Kacey Musgraves Has Graduated From Singer to Headlining Performer

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“So come on hitch your wagon, to the living room I’m draggin’. If I can’t bring you to my house, I’ll bring my house to you.” — My Home, Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves’ house these days is, in fact, on wheels — a sleek tour bus, carrying the songstress and her Porter Wagner-lookalike bandmates from town to town to deliver her firebrand lyrics and down-home sound to the masses.

But her home away from home last night was in Milwaukee, on the stage of the Pabst Theatre. John & Jacob opened the night, showcasing their unique brand of pop-meets-modern-country. The band from Alabama got the crowd clapping, swaying and singing along — not always an easy feat for an opener — with peppy originals and a rendition of Wake Up Little Susie. They also shared their version of The Band Perry’s anthemic breakup hit Done, which they penned.

The Follow Your Arrow singer, clad in tasseled top and big skirt, went on to perform very much like a headliner — one deserving of the industry accolades she’s been receiving. Since Musgraves’ last performance in Milwaukee at The Rave about a year ago, she’s come a long way, earning Grammys for Best Country Song for her debut single Merry Go ‘Round and Best Country Album for Same Trailer Different Park.

When Musgraves performed at The Rave, it was clear she had the talent to back up the popularity of her debut album, which went on to to be certified Gold last year, selling more than 500,000 copies. But, the Texas singer who channels the country grit and glamor of Loretta Lynn, lacked charisma and looked uncertain on stage. She failed to connect with the crowd and seemed unsure of herself at that 2013 gig.

A much more confident Musgraves emerged at the Pabst on Feb. 21. Gone were the shy-girl nerves, replaced with presence and poise worthy of filling the role of country’s next Queen — that is, if country doesn’t shun her for her sometimes unwelcome-in-the-genre opinions that both gays and pot are great.

She treated her fans to her hip-swaying melodies and refreshingly honest lyrics for nearly two hours — not bad for a gal with only one album — and charmed the crowd of mostly young women with stories that made her feel like a friend. With guitar — and sometimes tambourine — in hand, she demonstrated with ease her right to be on the stage at at venue like Pabst.

Fun covers during the night included Dolly Parton’s Hear You Come Again, Britney Spears’ Toxic and the classic Nancy Sinatra foot-stomper These Boots Were Made For Walkin’. And in addition to playing most of the tracks off of Same Trailer Different Park, she sprinkled in a couple of new tunes as well, including a diddy called Biscuits with the unforgettable signature lyric “Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy.” Musgraves told the audience to be on the lookout for a new album this spring.

Musgraves’ first-ever Milwaukee performance was opening for Kenny Chesney at Miller Park. Maybe one day, Musgraves will find herself headlining a place like that herself. She’s had the talent for quite some time. And now, she’s developed the showmanship for it too.

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Letting my imagination run wild in the grocery store

I love grabbing my tinny, wheel-squeeky shopping cart and maneuvering my way through the aisles of my local, hyper-illuminiated grocery store. I just really, really do. Some people find long walks in the park to be the trigger for ideas and inspiration. Me? I find a nice stroll through the supermarket does the trick.

I do a lot of dreaming while I’m pushing around my cart with the inevitably wayward wheels that go in every direction but straight. I dream about being the kind of person who eats exotic fruits like starfruit and cumquats. Which then leads to dreaming of equally exotic island destinations and sunny getaways.

I gaze longingly at the asparagus and mushrooms and pretend I’m deciphering which one would be the right addition to a soup I’m going to freehand (Freestyle? Free-recipe?).  And while today might not be the day I go home and concoct that soup, my wheels are turning and I’m thinking about how much I really do love trying new things. Even if I don’t make that soup today, there’s a good chance I’ll look into that new author I’ve been hearing about or go check out that park I’ve been meaning to visit.

While my mind bursts with plans and ideas, I trace the lines of neatly-stacked boxes of Stovetop dressing and bowtie pasta and Matzo balls. I look with wonder at the cereal aisle and pretend I might pick up corn flakes or granola, when in actuality we all know I’ll be throwing Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Fruit Loops in the cart.

Even when I don’t have anything to bake, I always walk down the baking aisle. For me, this aisle is the ultimate, the best of the best. I could gaze at the different types of vanilla extract and 37 different kinds of baking chips – not just chocolate anymore, boys and girls! – and imagine all the wonderful-tasting treats just waiting to be made.

I wheel my cart slowly, aimlessly – much to the dismay of my husband whenever he has the misfortune of accompanying me. I just love all the possibilities, all the opportunities for new and delicious dishes. For new ideas. For thinking great thoughts. (What? You don’t do that at the grocery store?)

Typically, I stick with my usuals. My 2% milk. My whole wheat bread. My sugar-laden cereal. But sometimes, I mix it up and throw in a head of cauliflower or some tarragon without a plan in the world for what to do with them. Because the fun, my friends, is just beginning.

Puppy Tales. And Tails.

I’m not a dog person.

I get annoyed when they bark all ferocious-like. I’m scared when they jump on me in greeting, their paws kneading me like bread dough. I’m not a fan of being licked by a giant tongue that leaves a trail of slobber in its wake.

I’m not a dog person.

On Christmas Eve, we adopted a puppy. And I couldn’t be more in love with my brown fur ball with the white socks, the pink spot on her nose and the dark tail that wags with a fervor.

 

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What We Have in Common

Sometimes it seems all we focus on are the ways in which we’re different.
And we act like those differences are just too deep to overcome — far flung as we are across this wide, oft-divided, star-spangled nation. But then, I’m reminded of our shared story lines.

You can’t tell me you don’t recall with fondness the cardigans and life lessons of Mister Rogers. Is there a person in this country who doesn’t smile when asked “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

Do you remember the first time you watched ET? The moment when “phone home” took on a whole new meaning? Or maybe your favorite movie memories were dreaming of running through the song-filled hills in The Sound of Music or tapping your shoes together to get back home in The Wizard of Oz.

Did you fall in love with a spider named Charlotte or imagine living Where the Wild Things Are?

You’ve probably stood in awe, alongside friends and family, as you watched fireworks burst in bright sprays of color on the Fourth of July. You’ve memorized the skylines of New York and Chicago.

Don’t try and pretend you don’t have a favorite Michael Jackson song. Is it Thriller? Billie Jean? Black or White?

You firmly believe baseball is the all-American pastime. Or maybe it’s football. Regardless, you can probably speak from experience about our ability to tailgate. Perhaps THAT’s our all-American pastime. It makes sense really; what better way to combine our love of food, friends and fun?

What about apple pie? The way the ocean looks from our long and winding coastlines? Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin and Tony Bennett?

We have fond memories of PB&Js and first bikes and Dr. Seuss. Jump ropes, and apples for teacher. Then we graduated to Madonna and Mustang convertibles. Hamburgers, Harleys, home runs.

What about the times we’ve cried together? Over the Challenger space shuttle and 9/11. The times we rejoiced together, too: Over feats of science and engineering. Computers and modern medicine.

What do you think of when you smell fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies? Do you get giddy with excitement when you think about Americans landing on the moon?

Sometimes, when it feels like we’re fractured and splintered in so many pieces, we have the chances of Humpty Dumpty of being put back together again, I have to think of the ties that bind us to our neighbors.

I wish I could blast Michael Jackson and dance with all of you, my beautiful neighbors.

TBT: Childhood in the 90s

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I can’t get over how long ago this was. I remember that crocheted afghan on my granny’s couch. I remember those pink glasses. I remember the little braid mom always put in my hair. I remember the purple turtleneck and the completely mismatched pants. I remember my baby brother, so adorable and cheek-pinchable.

I remember it all like it was yesterday, and yet it wasn’t; it was long enough ago that I’m now crocheting my own afghans and am a couple dozen pairs of glasses older. And my baby brother towers over me, all 6’1 of him.

I love moments like this one, frozen in time.

And here we are again

Here we are again, sitting on the precipice of another holiday season. Another year drawing to a close, slowly but surely.

For some reason, though this is the time the leaves and the grass and the flowers die, it’s inevitably when I wake up. With a start. And realize the year is leaking through my hands like water and I can’t hold it in, no matter how hard I try. And I have a moment of panic, because where did these months go? And I find myself hoping I’ve been living them, experiencing them.

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For the most part, I really think I have been. You know, living and being and doing. Like the rest of us, I survived the Winter From Hell. With a little help from some fun skiing and sledding and snow angel adventures. Oh, and a quick trip to South Carolina to see my sweet Kelly get married.

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Then, in April, I ran a 5k. My first run since throwing my knees and hip out of whack (Gah, I sound like I’m 80) training (poorly) for the super ridiculously awesome Cooper River Bridge Run in 2008 and another one in 2009. I had sort of sworn off running and figured my short-lived, completely UN-illustrious running career was over for good. But then an opportunity arose and I ran and it wasn’t great but it was good and I did it and it was rewarding to finish a run yet again.

And then in May we flew to Boston to visit a dear friend. And that was AMAZING. And I already want to go back. Walking the Freedom Trail was a more moving experience than I ever expected it to be. Being in a city that shaped so much of our shared life course as Americans was intensely fascinating.

In July there was a trip down South, to Tennessee and the Carolinas. And that time with friends and family and all that sweet tea and those biscuits and gravy? Mmm mmm mmm. Good for the soul. And then there was time with hubs’ family. Also quite good for the soul. As family time so often is.

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And then, oh hey, another 5k in September. Crazy.
Now here we are. Greeting October. (Hi, October!) and almost a year at my beloved job. And approaching a dear friend’s wedding.

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My heart is so full and I can’t wait for what’s to come.

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My Ode to the Pumpkin Spice Latte

I love how when something becomes too cool, we have to start hating on it. Because hating on things is its own kind of cool. Like smoking-in-the-bathroom-at-school cool. Remember when we all loved Gwyneth Paltrow? I distinctly remember the phrase “She’s so Gwyneth” being a phrase that people would say. And it was a compliment. How about when Tae Bo was cool? And let’s not forget bangs. (Or wait, are those cool again? I can’t keep up.) Fads are obviously going to happen. We’re going to gradually move from one thing to the next when it comes to hair and music and fashion. (I”m looking at you, wide-legged jeans and chunky platform shoes of the 90s.) Times changes, tastes change. But I can’t help but be amused when we act like our own sense of self worth and cool points on the cool-o-meter are directly correlated with how much we distance ourselves from the things other people like. “Oh, you like that movie/that actress/that drink/that shirt? I’m more of a this obscure movie/this indie actress/this pretentious drink/this hipster shirt kind of person myself.”

So you can see how I might feel a little bad for the #PSL. Yes, it has its own hashtag now. You know you’ve arrived when you get a hashtag. Before you start yelling at me that I shouldn’t feel bad for the Pumpkin Spice Latte or for Starbucks, because hey Starbucks owns us all, let me rephase. I don’t feel bad for the PSL. I guess I feel bad for people who like it. I feel bad for me. Once again, something got too cool, too prevalent. Now, everywhere I turn, I’m reading something about how the Pumpkin Spice Latte is what’s wrong with the world. It’s corporate. It comes out too early in the season (It’s not even cold yet!). It doesn’t event (GASP!) contain pumpkin in it. It’s a dumb thing that white girls in yoga pants like and it makes them all alike, like robots and sheep.

What if I just think it tastes really freaking good? And what if I just want to drink my 16,000-calorie drink in peace? Can that happen?

Look, I get that Starbucks is taking over the world and that’s sort of terrible. I make a point to go to my smaller, local coffee shops. I’m also not a generic white girl in yoga pants. So stop judging me. Ok, I have yoga pants and I wear them sometimes. But I’m more than my Pumpkin Spice Latte. I’ll never be cool enough to like the obscurest, indie-est, most pretentious, hipsterish stuff. Can you let me drink my everything-that’s-wrong-with-the-wrold-and-utterly-delicious-drink in peace?