Chris Janson’s country anthem for the #MeToo age, ‘Drunk Girl,’ highlights powerful Stagecoach set

Lyndsey Parker

As the country music festival Stagecoach, aka the “country Coachella,” kicked off Friday in Indio, Calif., the booze was flowing, and plenty of performers were singing about the joys of day-drinking and beer-bonging. Even rising Mane Stage artist Chris Janson got in on the action with his Cuervo-namechecking party-starter, “Fix a Drink.” But then Janson got surprisingly serious with his new anthem for the #MeToo age, “Drunk Girl,” cautioning the men in the audience to treat their fellow female (possibly inebriated) concertgoers with respect and never take advantage.

“If my daughters are ever the ‘drunk girl’ in a situation in life, I hope and I pray that a young man would do the right thing, use his moral compass, and take care of my daughter the way she’s supposed to be, with utmost respect,” the devoted father of four explained. “That’s what this song’s about, and that’s why I wrote it.”

Janson told Taste of Country earlier this year that “Drunk Girl” meant a lot him as a father of young girls, saying, “It was hard to not cry, to be honest with you. It was a pretty emotional write.” He also said he’d considered pitching the song to his frequent collaborator, Tim McGraw, but his wife encouraged him to record it himself because of his personal connection to the lyrics.

“Take a drunk girl home/Let her sleep all alone/Leave her keys on the counter, your number by the phone,” Janson sang tenderly at his piano. “Pick up her life she threw on the floor/Leave the hall lights on walk out and lock the door/That’s how she knows the difference between a boy and man.” Hopefully, Janson’s important message wasn’t lost on Stagecoach revelers as they chugged their craft beers and margaritas in the blazing sun.

Most of Janson’s set was more lighthearted, and it featured several crowd-pleasing covers, including Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimme Three Steps,” Sublime’s “What I Got,” and the Social Distortion version of “Ring of Fire.” And those two themes — drinking songs and cover songs — recurred throughout the day.

Over on the Palomino Stage, the original country bad girl, 59-years-young Tanya Tucker, was fiery as ever — not only gyrating like a showgirl in her tight white jeans and doing tequila shots onstage with her backup-singer daughter Presley (and handing the souvenir shotglass to a lucky fan), but also singing a mashup of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” and, yes, Johnny Cash’s perennial favorite “Ring of Fire.”

Explaining that she was “paying tribute to some of the great heroes of mine,” Tucker later joked that she “probably shouldn’t do it,” but cheekily covered Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man” anyway. “God bless Johnny Cash. … I miss you, Tammy,” she gushed, looking heavenward. Overall, Tucker seemed delighted to be playing her first Stagecoach, and the feeling was mutual: She earned a roaring reception from the audience, which included the festival’s resident celebrity chef, Guy Fieri, who stood side-stage taking selfies and shooting video of “Delta Dawn.”

Later, on the Palomino Stage, wild-eyed Southern boys the Georgia Satellites kept the drunken party going. “You hear about those ’80s bands coming back and now they’re sober? Well, that ain’t us!” they quipped. Their show was a rollicking good time, and it also featured some very unexpected covers: the Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus” and, inserted in the middle of their 1986 honky-tonk hit “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” another Springsteen song, “Born in the USA.”

Back over on the Mane Stage, Kelsea Ballerini did her own soulful cover mashup, of the Chris Stapleton-popularized country classic “Tennessee Whiskey” with her 2015 viral version of Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” then mixed a bit of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” into her new hit “Unapologetically.”

But perhaps the most unexpected cover tune of the day came courtesy of Chris Lane (who, perhaps coincidentally, was also rocking some Tucker-worthy tight white denim), who covered R&B Lothario Mario’s “Let Me Love You” and convincingly transformed the 2004 slow-jam into a cry-in-your-beer pop-country heartbreak ballad.

And, back on the subject of drinking — and the subject of love — Australian country crooner Morgan Evans, the newlywed husband of Ballerini (and the inspiration behind Ballerini’s “Unapologetically”), told the Sirius XM Stage audience that he postponed the release date of his song “Day Drunk” because it was too close to their December 2017 wedding date. It was nice to see that — just like family man Chris Janson — Evans has his priorities in place.

Yahoo Entertainment’s live stream of Stagecoach day two continues Saturday at 5 pm. PT/8 p.m. ET, with Dwight Yoakam, Midland, Brothers Osbourne, Brandy Clark, and more.

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