What does a Toby Keith fan look like? That's one question I had as I walked into Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill yesterday afternoon, as part of a "grand opening" for the North Dallas establishment. Keith was in town for a show at Gexa last night, and treated fans and whomever else happened to be sitting at the bar at 2 p.m. on a Thursday to an impromptu set, in lieu of a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Before that, there was a meet and greet with Keith, and right before his performance, a handful of fans were allowed into the press room to get an autograph or picture with him. The fans were mainly women, which surprised me. As one lady exited the room, autograph in hand, she began fanning herself with it, as if she might faint. How long has she been a fan, I asked. "I've seen him nine times," came the reply.
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I ordered something called the "Trash Can," which consists of gin, peach Schnapps, curacao and is topped off with a Red Bull, which they leave upside down in a mason jar the size of a toddler's head. I tried to choke it down, but there were just too many disparate liquors in one drink. (This was scrawled on my notepad after I finished it: "Is the 'Trash Can' a metaphor for the American political system?")
Keith was escorted onstage, welcomed us, and said he would sing a few solo acoustic songs. He lamented the demise of the honky-tonk, and thanked folks in Dallas for supporting him when he was touring with just a trailer. He then debuted a new song, "I Like Girls That Drink Beer," followed up by his anthem, "Red Solo Cup." As I looked around the cavernous bar and grill, with TVs tuned to either Fox News or ESPN, I realized this place isn't much different than a lot of sports bars in Dallas, but that people will still want to come here "ironically." One older man sitting nearby looked up at one of the screens fixed to Fox, where Mitt Romney was silently smile-talking among a sea of screen-in-screens and NASDAQ scrolls. I asked if he was here for Toby.
"I like a few of his albums, sure. But I'm more of a Waylon fan myself."