Last month, the Dixie Chicks played to a massive, but not sold-out, crowd at Madison Square Garden. The audience's excitement and pride were nearly palpable. After all, these were New Yorkers - and unlike a lot of Red State Americans, we were proud of lead singer Natalie Maines for standing by her statement that she was embarrassed President George Bush hailed from her home state, Texas. And we were appalled at the death threats the Chicks received because they couldn't tolerate the ignorant mumblings of a war-happy President. And we all loved the Chicks' new single, "Not Ready to Make Nice," because most of us weren't ready to make nice with the Bush Administration either.
So, when Natalie strummed the first chord of that song, hundreds of crowd members held up white placards that said, in large black letters, "THANK YOU." I was nearly moved to tears. I was proud to be a New Yorker.
But we all know that the Dixie Chicks, who were only the fourth country music band in history to achieve a diamond certification (10 million sold) for a previous album, have been subjected to plummeting concert ticket sales, and lower-than-usual album sales. We're all aware that the Chicks were forced to cancel 14 Red State shows this year, and that country music stations still won't broadcast Dixie Chicks songs, out of some notion of solidarity with the Prez.
But did you know that they added at least as many concert dates in Canada and Australia? And that the new album has already achieved platinum status, selling 1.5 million copies? That album occupied the No 1 spot on the Billboard 200 for two weeks in a row, it was the number one country album for five straight weeks, and was the nation's number one digital Album. Not too shabby.
So the Dixie Chicks agreed to take, as their payment for this tour's shows, 95% of ticket sales profits, instead of their standard set fee. Maybe they won't make a monumental killing on this tour. Or maybe the throngs in Australia and Canada will compensate for their long lost fans in Alabama. Who knows? I don't think the Dixie Chicks give a shit. And for that, I will support them for as long as their brilliant careers last. To be honest, I never listened to the Chicks before they took on the President and his entourage. But in me, and in many others, they have a new fan for life.
At a recent System of a Down concert (in my opinion, this is one of the best, and most important, bands in rock), a friend told me that although he respected System, he got tired of them, because he believes rock and roll shouldn't be "used" as a platform for talking about politics or social issues. I laughed in my friend's face, and told him I couldn't possibly disagree with him more. In this war-torn, AIDS-ravaged, climate-collapsing, bigotry-plagued, poverty-ridden world, anything that can be done to make the masses talk and care about these issues is nothing but a boon. I don't care on which side of the political fence the mike-holder falls. I mean, I was disappointed when I learned that one of my favorite singers, Dana Glover, would perform at the Republican National Convention. I considered chucking her from my library, but then I thought, hey, at least she participates! At least talking or singing about issues indicates a lack of apathy!
The Dixie Chicks are anything but apathetic. And they're also kickass musicians. Dixie Chicks: THANK YOU.