Leave it to No Shoes Nation, the millions-strong country without borders who have built a life-affirming, free-floating community over the last decade. Understanding that the first half of Kenny’s tour needed to be postponed due to the ongoing home quarantining in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, they weren’t going to let the original kick-off of the Chillaxification 2020 Tour, presented by Blue Chair Bay Rum and fueled by Marathon, pass unnoticed.
With No Shoes Radio throwing an audible tailgate to mark the occasion, fans in Dallas – and around the country – used April 18 as a way to mark the euphoria that is traditionally the beginning of the summer-long largely stadium tours that have become a rallying point for “fans of the man from Tennessee.” In classic NSN fashion, it wasn’t long before Twitter, Instagram and Facebook were filled with pictures, comments and a few videos creating a cyber-tailgate.
And it all started with a hashtag #VirtualTailgateParty.
Anchored by a video from Randall Deavers, who actually went to Lot 12 to capture what should’ve been his summer kick-off, the fans let their voices be heard and their spirit show over the course of the afternoon and evening. The homemade clip that featured Hazmat suits, proper distancing protocol, the parking lot that’s normally filled with thousands of happy tailgaters, two friends drill teaming a No Shoes Nation and Blue Chair Bay Rum flag, it was the essence of making lemonade out of lemons.
“I always talk about the heart and the passion of No Shoes Nation,” said Kenny when he saw the video, “and once again, they have thrown it at us in a way I don’t think anyone on my team would’ve seen coming. To not be at Texas Stadium kicking off this tour, I was not having the greatest day if I’m being honest. I wanted to be out there, rocking hard and having a ball – not sitting in my house like everybody else who’s doing their part to flatten the curve.
“I hate letting people down, and I hate not getting that stadium-size fix, but as I said when we postponed the first leg: I will not take chances with the people I care about. Seeing the comments and the pictures, watching that video from Lot 12 – those people especially – rock my world in a whole other way! And this is exactly why we do what we do!”
As “Here And Now,” a song about savoring the best there is in whatever moment you find yourself inhabiting crests the Top 10, the songwriter/superstar from East Tennessee is about to release one of his most people empowering albums. With “Knowing You,” “Guys Named Captain” and the title track drawing people in with songs about No Shoes Nation lives, May 1 is more than just another day for the calendar.
With people engaging from Maine, Maui, St. Louis, Atlanta, Champaign, Illinois and beyond, whether pitching a tiki hut in their house, building a bar in the snow or just kicking back and blasting the music, No Shoes Nation is ready to get after their summer – and squeeze every drop out of the music, the man and the momentum of what these shows mean to them.
“It’s crazy how if you wanna get creative and have fun, there’s always a way,” Chesney marvels. “Even with us not being there, No Shoes Nation brought it with all that soul and all that passion.”