American flag on his shoulder, Jason Aldean thanks fans, performs controversial ‘Try That in a Small Town’ at Merriweather

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Country singer Jason Aldean, center bottom left, performs Thursday night at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia.

The country singer Jason Aldean literally wrapped himself in the flag Thursday night during his concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

As Aldean was singing his controversial song, “Try That in a Small Town,” he was handed an American flag, which he draped over one shoulder. It hung over one arm and down his back as he sang:


“Cuss out a cop, spit in his face / Stomp on the flag and light it up / Yeah, ya think you’re tough / Well, try that in a small town / See how far ya make it down the road.”

He concluded by signing the flag with a flourish as the nearly sold-out crowd of almost 19,000 rose to its feet and chanted, “U.S.A! U.S.A!”


But for the most part, Thursday’s concert was most notable for what didn’t take place. There were no protests and no thunderstorms on the stage or off.

Country singer Jason Aldean, center bottom left, performs Thursday night at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia.

Aldean referred to the ruckus only obliquely when he addressed his audience just before launching into the opening chords of the song that on Tuesday debuted at No. 2 on Billboard.

“Thank you so much for all you have done to support the song for the past week and a half,” Aldean said.

The encouragement from his fans, he said, was particularly heartwarming in the face of his critics “who couldn’t see the song for what it was.”

He added that he has “never been more proud to be a part of country music than I was this week.”

”Try That in a Small Town” has been playing on radio stations since May. But it wasn’t until the music video was released last week that it ignited a firestorm of protest.

After some people objected to what they perceive as racist overtones in the music video, and to song lyrics that some have interpreted as glorifying violence, Country Music Television took the video down July 17.

The music video also shows Aldean singing in front of the Maury County, Tennessee, courthouse where a Black teenager was lynched in 1927. The video also originally appeared to include footage from Black Lives Matter protests, though it has since reportedly been removed.


Aldean initially spoke out in defense of the song, writing in a July 18 Twitter post that the accusations of racism “are not only meritless but dangerous.”

“There is not a single lyric in the song that references race or points to it and there isn’t a single video clip that isn’t real news footage,” Aldean wrote. “While I can try and respect others to have their own interpretation of a song with music, this one goes too far.”

Country singer Jason Aldean, bottom left, performs Thursday night at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia.

The singer’s defenders say that the courthouse is a frequently photographed site in Nashville and has appeared in several other movies and music videos, including in 2009′s “Hannah Montana: The Movie” starring Miley Cyrus.

Thursday night’s crowd appeared to be nearly all white in a city where according to census data, the population is split nearly equally between white residents and people of color. About 28% of Columbia residents are Black.

The crowd Thursday was clearly was on the country singer’s side. But for the most part, the audience seemed less interested in weighing in on the controversy than in having a good time.

A middle-aged mother said she attended the show because she wanted to spend quality time with her adult son. A quartet of young women in high heels and wearing bright pink sashes reading “Bridesmaid” picked their way carefully through the crowd to their seats.


Most people were aware of the controversy but preferred not to publicly discuss it.

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John Quick, 58, of Damascus was an exception.

”The controversy is stupid,” he said.

”They are trying to cancel him for a song that is not racist. There is still freedom of speech in this country. There are a lot of songs that I find offensive, but I would never cancel someone for writing them.”

The Merriweather Arts and Culture Center, the nonprofit that owns the concert venue, released a statement Thursday saying that operators had “heard the concerns expressed by members of our community” about the Aldean concert.

“While we did not schedule and are not producing or presenting this concert,“ the statement said, “we have shared our concerns … with the venue’s operator.”


The nonprofit’s statement said it strives to include Columbia’s core values of compassion, equality and love, and “we work everyday to develop programs, events, and experiences that embody our values and the diversity of the community we serve.”

The Merriweather Arts and Culture Center is committed to furthering the founding vision of Columbia, Maryland to be a...

Posted by Merriweather Arts and Culture Center on Thursday, July 27, 2023