McCoy, Messina and 90s country stars are cool again at Neon Nights
Six years have passed since country music artist Neal McCoy started reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance” on Facebook.
And he never missed a day. Even when he’s not feeling well, even when he’s lost loved ones, even when the Wi-Fi connection is weak, even when he’s busy on tour and on the road.
“I just threw it out to let people know that if you love our flag and love our country, there’s a place you can come and say the ‘pledge of allegiance’ with us,” said McCoy, whose page Facebook has 831,000 followers.
During Facebook posts, he also talks about music and loyal fans, as well as sports and historical matters.
“And then I get all these comments from people saying… ‘I can’t start my day until I say engagement with you,'” McCoy said. “It’s quite powerful.”
But practice didn’t start with a streak in mind, he said. And McCoy invites others to join him for Facebook Live posts or to watch replays. “It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you’re on,” he said of the policy, noting that he’s “leaning to the right.”
Besides patriotism, country music is another unifying force, McCoy said of the ’90s variety he will perform Friday at Neon Nights Festival at Clay’s Resort Jellystone Park, 12951 Patterson St. NW in Lawrence Township. Clay’s Resort is accessible from Route 21.
The headliners are Alabama on Friday and Hank Williams Jr. on Saturday. Other acts include Jo Dee Messina, Phil Vassar, Clay Walker, Deana Carter and Aaron Tippin, Collin Raye and Sammy Kershaw.
Messina begins at 4 p.m. Friday before McCoy takes the stage at 5:45 p.m., followed by Vassar at 7:30 p.m. and Alabama at 9:15 p.m. Saturday’s lineup begins at 4 p.m. with Carter, followed by 5 p.m. 45 by the “Roots & Boots ’90s Electric Throwdown” featuring Kershaw, Tippin and Raye.
Also Saturday, Walker performs at 7:30 p.m. before Williams Jr. closes the event at 9:15 p.m.
To purchase tickets and for more information, go to www.theneonnights.com/tickets or call the box office at 330-930-0398. Tickets can also be purchased on site on Friday and Saturday at the Clay’s Resort box office.
After:Country Fest grows from humble beginnings to 25,000 fans and major headliner Morgan Wallen
Fans can “shake it left, shake it right” at Neon Nights
Neon Nights clearly has a 90s country theme, although the headliners launched their careers in the previous decade.
McCoy broke into the country scene in 1994 with the chart-topping singles, “Wink” and “No Doubt About It” from a platinum-selling album. A few years later, on a compilation disc, McCoy released the fun, melodic, danceable “The Shake.”
The chorus went like this:
Shake it left, shake it rightCome on baby you know what I likeShake it real funkyShake it real lowShake it till you can’t shake it no more
“Those kind of songs are fun and people like to have fun,” McCoy said in a phone interview last week. “Especially when they’re out for fun. And so we had some mid-tempo stuff that worked really well for us…”
McCoy’s other popular songs include “The City Put the Country Back In Me”, “For a Change”, “Now I Pray for Rain”, “If I Was a Drinkin’ Man”, and “You Gotta Love That”.
90s country music is cool again
The commercial appeal of country music hasn’t changed since the 90s. Garth Brooks dominated the genre and propelled it into the mainstream with the help of Shania Twain, Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, the Dixie Chicks (now The Chicks) and other artists.
Country was mixed with pop, rock and roll and honky-tonk while expanding its reach. Pop influences became even more prominent as the music evolved in the 2010s while incorporating elements of hip-hop, leading to a genre called “bro-country”.
“It’s a little more in your face, a little more low-end, bass-driven…and I think that’s one of the reasons it appeals to a lot of kids,” McCoy said. “Just more of a party kind of an environment.”
“But I can’t comment on the fact that some of the lyrics are superficial,” he added with a laugh. “Because I cut songs (in the 90s) like you know, ‘Shake it left and shake it right…and slam bam, I feel good.'”
But decades later, ’90s country is still cool, McCoy said.
While performing at the CMA Fest in Nashville earlier this summer, Cole Swindell spoke lyrically about the era in his song “She Had Me At Heads Carolina,” which incorporates parts of Messina’s 1996 hit, “Heads Carolina, Tails California”.
She’s got the bar in the palm of her hand and she’s a 90s country fan like me
There’s been a resurgence of ’90s country, bolstered by headlines like this from Rolling Stone last September: “’90s country is exploding with Gen Z listeners streaming.” Based on Spotify, an online music streaming service, there were 89 million Gen Z user playlists at the time containing 90s country tracks.
“It just seems like the songs were more melodic than they are now,” McCoy said of the time. “And so people love melodies. A melody always draws you in, and then if you’re lucky enough to stick around for the lyrics.”
“People who grew up with 90s country” will love Neon Nights
Neon Nights will feature a rich ’90s lineup featuring artists like Carter, whose song, “Strawberry Wine” is considered a classic of the era; Kershaw, who scored the 1993 hit, “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful”; Tippin, who went gold with “There Ain’t Nothing Wrong With the Radio” in 1992; and Walker, who debuted in 1993 with the popular single “What’s It To You.”
“People who grew up with ’90s country, we think it’s great programming that they’ve put together,” McCoy said of Neon Nights.
Younger listeners, drawn to modern country artists like Sam Hunt and Florida Georgia Line, “they’re into country music now, and they’re like, ‘Oh, wow, that’s cool, I wonder what the old ‘,” McCoy said with a laugh.
“Well, for young people in our 20s, old people, this is us, 90s country, because some of us had hits before we were even born or just 2 or 3 years old or really young,” he added. “So they go back and they think they’re going back to the old country, but they stop at us 90s people and we’re really happy about that because they’re hearing us again.”
McCoy agreed that ’90s artists can be considered pioneers of modern country.
However, he quickly added: “The real pioneers (are) the Conways and Charley Pride and Haggards and those people… but you pick it up, maybe Hank Sr. was a pioneer for them, and the Porter Wagoners and people , so yeah, it’s just nice to have an attaboy once in a while, and we have them because we thought we did a really good job with the music back then, and now the kids come to listen to us .”
McCoy says performing at festivals is a challenge
McCoy looks forward to the Stark County festival, admitting it’s a larger audience than he entertains alone.
“I love festivals,” he said. “Now I’m smart enough to know that I’m not going to be a huge draw for a festival. We’re going to attract people, but I mean it’s a personal challenge for me.
But “when the whole festival is over… (and) they’re talking about all the shows, I wish a few of those people would say, ‘Yeah, but did you see the Neal McCoy show? “”
If you are going to
What − Neon Nights
Where − Clay’s Resort Jellystone Park, 12951 Patterson St. NW, Lawrence Township (accessible from Route 21)
When − Friday and Saturday
Who − Country music artists include headliners Alabama Friday and Hank Williams Jr. Saturday, as well as Jo Dee Messina, Phil Vassar, Clay Walker, Deana Carter and Aaron Tippin, Collin Raye and Sammy Kershaw.
Details − For the festival program and to purchase tickets, visit www.theneonnights.com/tickets or call the box office at 330-930-0398. Tickets can also be purchased on site on Friday and Saturday at the Clay’s Resort box office.