I know because I checked the weather app on my phone just before the screen went black with an ominous warning: “iPhone needs to cool down before you can use it.”
My phone was already dying in the desert and, if I wasn’t careful, I’d soon follow. I sipped the suddenly nauseating 7% beer I bought and crossed a parched lawn to fight for positioning near the stage as Bingham and his band started to play in the distance.
Earlier that morning, I kissed my screaming, infant son goodbye, fueled up with Red Bull and sunflower seeds, and sped off to see the Grammy and Oscar-winning songwriter and scene-stealing badass on the most popular show on television kickoff a must-see afternoon in the desert.
But twenty minutes in, my phone was dead, I had the sudden urge to take a 3-hour nap, and I was starting to wonder if perhaps aging dads like me didn’t belong in a place like this anymore.
Fortunately, it only felt like 99 in the shade near the stage. Staffers passed through the crowd with wheelbarrows full of water bottles, only to be overrun by desperate hordes of thirsty Gen Z fans. Steam and sweat emanated from my shoulders as I settled into an open pocket of space near the center. I wiped my permanently fogged-up sunglasses and tried not to pass out.
And I must’ve been hallucinating because it sounded like Bingham was singing directly to me:
“And this ain’t no place for the weary kind,” he sang in his trademark, gravelly voice.
“Your body aches
Playing your guitar, sweating out the hate
The days and the nights all feel the same”
That was me. I was “the weary kind”: a sleepless, new parent with a late-thirties, falling-apart, dehydrated dadbod baking in triple-digit heat, trying desperately to stay relevant in festival season despite the signs I was too old to be doing this.
If I wasn’t too tired to move, I might’ve followed the trickle of heat-exhausted kids stumbling toward the exits right then. Instead, I grabbed a Wheelbarrow Water, tried not to lock my knees, and kept listening.
“The Weary Kind” is Bingham’s award-winning and perhaps best-known song. Although it’s not actually about an aging dad trying to will himself through a country music festival, it spoke to me. Like many great songs, it’s relatable on multiple levels.
For me, what started as a melancholy validation of my weary, aging body, transitioned into a hopeful ballad of inspiration and defiance by the end.
“And this ain’t no place for the weary kind
This ain’t no place to lose your mind
This ain’t no place to fall behind
Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try”
“Pick up your crazy heart, Mr. Dadbod! It’s festival season!” I heard him say. It almost made me cry… or maybe it was just my sweating eyebrows.
Bingham is a father of three born in the early 80’s, just like me. His fiddler, Richard Bowden, with gray hair tucked under a black fedora, nearly stole the show, showing no signs of weariness as he slayed a fiddle, a mandolin, and a crowd of Gen Z hearts with parents younger than him.
Watching these guys perform “The Weary Kind” out in the desert gave me a second wind.
Maybe I was younger and more resilient than I felt. Maybe a semi-reckless day of live music out in the desert was just what I needed to break out of the doldrums of modern life. Maybe my palpitating, crazy heart could survive festival season after all.
I glanced at my phone, and it suddenly sprang to life. It was alive.
And so was I.