Cowboy boots ‘n down home roots

Story Highlights

  • Country fan Ryan Browne shares his passion
  • Line dancing at The Grad
  • Upcoming event: Stagecoach

Country Scene in SLO

I never imagined I would consider myself a country fan. Before I came to SLO, I would make fun of people who loved it. I would imitate the music and say that all country artists talked about were tequila shots, trucks, and girls in cut off jeans.  Nowadays, I listen to country in the shower, the car, and pretty much anywhere I can play music. No matter the circumstance, it consistently elevates my mood and helps me relax.

According to Cal Poly construction management freshman Ryan Browne, country music was never popular in his hometown either, and therefore his interest came gradually through exposure.

“At home country music was definitely a minority in my city, but all of my really close friends listened to it all the time. When I came to SLO I realized that this whole city loves country music and it’s awesome,” Browne said.

Meeting Ryan, one would never guess that he used to listen to rap music and various genres– especially considering the fact that he eats, sleeps, and breathes country music today.

“Personally I used to listen to a lot of rap and after I started to enjoy country I realized that rap music literally doesn’t relate to me as a person at all and I can relate 100% to country music,” Browne said. “Fishing, hunting, driving trucks, and just being outside.”

It all started a few years back when Browne felt a connection to the music. Since his realization that country is the genre he relates most to, he has immersed himself into the popular culture at Cal Poly.

“It was the summer of 2011 and I was driving on the backroads with some buddies to one of our favorite fishing spots. One of my buddies had just spent his first year at Ole Miss and was back for the summer,” Browne said. “Up until this moment I disliked country music but when he blasted country through the car as we drove on a one lane road it seemed like it fit perfectly and since then I’ve listened to nothing but country.”

One problem that Browne and other country fanatics face is the cost of country events that they are dying to go to but can’t afford. However, after attending a Luke Bryan concert this past summer, Browne realized the price is worth the experience and plans to attend many more events in the future.

“It was honestly one of the best nights of my life,” Browne said.

Line Dancing 

Every Thursday night, you can find Browne and other local country fans line dancing at popular bar The Graduate in SLO. “The Grad” is home to the largest dance floor and bar on the central coast, and brings together a community of students and locals each week to listen to DJ Rich on “country night.”

Not only does The Grad hold this event, but the Cal Poly Line Dance Club attends the venue to teach lessons starting at 8 PM. Members of the club teach various dances– the most popular ones being:

Even for some current line dancing regulars, it took a little push to get started at The Grad.

“I probably wouldn’t have gone at all if [my roommate] hadn’t dragged me there the first time,” business sophomore Kristen Henry said.

For those who have never gone line dancing, or are not big on the country scene, The Grad offers a great atmosphere with something new to try on a Thursday night.

“It’s one of the only places in SLO to go line dancing…and there’s always a lot of young people there,” Henry said. “It’s a great venue with good energy.”

Avid line dancer and political science sophomore Trevor Marsden has been attending The Grad for two years, and has mastered several of the dances taught at the venue.

Marsden (left), after participating in a swing dance with partner and communication studies sophomore Madeleine Tobe. “I may be sweaty but I just killed it out there,” Marsden joked.

“I have always liked country music and a bunch of my friends wanted to check it out so I decided to go,” Marsden said. “It’s a great excuse to do something fun with friends on a Thursday night.”

Marsden is also a frequent concert goer, and will pretty much go to any event involving country music. He claims that line dancing at The Grad is one of his favorite things to do however, and for the low price of $10.

“The atmosphere is awesome,” Marsden said. “It’s all I look forward to every week.”

Featured upcoming event: Stagecoach 

No matter the event, a country concert can be an unforgettable experience. For most Cal Poly students, however, there is one event in particular that they look forward to each year.

Stagecoach, the much anticipated country music festival, takes place each spring in Indio, California. For college students in particular, this concert does not come cheap– therefore, an ample amount of saving and planning has to occur many months prior.

(Photo courtesy of Caitlin Lima) The festival lasts for three days, featuring various artists on center and side stages. Concert-goers either get shuttled from their hotels or camp-out near the site in an attempt to see as many artists as possible.

“The price seems a little steep to a lot of people but it’s worth it,” journalism junior Caitlin Lima said. “You’re able to see dozens of the hottest artists in country music all in one place. Plus the experience alone is worth the price.”

A ticket to this esteemed event alone is $249; however, the cost hikes up once you factor in hotels, food, and other necessities for a weekend trip.

According to Lima, who attended the concert last year and has purchased her ticket for the upcoming festival, the experience is irreplaceable and worth every penny.

“Everyone is so friendly and outgoing, you can’t help but feel like you’re surrounded by a thousand of your closest friends,” Lima said. “It’s one big party with everyone singing and dancing together. And I know this is going to sound cliché and cheesy but the music honestly brings everyone together.

As a third year transfer student, Lima was thrilled to find so many country fans surrounding her in SLO. She found it refreshing to bond with her peers about their shared passion, which she has maintained for most of her life.

“Growing up, my dad always listened to classic country artists like Brooks and Dunn, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, etc. so it was always an influence to my taste in music,” Lima said. “I have to give credit to my dad for my love of country music.”

For fellow country fan and liberal studies sophomore Erin Springer, Stagecoach is a great excuse to get away from school stress and have an amazing time.

“It’s an entire weekend dedicated to nothing but music, dancing, and getting as close as you can to whoever’s on stage,” Springer said. “It’s literally a mini vacation in the middle of spring quarter.”

(Photo courtesy of Caitlin Lima) In last years festival, popular artist Eric Church went on with crowds of people huddled around the center stage. “I can’t wait to see him again, he’s such an exceptional artist,” Lima said. “He’s so funny, he literally drinks whiskey right on stage.”

According to Lima, though Stagecoach was a great vacation, all she could think about after she left was going back the next year.

“For weeks after it ended, I had withdrawals from being there. I was constantly wishing I was back at Stagecoach and reliving all the experiences in my head over and over again,” Lima said. “Right when you pack up and leave, you start counting down to next year’s festival.”

Voted America’s Best Country Music Festival in 2013, Stagecoach brings in a ton of revenue each year, some of which they donate to various charities in Indio. Some popular performers that will appear in this years festival include:

  • Jason Aldean
  • Eric Church
  • Luke Bryan
  • Hunter Hayes
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Lee Brice

“The memories I have from the festival are ones that I will remember and cherish forever,” Lima said.

(Photo courtesy of Caitlin Lima) The venue for Stagecoach, the same one used for popular festival Coachella, offers a ferris wheel and multiple booths. Not only do the booths contain food and drink, but there are sections that offer line dancing lessons and various other perks.

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