It had been one of my biggest musical regrets, that I hadn’t gotten the chance to see the Dixie Chicks back when they were tearing up the charts. I was only 18-years-old when they disappeared from the music scene after releasing critically acclaimed and Grammy Award-winning Taking the Long Way. Just three years prior to that, lead singer Natalie Maines had made the political comment heard ‘round the world, especially in my rural small town’s world. It was simple, but the statement made overseas poisoned the country music watering hole back home: “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”
With their music banned from country music stations, albums burned in protest, and death threats being thrown their way, it seemed like they would never rise again beyond their response album.
Last night, the Dixie Chicks brought their MMXVI tour to the Forum just outside of Los Angeles, and although my excitement was high, my expectations were in check. It had been ten years since the Chicks last toured together- perhaps this would be a tired reunion to collect a much-needed pay day. We’ve all seen that far too often.
So imagine my surprise when I did get to see the Dixie Chicks in their prime….in 2016.
The rebels of country music made it abundantly evident from the moment you stepped into the outdoor concourse just where they stand on social issues, not shying away from the political aspect that nearly killed their career years ago. Tables for the Human Rights Campaign, an organization advocating for LGBTQ rights, and Planned Parenthood were positioned next to one another, providing pamphlets, valuable information, a support system and, to many people’s excitement - free condoms.
On the big screens inside the venue played a video where Natalie Maines spoke on Proclaim Justice, an organization in which she’s a board member that is “dedicated to winning freedom for inmates who are factually innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted.” In the merchandise stand, you could even purchase a limited edition tour t-shirt that supported Proclaim Justice.
And it’s because of the way the Dixie Chicks support people of all walks of life, that the energy in the venue could only be described as “One Love.”
Elle King opened the show, strutting on stage in a leather fringe jacket that read “Wild Child” on the back, and no one doubted that was true by the time she finished her first song. Elle King is the perfect opener for the Dixie Chicks, a modern outlaw that throws up her middle finger at conforming to anybody else’s idea of what she should be. She’s bluesy, she’s rock ‘n’ roll and she’s a bad ass. At only 27-years-old, she’s already won two Grammy Awards, toured with Ed Sheeran, Modest Mouse, Train and, of course, the Dixie Chicks, among others. She broke the top ten with her single “Ex’s and Oh’s,” and she’s not showing any sign of slowing down anytime soon.