Summer is finally here.
Here are 26 Fun Things To Do in ’22, in Alphabetical Order.
WORDS MARTIN CIZMAR, ETHAN EVANS, MARY HENN, KIM HORGAN
PHOTOGRAPHY CALEB CONDIT, KIM HORGAN, JEREMEY THERON KIRBY, REBECCA NORDEN
ILLUSTRATIONS MAKALAH HARDY
A IS FOR
It’s hard to believe it’s been twenty years since Alicia Keys burst onto the R&B scene fully formed with Songs in A Minor. As with most artists whose debuts sell ten-plus million copies, she’s never transcended that success nor strayed too far from that formula. Keys, her new double album released back in December, opens with traditional “Original” arrangements before presenting most of the same songs with moodier, heavier beats on the “Unlocked” side.
Wednesday, August 28. 8 pm. Starlight Theatre.
B IS FOR
GO: Boulevardia is June 17–18 at Crown Center. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and Dashboard Confessional headline. Tickets start at $40.
C IS FOR
Coconut cove, the largest pool at Oceans of Fun, has half a million gallons of water and is home to several slides, plus an obstacle course where swimmers can hop between lily pads and floating logs. The Cove is fully tricked out with geysers, rain umbrellas and floating animals.
Open daily through August 14. Oceans of Fun.
D IS FOR
When George Wallace ran for governor of Alabama for the last time in 1982, he got more than ninety percent of the Black vote. I only know that because of a Drive-By Truckers’ song, part of a suite that culminates with Wallace in hell, where he’s serenaded by a demon choir singing “Roll Alabama.”
The lyrics could be read as somewhat sympathetic, though it would be unfair to suggest the song’s author, bandleader Patterson Hood, is any kind of Wallace apologist. As Hood puts it in the opening of the suite, all of this “ain’t about excuses or alibis,” but speaks to the wider point that racism is a nationwide problem that’s ignored too many places because it’s “always a little more convenient to play it with a Southern accent.”
Like the rest of Southern Rock Opera, the double album that put the band on the map twenty-one years ago, the “Southern Thing/The Three Great Alabama Icons/Wallace” cycle is about less obvious but plenty insidious evil, and why the long life of his home state’s most infamous politician can’t be neatly summed up in a soundbite about segregation.
At a time when the telling of history has become politicized, early Truckers’ albums like The Dirty South and Decoration Day feel freshly relevant—at least to me, someone who spent about the middle-third of the pandemic obsessed with the band. The Truckers tell stories of the South that dwell with the moonshiners and aspiring stock car drivers and the deacon down at the Salem Church of Christ.
The early noughties Truckers’ records speak not only to NPR donor audiences who know the band as “the guys Jason Isbell used to play with” but also to the dudes who were across the parking lot at Coffee High School in 1978, blasting Skynyrd and tossing around footballs like Jeff Rutledge. To and for them, the Truckers retell regional legends like the Sam Philips gifting of a Cadillac to Carl Perkins and the story of Buford Pusser, the probably corrupt sheriff of McNairy County, Tennessee, whose autobiography became Walking Tall. (I was deep enough into Truckerland to have made a stop in McNairy County last summer. The people I talked to were of the opinion that the version in the song is closer to reality than the version on screen—the battle rages in the YouTube comments.) These songs humanize without offering excuses, providing context and nuance to society in short supply.
Like pretty much every one and thing else, the Truckers have become more direct and nakedly political in recent times. They’ve grappled publicly with changing their very nineties (admittedly, sorta cringey) name while telling opponents of gun control where to stick their “Thoughts and Prayers.” But they continue to talk about subjects like the “Lost Cause” myth in language that the people who need to hear it most understand in “Surrender Under Protest.”
I’ve driven to St. Louis and Tulsa to see the Truckers in the past year. The concert experience is always a little weird when you’re diving deep into a band’s back catalog, spending time with songs recorded twenty years ago while they’re touring new material. But they still play the old stuff, and to crowds that seem to appreciate the patina that these songs have developed over the years. It seems ridiculous now, but twenty years ago we weren’t far removed from a pop singer unironically declaring that we were “watching the world wake up from history.”
We know better now. History has a few fake endings, it turns out.
Saturday, July 16. Knuckleheads. 8 pm.