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Stagecoach 2009: Darius Rucker throws a Hootienanny

April 25, 2009 |  8:18 pm


Who knew that country music lovers had such a soft spot for Hootie and the Blowfish? When former Hootie front man, Darius Rucker, took to the main stage at Stagecoach on Saturday, he didn't just play the pop-coated countrified favorites of his post-Hootie solo career, he unleashed the hits of Hootie past.

The crowd responded with equal enthusiasm to both, proving that Stagecoach is not simply a celebration of country music, it's an ode to red-white-and-blue Americana. As country takes its place as the new kingmaker of re-striving rockers, the definition of what constitutes a country song has stretched to include anything that contains a wistful twang of guitar and vocals, and most important, patriotic amber-waves-of-grain-style lyrics.

"If you love your space and you love your freedom," crooned Rucker at one point during his sun-soaked set, while big-chested women in tiny bikinis spun like tops in the yellow-green grass of the polo field. Within moments of ending a slow number flecked with worry, regret and whiskey, Rucker launched into the Hootie mega hit "Only Wanne Be With You," which owes much more to white-hat darlings Blues Traveler and the Dave Matthews Band than Garth Brooks. (Meanwhile, in Montgomery, Ala., Hank Williams is rolling over in his grave.)

At the end of his set, Rucker gained much street cred when Brad Paisley, the master of paisley and fine ladies and funny-sad songs, joined him on stage to sing one chorus of his closing song, a Hank Williams Jr. cover, "Why Do You Drink"?

"Is that Brad Paisley?" a man in the crowd yelled.

"Yeah, Brad Paisley," another answered, and in a moment all on the field were on their feet, proving that country music is about loving an icon of contemporary Americana, golf rock-adjacent or otherwise.

--Jessica Gelt

Photo credit: Getty Images