On Sunday, March 10, cowboy hats and boots two-stepped down Red River Street as a nod to Kacey Musgraves’ return to Austin. Just a month after winning four Grammys, including Album of the Year, Musgraves performed two nights at Stubb’s BBQ as part of her Oh, What a World Tour.
Story by Cruz Rendon
By 4 p.m., the line for Musgrave’s sold-out show wrapped around the venue. A wave of anticipation covered the area as fans murmured lyrics to “High Horse” amongst themselves. Musgrave’s big win at the Grammys felt like a win for Austin. Shortly after graduating high school, the country singer moved to Austin to pursue music. She made sure to pay homage to the city at the concert.
The opener, Sinclair, stepped in front of a red backdrop at 7:30 p.m. wearing a sequined silver blazer and a metallic blue shirt. The colors demonstrated an Americana theme that made perfect sense at a country concert. Sinclair opened with the ballad “Heaven on Earth,” that had fans moving with danceable tracks like “BRCLNA.” She continued to move the move the crowd with her coming-out story. Growing up in a household of nine kids, Sinclair disclosed the anxiety of telling her strict, conservative and religious parents, “I’m super gay.” The story led to “This Too Shall Pass”, a song that reflected her parents’ rejection and the bouts of depression that followed. By opening up about her sexuality, Sinclair established that it is our differences that unite us and make us American, a recurring theme that evening.
The transition from Sinclair to Kacey took 30 minutes and included a reveal of Musgrave’s set. A huge fan stood tall behind the band and the lights illuminated the singer as she stepped onstage wearing a white one-piece covered in fringe. She started her set with “Slow Burn” then asked everyone to introduce themselves to their neighbor for some good ole concert camaraderie.
Musgraves is known for speaking her mind in an otherwise conservative industry. Before performing “Merry Go ‘Round,” she reminisced her path to success. The 30-year-old grew up in a small town in East Texas. Lyrics like “and just like dust we settle in this town” show that the song was written with her town in mind.
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Shortly after graduation, Musgraves moved to Austin and was signed by Triple Pop. “Austin is such an inclusive space,” Musgraves said after performing “High Time,” a song about recreational marijuana use. “Country music isn’t.” She praised the city’s diversity, gay bars and its “vibe.”
There was a short pause while the band set up for a stripped down version of “Mother,” which included a cello. It seamlessly transitioned into “Oh, What a World.” Musgrave’s raw vocals resonated with the audience as the last note met extended applause and cheers from fans. “We’re tired but we’re feeding off the energy you’re giving us,” Musgraves said once the applause let down. “Are you guys even having any kind of fun yet?” she sarcastically asked a roaring crowd.
The beloved star continued to praise diversity as the instrumentals for Selena Quintanilla’s “Como la Flor “ started playing. “There will never be another Selena,” Musgraves said before her rendition of the song. It was met by cheers and the famous Mexican grito, a high-pitched “ay ay ay.” During this moment, the crowd felt alive as they chanted and danced to the Tejano singer’s song.
The country crooner showed her playful personality when giving her bandmates a shoutout. One by one, she introduced them and concluded with “Y’all already know me, I’m your host.”
A noteworthy moment was her performance of “Follow your Arrow.” When released, the song was met with criticism from conservatives and the Country Music Awards for the song’s exploration of sexuality and marijuana use, uncommon themes for mainstream country artists. However, it was listed by Billboard as number two in the top 20 songs of 2013. Fans hollered and claimed the lyrics that resonated with them.
Before closing her show, Musgraves made it a point to shout out her home state by asking fans to respond with “haw” after she “yee”-ed. The “yeehaw” yells showcased the high energy presented throughout the set. She ended her set with “High Horse,” a fan favorite.
Musgrave’s humble return to Austin showed her love for the city. Her raw vocals and interaction with fans demonstrated that a few Grammys hadn’t changed her. She’s still the bold 20-year old that lived in Austin, smoked weed and watched drag shows.
Musgrave’s message of inclusivity is the message of our generation. Artists like her are leaders in an effort to include communities and raise awareness in social issues. Her beliefs make country music accessible and appealing to wider audiences. Other country artists should take notes.