Tag Archives: country music

The Secret of the Outer Sunset: Hillbilly Hootennany West Side Review at the Riptide

honkey_tonk_san_francisco_outer_sunsetIt was Sunday and I hadn’t eaten anything since brunch when my boyfriend picked me up and we headed out. He didn’t know where we were going since this was going to be part of his Christmas present, and I didn’t really know where we were going either.

I only knew the address and that we were heading to The Riptide, “the bay area’s best little honky-tonk by the beach” for their Hillbilly Hootenanny West Side Review. It happens at the beginning of every month.

The Riptide is buried deep in the Outer Sunset, all the way at 46th and Taraval. Many people from farther in the city aren’t even sure the intersection exists, believing deep down that most of the Sunset is a foggy myth created to scare hipsters of their potential oblivion. But seek and ye shall find, and find we did.

We headed further and further until we reached that dark corner, San Francisco’s last resort before it gives into the ocean.

It’s a clear night and the world was silent as we got out of the car, looking ahead at Taraval Street. A couple of restaurants lit up the sidewalks, but it felt empty and forgotten. The lonely Riptide sign, a blue wave, shone on up the street.

Inside the bar it’s warm, both temperature and atmosphere-wise, and packed with regulars and more people wearing western gear than I could yell yee-haw at. The walls are covered in nautical motifs as well as a moose head and some country paraphernalia. Somewhere, I suspect, there’s a mermaid wearing a cowboy hat.  All around us, people are greeting one another and being friendly-like, excited to get the hootenanny going, or maybe just excited to get blammo’d on a Sunday night. I’m not a sociologist.

Finally, a man in a pearl-button shirt and a cowboy hat takes to the microphone, introducing the musicians, including a man that looks like Johnny Bravo’s cousin and a walking, talking, handle-bar-mustaching caricature of a saloon piano player. The music starts.

The definition of a hootenanny is something like “a gathering at which folksingers entertain, often with the audience joining in.” But what that definition neglects to say is that hootenannies are often spiritual affairs and can cause a deep stirring in the soul. The music was wonderful, country and heartbroken and twangy, sung by people who probably have day jobs and look forward to this all week or all month.

After the first couple of sets, guest musicians started to play and then the fun really began. My favorite performers were a pair of no-nonsense, fun-loving, belt-buckle brandishing women who didn’t just sing and play music. They took it to the next level, becoming the music they played and hamming it up shamelessly. We loved them for it.

Then it was time to go, on a Sunday, and we stepped out of the bar onto a street as silent as ever. But now we knew its secret, the secret of the honky-tonk and the fire inside (both literal and figurative).

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An Open Letter to My Reba McEntire and Brooks and Dunn T-Shirt

The real heroes.

We’ve come a long way haven’t we? I remember when you were all trussed up in wrapping paper beneath our tree. You were a Christmas gift from my big brother, and you were from a thrift store and a handful of sizes too big. When I ripped the paper off of you that sunny morning in December and saw those three pairs of eyes twinkling from the breast of the shirt, I knew I’d found a couple of buddies that would stick with me for a long while.

Oh Reba, oh Brooks and Dunn, we’ve had a lot of good times. You came with me up to Boston and we showed those people what real Americans are like. I wore you underneath a duck-patterned prairie dress to a formal party and we danced the night away, worrying only about when the music would stop, and not caring about pit stains. Life’s too short to worry about pit stains.

Now we’re here in San Francisco, another city on the bay. And I’ll be honest with you Reba, Brooks, and Dunn: I’m tired. My computer woke me up this morning at 6:30 because it was whirring so loudly, panting like a butcher on the 4th of July. A couple of hours later I went into “the city,” which is what the folks up here call “San Francisco,” and had an interview at 10 o’clock for a job that I’m not sure I even want. While on the way to the train station a young British hippy asked me if I wanted to buy an apple. He had two tiny apples in his hand and I said no and he said thanks for smiling and nice hoodie.

I wish you could have seen him. More strangers talk to me up here than most anywhere else I’ve been, but it’s not too bad. What would you do, Reba? Would you sing them a song and lift their spirits? How did you know what you wanted to do, and when you figured it out, how did you get it? Can you really have it all?

One day I’m going to have it all too, but right now I’m tired. I’m going to finish my coffee while staring at you three, your eyes sparkling back at me and then maybe I’ll get the big idea and we’ll all have to admit my brother is the genius we always knew he was.

You’re the real heroes, you the t-shirt dwellers, the silent inspirers. How many have you cheered on to victory with your never-ending mirth? No matter what the Californians say to you up here, no matter what they think of you or what kind of names they call you because you’re not from somewhere that has a San in front of it or some other liberal name, just remember that to me you are special. I love this t-shirt and am going to wear it more often so people around here can get some freaking cultural education.

I came not a moment too soon.

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Country Music: Proud of Itself

wranglers at Deer Valley Ranch, the former vacation destination of our family

In many parts of the country, a fondness for country music brings a plague upon one’s career and friendships. Country music, outside its native habitat, is as popular as pungent body odor in small vehicles. It is to be masked and not spoken of, its producer’s cheeks reddening in shame and the rest embarrassed to be in the presence of such a foul substance.

Despite the widespread prejudice, country music actually isn’t all that bad. While growing up in OK, I listened to and resented country music all the time, since most of my family members enjoyed it and would play it relentlessly on the radio and at home. Years later at Boston University, this caused the bizarre sensation of both revulsion and pride whenever I heard a country song.

The revulsion resulted from years of carefully practiced loathing, and the pride came from me belonging to something different than the rest of my mostly coastal colleagues. Eventually I came to appreciate the twang-infested music as something unique to the specific subculture in which my adolescence was submerged and an art form that can be quite beautiful in those rare instances where it is done properly. And when it is not beautiful, it is generally hilarious.

Mostly for the ha-has, I’ve been drinking in the country music as much as possible during these short weeks in Oklahoma, but I have realized that a lifetime would not be enough to fully understand the breadth and depth of the genre. Where else do you find such tender descriptions of trucks, tractors, and other vehicles of labor? In this modern music wasteland, what other than country music will dare to describe innocent love in barns, hayfields, and blue jeans? What about all the myriad ways whisky, Jesus, and America are intimately connected with the problems one has while courting the farmer’s daughter?

What I most admire about country music, however, is its ability to admire itself. Since the dawn of the genre, it has been lauding the country lifestyle and the country way, in small towns full of simple, country men and women that like to do country things.

Songs like “I Got My Country On,” by Chris Cagle, “These Are My People,” by Rodney Atkins, “Where I Come From” by Montgomery Gentry, and “Where I Come From” by Alan Jackson, among many others, celebrate a rustic problem free, healthcare free lifestyle. In this highly fictionalized country world, there’s a lot of front porch sitting (AJ) with preacher men in cowboy shirts (MG). It’s where people do things with their own two hands (CG) and give this life everything they have and then some (RA). It’s a wonderful, wonderful, place, and anyone listening to this music would probably imagine a haven of small town goodness, unspoiled by the modern world.

While modernity may not have touched it, the world in which country music lives and from which it sprouts has unfortunately been spoiled by high divorce, obesity, diabetes two, and poverty rates.

However, I am confident that a genre with such hits as “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy,” “Jesus Take the Wheel,” and “Somethin’ Bout a Truck” will have the creative energy necessary to face this rampant decay with some great ho-down tunes that will get knees a poppin’, heads a bobbin,’ and boots a stompin’.

If you have any other winning country music titles, please feel free to pass them along and I’ll see you down at the barn for the next line dance.

Picture Credit: Trip Advisor

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Buffalo Kisses Smothering My Face

Buffalo Kiss Residue

Friend and I volunteered again today, and by some miracle I was neither starving or exhausted. As a result, I feel like I saw the place for the very first time and realized there are less bats than I thought were there.

As we prepared classroom decorations to create a welcome environment for the little ones, I noticed one of our co-volunteers was wearing a shirt that read “Buffalo Kisses” and had a large picture of luscious, red, glittery lips . Now, this may be a classic case of  “lost-in-transit,” with the intended phrase to be “butterfly kisses.” Or it may just be someone’s ideal description of desirable actions performed by lips.

Regardless of the original intent, I began thinking about buffalo kisses and what they would be like. Then I remembered the Bob Carlisle song called “Butterfly Kisses,”  and was so inspired by the imagery of buffalo kisses that I wrote up some new lyrics to go with the original music.

Buffalo Kisses

There’s few things I know for sure

She came in from pasture

And she’s a untamed beast

As I try to get up and flee her might

She wants to nuzzle and I close my eyes

and I pray that this moment won’t finish my life

Oh I’m terrified


“Cause buffalo kisses smothering my face

Slobberin’ all over me, we’re way past first base

Stinking, heaving, yellow teeth, I’m in hell

I barely keep from vomiting, this won’t end well

Oh whatever did I do to deserve the Big Guy’s spite

and earn  this quadruped’s love

with her buffalo kisses tonight

(verse 2)

Godless, hairy thing

With eyes that look right through me, even though I’m screaming

One part whisker, the other part tongue

there’s no escape, cause it’s one foot long

If she gallops away, I’ll repent of every wrong

I can’t forget


Her buffalo kisses smothering my face

Slobberin’ all over me, we’re way past first base

Stinking, heaving, yellow teeth, I’m in hell

I barely keep from vomiting, this won’t end well

Oh what did I do to deserve the Big Guy’s spite

And earn  this quadruped’s love

With her buffalo kisses tonight

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