When a “fancy music critic” once told Kate Des Enfants McMahon that she was “not burdened by taste,” McMahon said she wore the slight as a badge of honor for the last 25 years.

“I get to like whatever I like and never fear that I’m not cool, because I’m not, or fashionable because I never was,” she told Amplify. “He’s right. I’m not burdened by taste and it’s very liberating. I highly recommend you all try it.”

The feisty EVP for Messina Touring Group leads the merry band of marketers at MTG’s Austin, Texas offices and personally oversees the marketing for Kenny Chesney, this year’s Soul 2 Soul The World Tour with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill and George Strait’s Las Vegas engagement.

McMahon got her start at Star Course at the University of Illinois, a live-concert promotion and production organization run by students for fellow students and the Champaign-Urbana community.

“I loved it more than any of my classes,” she told Amplify. “I got my first job out of school at JAM in Chicago and stayed there for five years,” working with indie concert promotion legend Jerry Mickelson.

Tony DiCioccio with Q Prime helped her land an interview with Bob Roux and Louis Messina with PACE, a dream job that was almost marred by “the worst interview ever.”

“Bob got a flat tire so we walked to my interview,” she told Amplify. “In June. In Houston. I was a hot, sweaty, crabby mess by the time I met Louis. He hired me anyway, and it was probably good that I prepared him for 20 + years of crabby Kate.”

She’s also very modest — twenty years after landing that job and sticking with Messina following the sale of PACE and the creation of Messina Touring Group, McMahon is a widely recognized music marketing guru and country and rock music professional who has helped stage and promote some of North America’s largest concerts. Amplify recently caught up with Kate and asked her to name five shows that best shaped her love for music.

U2 on the Unforgettable Fire Tour at the Aragon Ballroom, Chicago


I was a senior in HS and lived in downstate Illinois. To this day I cannot believe my mother let me and some friends drive to Chicago on a school night to see U2. For years my mother pinpointed this moment as “where it all went downhill” – but it was an epic night. I’ll never forget the music and how I felt.

U2 on the Pop Mart Tour at the Astrodome, Houston


Before we were married, my “friend” (and now husband), Rome McMahon, herded me away from my date to show me the “lighting trusses” which I kind of saw thru as a pretty pathetic ploy. He confessed that he did not like my date, and he did like me. Like Tennessee Williams said, “In memory, everything seems to happen to music.” U2 shows seem to be a soundtrack to many of my favorite life moments.

U2’s  Innocence and Experience at Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona


I promise – last U2 show – but we went to Spain with a huge group of friends, and it reminded me how much fun I’ve had seeing this band. Also, you know, Barcelona. Is it possible to have a bad time in Barcelona?

Kenny Chesney at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn.


This show was so sweet – it was our first big stadium show with Kenny, in his hometown and part of his dream. I remember working so hard on it, sweating every detail, and then sitting back and watching the whole show. He was on fire, the crowd loved him, and I felt so happy and proud.

George Strait’s The Cowboy Rides Away Tour at AT&T Stadium, Dallas


The last date of his final tour! Every major country star! The culmination of 17 years of working on his shows! When the opening bars of “The Cowboy Rides Away” started (the last song at every show), I actually welled up. It was a beautiful love letter to country music fans, and a really bittersweet moment.