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Music

Las Vegas and Borderline shootings memorialized at Stagecoach

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L.A.'s Honey County debuted the song “Country Strong” to memorialize victims of the mass shootings.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

For sheer emotional impact, it will be hard for any of the superstar acts playing at the three-day Stagecoach country music festival to top what transpired Saturday, well away from the stages hosting the genre’s biggest names.

The L.A.-based trio Honey County rolled out a new song commissioned for this year’s gathering. “Country Strong,” a driving, insistently upbeat dance floor number, was written to commemorate the lives lost at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas in 2017 and last year in another mass shooting, at the Borderline country bar in Thousand Oaks.

The group performed it Saturday afternoon in Stagecoach’s Honky Tonk Dance Hall, with considerable help from nearly 100 dancers, who stepped, slid, turned and fist-pumped along to the music.

PHOTOS - Stagecoach Festival 2019: Day 2 »

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The choreography was created for the occasion by Stagecoach dance captain Anne-Marie Dunn and Borderline dance teacher Kristal Lynn Konzen, herself a survivor of the shooting in November in which 13 people died, including the shooter.

The effort ratchets up a Stagecoach tradition of creating an original dance each year that is taught to festival-goers in the Honky Tonk Dance Hall.

Before the “Country Strong” presentation started, an emcee asked whether any Route 91 or Borderline survivors were in the crowd. A couple of dozen hands went up.

Honey County played the song twice, first accompanied only by the dancers, clad in matching black cowboy hats and black T-shirts with “#DanceCOUNTRYStrong” on the front and an orange ribbon on the back bearing the song’s title.

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It was reprised as hundreds of onlookers were invited to join in, many of whom participated in dance lessons offered over the preceding two days.

The group’s members, Dani Rose, Katie Stump and Devon Jane, said they were contacted by Goldenvoice representatives about two months ago with the idea of writing a song on the topic, and collaborated with Nashville-based DJ Hish on a dance-club remix.

“We said, ‘Oh my God — you’re calling us?’ ” singer Rose said backstage a few minutes after their performance. “But yes, we would absolutely love to write the song.”

They spoke extensively with Dunn and pored over Konzen’s posts about the Borderline shooting and its aftermath, tapping the words and phrases they employed to craft the song.

INDIO, CALIF. -- SATURDAY, APRIL 27, 2019: Country Strong shooting massacre survivors and supportiv
A song and dance commemorated victims of two mass shootings Saturday at Stagecoach.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“They were saying things like ‘togetherness,’ ‘unity,’ ‘family,’ ‘strength,’ ‘rising up,’ ‘life,’ ‘living,’ ‘community,’ ” Stump said. “They were very specific about what words they wanted in it.”

Once they had it in basic shape, Rose reached out to a Nashville-based songwriter friend, Kalie Shorr, to help bring the song across the finish line.

It’s been released to streaming platforms, and Rose said early response had been enthusiastic: “Apple Music jumped right on it, and Spotify put it on a country playlist.”

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A portion of proceeds from revenues generated by the single will be donated to the Academy of Country Music’s Lifting Lives programs aimed at using music therapy to help the ongoing process of healing for those affected by those tragedies.

“The country dance community is very strong, very united,” Dunn said. “When anything hurts one member of that community, it hurts everyone. So the theme we want to put across is ‘peace and unity.’ ”

PHOTOS - Faces of Stagecoach 2019: Country music fans come together »

randy.lewis@latimes.com

Follow @RandyLewis2 on Twitter.com

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