A sweat bead forms at the widow’s peak of a famous pop-country singer as he fidgets in his chair. It’s the first in-person interview with someone who isn’t Bobby Bones he’s done in a while. The crooner’s handler politely asked the host to avoid a few potential land mines in the discussion, but the singer sees some shiftiness in the questioner’s eyes.
He says a quick prayer in his head that there won’t be any questions about abortion, guns, the infield shift, Donald Trump, Morbius, LGBT rights, or any other hot button topics. Amen.
After a brief warm greeting and small talk, the interview begins. Deep breath.
“What do you think about the trans…” (OH GOD) “…ition from the party hearty days of bro-country to the more muted sound of your music these days?” he asks. (WHEW!)
He’s got this one. He can flash those pearly whites and rest his fingers on his scruffy chin and knock that answer out with vague aplomb and goofy charm. No worries so far.
“You once toured with Morgan Wallen as your opener. Care to discuss when he said…” (OH SHIT) “that he considers you a role model and kind of a mentor?” is the follow up question.
The sweat bead has now split the singer’s eyes and rolled to the tip of his nose. He wipes it off with the sleeve of his $95 plain white t-shirt. Softball question, thank God. Media training prepared him for this, how to be humble and full of praise. Oh, and mention how much Morgan Wallen has grown since the incide…. NOOOOOOOO. Don’t even think about opening that door! Just keep it short and graceful.
“Now let’s get a little personal” says the interviewer. “Do you think a woman should have the right to choose…” (OH SHIT OH DAMN OH F@4% HELP ME MARY AND JOSEPH!) “what restaurant you’re going to on a date?” he asks.
There’s an audible massive exhale, like an NFL lineman stood on one of those camping mattresses with the valve open or something. He looks at his watch. 14 minutes and 35 seconds of the allotted 15 have expired. He’s made it. No controversies, no cancellations, no major missteps. He feels his heart rate settle.
Portland, Ore. -- After a chaotic and tumultuous four years – and an otherworldly 2020 – it’s only fitting that unbounded bliss can turn to crushing morosity in an instant. Such is the roller coaster existence of Patterson Hood, the Portland-based activist and political commentator who moonlights as the front man for the Drive By Truckers.
Saturday, Nov. 7 was a joyous day by all accounts in the City of Roses. First CNN, then Fox News, and then all the other networks and wire services followed in turn: Joe Biden, they reported, would be the 46th President of the United States. Mostly peaceful celebrants rushed into the streets.
“It was beautiful, man,” Hood says. “Four years of fascism, finally over.” The Oregonian thought himself alone in his bliss, until that perfect moment when he found a kindred – and musical – spirit. “Kasey Anderson and I ran into each other. It turns out we were both throwing acid at the same Portland so-called ‘firefighters,’” he says. “Those dudes were f*cking with freedom-fighters who had mostly peacefully torched an Apple Store in celebration of Biden’s big win. I got the whole thing on my iPhone 12.”
Jubilation became concern on multiple levels, to Hood’s chagrin. “Turns out Kasey’s on Federal paper and has an ankle bracelet,” Hood says. “Well, he said he had an ankle bracelet. I think it was a baby monitor, to tell you the truth. Anyway, he hauled ass when they made a curfew announcement on the loudspeakers.”
Hood was undeterred, if now alone. And yet…
“I joined up with some other freedom fighters, at the last Taco Bell before it peacefully went up in flames…” Hood trails off here, caught up in the memory of a poignant moment in Portland social justice history. He is a little weepy.
“I got in line,” Hood says, choking up a bit before recovering his composure. “And person after person, be it he/she/xi/xxyx/cis, every one of us HUMAN PEOPLE said to Juan – so his corporate name tag said – YES, MY ORDER IS FOR A LIVING WAGE FOR ALL LETTUCE PICKERS IN THE CENTRAL VALLEY.”
Hood isn’t shy admitting he enjoyed the sick burn. “I mean face it, what are corporatists gonna say in the face of that kind of truth?” Sadly, the euphoric social triumph would give way to realpolitik. Such is the duality of the Southern thing – Patterson Hood-style.
“What totally freaked me out was that there was a whole other set of elections going on at the same time or whatever,” said Hood, who attended some college courses in Northern Alabama in the 1980s. “There are senate elections that happen, too. And there are some elections that happen in Georgia or whatever. And in January!”
Hood – after reading the same story in The Daily Kos three times – grew tense. When he learned that two Senate runoffs in Georgia could drastically impact President-elect Biden’s agenda, he was at first cynical. “Typical redneck Georgia, man,” Hood said. “It’s just the same Jim Crow stuff: they make a Democrat win twice, just because he’s a black guy. This kind of racist shit is why I left Georgia after living there for like 20 years or something.”
Yet rather than curse the darkness, Hood turned to a literary light.
“Somebody turned me on to this guy Tom Friedman? He writes for the New York Times and magazines, too,” he said. “He’s like an expert, but still can deal with the common man. He’s interviewed taxi drivers from Athens to Rome. Which is perfect, since those are my two favorite cities in Georgia!”
It was a national television interview of Friedman that grabbed the fifty-something poet’s attention.
“I mean, I love the way my boy mimics that cis-white woman’s stupid accent, but you gotta give the nod to the writer guy,” he said. “Which is why I’m headed back to Georgia so I can vote for Rafael Warnock…and that one cis-white guy too, since he’s also a Democrat.” Asked if he had voted in Oregon, and if that might pose legal problems in the Peach State, Hood grew indignant.
“So f*cking what, man? I mean, you gonna buy into this Jim Crow myth of “voter fraud?” Hood snapped. “You’re telling me it’s against the law to go to Georgia to vote for a black man? It’s the most anti-racist thing to do, ever. Check your patriarchy and your white privilege, bro. Seriously. Besides, Gov. Abrams will pardon us all.”
As he gathered his things to prepare for his cross-country political odyssey, he took a moment to address a music-industry rumor about his band’s most recent political album. “It is nobody’s business whether President Xi and the Peoples’ Cultural Collective sent us a small donation to support our art,” Hood said. “Besides, you can’t prove it, and it’s a totally racist and sinophobic thing to say. Only a fear-mongering redneck from Texas would say such a thing.
Matt Sandifer, former bassist of Americana band Farmer Union, says he was recently given the pink slip for a peculiar reason.
“My beard is patchy.” said a despondent Sandifer. “I can’t help my damn genetics.”
Sandifer told us that no complaints were ever made about his ability to keep the bottom steady in the band’s songs about unions, farms, William Gay novels, Donald Trump, and kudzu. His appearance and hygiene, besides the follicular challenge, were never an issue either.
“I took my monthly shower like the rest of them,” he explained. “And my clothes all came from the Salvation Army store in whatever town we’d played, along with t-shirts from bands who opened for us.” He also told us there were no issues with his politics.
“I’m a card carrying member of Antifa and attended all the same meetings they did.” he said. “And I took a photo of my voting ballot so that they could see I voted blue or green all the way down.”
He went on to say that though Farmer Union never gave him a formal reason for the release, he’s certain it’s because the “other three dudes look like they just walked out of the woods with an axe and a blue ox.” “I’ve tried everything, oils, lotions, massages, testosterone therapy… nothing worked.” said Matt. “The best I could do was a sad goatee, a busted mustache and weird patches of hair on my cheeks - I looked like a peeping Tom.”
“I thought Americana was supposed to be about substance, and not image …or marching to the beat of what other roots bands do,” said a disgusted Sandifer. “F*** those guys.”
At press time, Farmer Union was smoking weed by a dumpster in Belleville.
At the “Down Home Together” festival this past weekend, it was almost as if things were no different than usual. The mainstream country music streaming show included the likes of Luke Bryan, Kelsea Ballerini, Upchurch, and Jordan Davis playing songs from their living room and was set to raise funds for several COVID related charities, but many fans behaved as if the festival was in a farm pasture. 43 arrests were reported across the 3 1/2 hour show, despite it being online.
25 of the arrests were for online threats of violence as fans got into arguments in the comments over such subjects as COVID-19, masks, beer, Donald Trump, and murder hornets. One man even threatened to fire a rocket launcher into the home of another fan who thought Ozark wasn’t as good this season. Authorities found said man in possession of a rocket launcher and illegal prescription drugs.
10 more arrests were for actual violence, when online arguments led to actual fights for feuding fans who lived near one another. “I just commented that maybe we shouldn’t be talking about whether Kelsea had “nice t****ies” or not in the comments because it seemed pretty sexist to me, and some Bubba guy from Smyrna drove to my house with a baseball bat.” said Dunwoody, GA music fan Gerald Hopkins. Bubba Carlisle was charged with threats, possession of a controlled substance, and expired tags when police arrested him in Hopkins’ driveway.
Other charges during the festival included attempts to sell meth, dissemination of pornographic content in a public forum, and somehow, a couple of DUIs and drunk and disorderlies. The chaos of the Down Home Together festival has promoters wondering whether or not to rush back to in-person concerts once the pandemic has eased.
Luke Bryan had no comment at press time, as he was “waxing,” according to his management.