossover-hit territory themselves with "Better Dig Two," and both Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley wouldn't be in country music at all if not for Waylon Jennings.
Brantley Gilbert shares the same sort of predilection for hard rock as Aldean without seeming quite so odious about it. Only Luke Bryan is a little meh, mostly because I thought his "Country Girls (Shake It for Me)" was the one country song that most needed to go away last year.