Country Stars Come Together to Honor California in ‘Borderline Strong’ Tribute Concert
For those who don't think country music is alive and kicking in California: The Golden State has long been a surprising hotspot for the genre, from the hordes of fans who flock annually to the Coachella Valley for Stagecoach Festival in late April, to those who just like to kick their heels up and line-dance at local bars.
Tragically, one of those bars — the Borderline Bar and Grill, in Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles outside of downtown Los Angeles — found itself making headlines for the worst possible reason. In November of last year, a gunman senselessly killed 12 people who were enjoying themselves at the venue for a night of music and fun.
The Academy of Country Music's Lifting Lives initiative teamed with the venue for a benefit event to raise money for the victims of the mass shooting that took place at Borderline in November 2018 and their families. That show took place Monday night (Feb. 11) at the Fred Kavli Theatre in the Thousand Oaks Civic Center, with all net proceeds benefiting the victims and their families via the Ventura County Community Foundation’s Conejo Valley Victim’s Fund.
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Country fans gathered together to pay homage to the victims of the tragic event. The show tastefully alluded to the venue by dangling a rhinestone-encrusted saddle over the stage before introducing host Charles Esten, star of the hit series Nashville.
Esten ushered in a California native, Tyler Rich, to get the night started right off on the proper foot.
"Thank you for making me damn proud to be from California," Rich told the crowd, after urging everyone to hold their phones aloft as lighters and groove to his single "The Difference."
He was followed by the trio Runaway June, which boasts two members from Southern California.
Actor Casey Affleck then took the stage to introduce Jimmie Allen, who gave a heartfelt speech assuring the California audience that their tragedy was taken to heart—like family—back in Nashville. "We don't forget you," he assured the crowd.
He also added some thoughts on tolerance in a sticky climate. "Hate and violence isn't something you're born with," he noted, urging, "Talk to a stranger."
Country stalwart Deana Carter had a similar sentiment, telling the crowd that she's proud to be a Los Angeles resident for 19 years and counting. "Our lives change. We go through victories, we go through challenges," she observed; the 53-year-old singer also cleverly changed the lyrics of her hit "Strawberry Wine" to say "I remember when 40 was old," to roars from the audience.
Carter was followed by the sunny Morgan Evans, who lit up the room with a singalong rendition of "Day Drunk" plus his megawatt smile.
Esten himself then took the stage, performing a moody pair of songs showing off his musical talent in conjunction with his acting prowess; followed by Hailee Steinfeld and Cassadee Pope, who added their electricity to the night.
However, the surprise of the evening easily lay with the special guest chosen to introduce headliner Trace Adkins. None less than former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up to do the honors!
"I'm blown away by all of these great performances today," Schwarzenegger, who looked near unrecognizable from his usual persona in a cowboy hat, black jacket and plaid shirt.
The politician was not expected on stage, but his words were predictably patriotic, and a perfect cap to a night that celebrated coming together and supporting a community. "It just shows that while they're fighting in Washington, here, we can see how America can come together," he sagely noted.
Remember the Borderline Bar and Grill Shooting Victims: