(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that’s happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)
Sex, drugs and country music. Is that what it’s come down to? I am in this love/hate struggle with summer concerts because of the den of iniquity the amphitheater lawns have become.
There’s underage drinking, which is probably nothing new. But it’s no longer just sneaking a couple of beers in. There are teenagers drinking straight vodka out of water bottles or sometimes mixed with Red Bull. And then there are still those resourceful few who have found a way to get cans of Four Loko.
Then there’s a lot of pot smoking. Again, that’s nothing new. But there’s so much marijuana burning on the hill, that just walking down the aisle that separates the lawn from the pavilion is almost enough to get you high.
Then there’s the sex — public sex between teenagers with lowered inhibitions. Maybe that, too, has been going on forever. But when you see a half-naked drunk girl doing things with a half-naked drunk guy while people are standing around watching and the live country music playing is merely their background soundtrack, you just can’t unsee it. The image becomes a stubborn image in your mind. Not to mention, public indecency and lewd conduct are both misdemeanors.
Luke Bryan and I talked about the lawn life, and how much it has changed, when he was about to take the stage at a recent concert in Chicago.
“My first amphitheater show I went to was at maybe Lakewood [in Atlanta],” he said. “The lawn was pandemonium — but in a good way. Totally just summertime fun. Nothing was better than being up there on the hill.”
But when we talked about the realities of the hills these days, he said, “I’m just so glad I don’t have daughters.”
At a recent Kenny Chesney show in Noblesville, Ind., state police arrested 68 people on 72 charges ranging from illegal possession of alcohol to consumption of alcohol to possession of tobacco. But it’s not just a Chesney thing or the fault of the artists at all. However, the same police in Indiana made similar arrests at other concerts headlined by the Zac Brown Band, Brad Paisley and Tim McGraw so far this year. And the story’s the same at just about every amphitheater in every city.
But at the shows I’ve been to, there are no police up on the hill. The only authority figures on the lawn are venue security guards checking for IDs, dumping out booze and taking the kids who are passed out off the hill so their parents can come pick them up.
Would the fans on the lawn be better behaved if there was more security — and more police — in their midst? I know plenty of teenagers think they are invincible, but if a few more cops made a few more kids think twice about the sex and the drugs and the booze, wouldn’t that be worth it?