Ingrid – June 17, 2019
I am so excited for Summerfest this year, which is coming up this Saturday at The Danish Home! The theme is “A Little Country in the City,” which is just so clever, because it has a double meaning of a country-western theme in the city of Chicago and the “little country” of Denmark and its 800-year-old flag.
I was never a country music fan until I met a friend at Northwestern, who introduced me to his favorite country artist, Zac Brown. Since then, he and I and my roommate Lindsay (Farfar’s granddaughter) have gone to several country music concerts in Chicago, and I’ve expanded my repertoire of artists. I’ve even started listening to older country singers, like Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline.
Beginning at 3:30 in the afternoon, a vintage western swing group called The Westerlees will be performing at Summerfest. I can’t wait to see them! I’m going to wear the cowboy boots I recently purchased, along with a red and white outfit and some representation of the Dannebrog, or Danish flag.
In my excitement for the upcoming festivities, I’ve been doing a little research about country music. What I’ve learned is both interesting and surprising, particularly that country-western is very popular in Jutland, Denmark, as well as other parts of Europe. That seems odds to me; I don’t know why, but I always thought of country solely as an American thing.
But, clearly, I was wrong. In Jutland, line dancing is a favorite pastime, and apparently (according to a Danish man I read about in someone’s blog), “The west coast of Jutland is a lot like the Wild West.” The rugged landscapes and frontier spirit of west Denmark make Jutlanders more apt to identify more with the west of the Mississippi than other parts of Scandinavia.
They also have tractor pulling contests in Jutland, pulled pork and “cowboy sandwiches,” and even a Danish National Cowboy organization. Oh, and a man running for prime minister of Denmark a while back, John Erik Wagner, appeared in campaign posters in nothing but a Stetson hat and a gun holster! (I don’t think he won.)
The mega-successful Danish toy company Lego has done a lot for country western culture as well. Not only do many of Jutland’s people work for Lego, its Lone Ranger series is very popular with both kids and adults.
I also learned that country music, which got its start in the 1920s and used to be called “hillbilly” music, has grown by leaps and bounds in popularity in the past few years. Not only are more country-themed bars and restaurants cropping up all over, but TV shows like “Nashville” are doing well, and the televised CMT Music Awards gets some of the best ratings. The recent award-nominated film “A Star Is Born” recast Bradley Cooper as the doomed male counterpart to Lady Gaga and a wildly popular country singer. True to life, country artists’ concerts draw in millions of fans every year, and people like Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton and Kenny Chesney have become household names.
Why is country music so popular, I wondered? There are some plausible explanations out there. First, the live show is such a production. Country artists are passionate about their music, and it shows on the stage. Fans love the experience, and the musicians love their fans in return. There’s none of that aloof, elite attitude that some musicians convey.
Another reason is that country lyrics, despite their reputation for being all about pick-up trucks, women and booze, are typically not the least bit lightweight. Country artists take on some heavy, heartfelt stuff, further endearing their listeners to them.
Country music also embodies an entire culture, which is why celebrities like Keith Urban and his wife Nicole Kidman, both native Australians, feel so at home in Tennessee. It’s an easy-going, small-town vibe that embraces its proponents in a like-minded community of good, salt-of-the-earth folk.
One more thing: country artists root for one anothers’ success. Backup bands are introduced by concert headliners with genuine fanfare, and country superstars defend their genre and its creators to the teeth.
So, this year at The Danish Home’s Summerfest, I’m going to wrangle Farfar and my friends and have a good ol’ time!
Join us, beginning at 1:00 p.m. this Saturday, June 22nd.