You Took All My Secrets With You

Well, I thought I was done and usually what that means is I’m probably pretty far from done. But today, I’ll tell you a story.

A couple of weeks ago, I was scrolling through Instagram and caught a video of Danielle Bradbery singing an acoustic version of this really great song, promoting its release in a couple of days. Essentially, when I heard that song, I died. Something about it just ripped riiiiight through me. So when it came out on that Friday, I got it, along with the 3 other songs that are out off of her upcoming album. Since then, I have been listening to these 4 songs on repeat, just letting them kill me over and over and over again. They’re so good that I’ve been telling other people to go get them, because I need other people to #RIP with me. So that’s that.

On Sunday night, I got a text from one of my friends asking if I wanted to go to the local concert venue on Wednesday to see…Danielle Bradbery. First of all, week nights are typically off limits because I’m old and I don’t have the stamina to be up past my bedtime. But I feel like the universe reached out to me on this one.

If you follow me on social media (which is probably how you got here, so haaay) you know that last week I posted something about being a better person for the sake of sanity. Well, in all honesty, since then even with consciously choosing to be a better person in all situations, I still am struggling with some anxiety. Some days are better than others, obviously, but most days it just kind of sits there to remind me that something inconsequential is trying to rule my life. Yesterday was one of those days, big time. Usually when I feel like that, I shut down and hide in my room for a while until I think I can face the world again; but yesterday, I did the opposite.

So I went, and it really was important to feel that music I’ve been obsessing over for a couple of weeks now, but more importantly to hear her talk about writing these songs and what each of them meant to her. Typically when you’re at a bigger venue, you just get a show and of course the music still goes right through you, but sometimes it can be lacking. Here, I was standing maybe 5 feet from this raw & emotional person not only singing their stories, but talking about the process of putting them together or choosing what they feel is important for the world to hear. Oh and come to find out Thomas Rhett wrote what is one of my favorite of her new songs – not surprised.

Carly Pearce was there, too, so as not to minimize her impact – I just was much more connected to something else. But she did much the same thing; talked about how her songs came to be and the boys who broke her heart, she wrote about, then climbed the Billboard charts with her story. That’s why writers write, in case you didn’t know. That song is climbing the charts because of everyone out there who has felt that way before, has sat in their room crying about not being good enough for some loser, and turned music into a rally cry versus just some beats strung together with no purpose. We write to connect, and I hope this helps.

Okay now go listen to some Danielle Bradbery and get WRECKED.

 

Life Changes, And I Wouldn’t Change it for the World

Ugh, TR.

To set the stage for you, for the past 2 and half years, the home screen on my phone has been a picture of Thomas Rhett. Like most people have pictures of their family or friends or pets or some pretty sunset – nah fam. The first 8 months was a picture from the first time I saw him, and the rest of this time has been a picture from March 2016. I literally don’t like anything else enough to change it, sorry not sorry.

Actually, I’m just an obsessive weirdo because TR is the best.

This past weekend, I recruited my psycho friends to take a bit of a trip with me to go see this lovely man. A few months ago (honestly prob like April) I was scrolling through Instagram stories and Thomas Rhett posted one saying tickets for Pensacola were on sale. 1. I didn’t know he was even going to Pensacola, so, rude, and 2. It was the weekend after my birthday so I was sold.

What I didn’t realize when we bought these tickets was that we already had tickets to see Florida Georgia Line the next night…in West Palm Beach. For those of you who aren’t from the vast state of Florida, Pensacola and West Palm Beach are roughly 9 hours apart. If you’re a logical person, you would say – well hey, you’ve seen FGL 3 times on this tour alone and it was only 2 months ago you flew to Chicago for them, so stop being psycho and relax. I’m not quite that logical, though, so we went to both.

But it’s not just because I’m a crazy person that we went to both, it’s much more than that. Ever since the Vegas thing, which I’ve already written about, I’ve felt more convicted in my passion for what I do. No one gets to stop me from doing what I love and I would much rather look back on memories of a good time where I was a little tired than regretting never going in the first place. And people need to continue to support live music, so I will go to all of the concerts, forever.

But back to the point of this post; THOMAS RHETT.

I fell in love with TR probably 3 years ago now and the first time he performed locally I wasn’t even able to go. ßsee, that’s why I go to all of the concerts now because there used to be a time where I had to say no and that was the WORST. Since then, watching his career and his little family grow has been so much fun. His music is pretty great, too. At this point he’s released 3 albums, each with their own sound and none any better than the next in my personal opinion. The first one was upbeat and fun and young, the second was a little more lovey, still upbeat and fun, and this last one is all about this rollercoaster life. It’s listening to someone tell you their life story, but you’ve gotten to see most of it already. It’s really cool.

I’ve done the crazy person things where I’ve been in the pit for TR, like I wrote about during my FGL posts, and I’ve done the nosebleed seats too. Doesn’t matter where you are, he’s just such a good performer. This last concert was #5 of his for me, and it’s almost like they just keep getting better. Maybe because it was his first technical headlining show, I don’t know, but he was fabulous.

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His openers were Walker Hayes (YAS, tho) and Dan + Shay. I have to be honest, one of the biggest reasons I was going to make this concert happen was because of Walker Hayes. A year or so ago, You Broke Up With Me came on Pandora and I was like “damn, whatever this is I’m into it” which lead to me downloading both of his mixtapes. He’s another fun one to watch because his career is finally starting to get bigger and his first album is coming out in December. His music really is like nothing I’ve ever heard before which is part of why I like it so much – check it out, it’s worth it. He performed new songs and songs that I knew and definitely made it worth 18 hours in a car.

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I was less excited for Dan + Shay, admittedly, because I’d seen them before and they were good, but just good. It could have been because they were opening for Hunter Hayes at the time and I was surrounded by 16 year-old girls, but it was fine. This time, though, they definitely gained a couple of fans. They are so hype and so captivating, their songs are actually good, and they give you all the feels when they have the crowd sing back with no background music. If we’re basing their greatness off of giving the feels, they get all the points.

Then there’s TR. It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to see your favorite artists over and over again without thinking you’re being repetitive, because I’m sure by this point I am. But no matter what, when those lights go down my stomach jumps into my throat and TR pops out of a hole in the center of the stage and it’s time to JAM. One of my favorite things to do is guess the song they’re going to open with (I don’t cheat and look at set lists like Kim Collier does) and almost always I can pick out what track on an album sounds like an opening song. Don’t worry, I nailed it this time, too. One of the best things about a new album and seeing someone on tour right after that release is by now you have favorite songs and you can only hope you’ll get to hear them live. Well, he didn’t disappoint.

At his “back of the crowd” portion of the show, where artists typically move to a stage that’s closer to the back of the arena because they’re sweet, he played a couple of those slower, cuter songs from the new album that were so great. If you haven’t listened to the new album, it’s called Life Changes, and you should go get it immediately. Specifically, Marry Me is a solid track and will for sure get you in the feels. Sorry, but also you’re welcome.

So this experience was well worth it, and the next morning at 5:30am we started the return trip home to change our clothes and drive another hour to West Palm. There is one really really big reason I’m not upset with myself that we did this, aside from all of the fluff I’ve already said. I kind of had a feeling what happened next was going to happen and legit why I wanted to go.

Towards the end of the FGL concert, a video started playing with the quote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” From my boy MLK. Then, the boys started playing one of my favorite songs, Music Is Healing. This is another one which if you haven’t heard it, go listen to it right now, because it’s the absolute truth about music. There are no divisions in who we are as human beings when we listen to music. It is the ultimate unifier. So while they’re playing this song the video continues with images of hurricane relief efforts & Vegas recovery. Every single person in that amphitheater was connected for three minutes by one song and one ideology. We are ONE and the sooner we start believing that divisions don’t exist and we are here to love & build one another, the better off we’ll be. THAT is why I went to that show, and will continue to show up, because I need feelings that like and the reiteration that feelings like that can & do exist.

Now, it’s with a heavy heart that I write that for 2017 – this is my last scheduled concert. I would count on me finding something else, but for now I’m concert free for the rest of 2017. The schedule is filling up quickly for 2018, and I’m actually headed to Europe in 3 weeks so that’s taking a good bit of my time away. However, if there are stories you want to hear and questions you have – I will be continuing to write and share this huge part of my life with anyone who wants to hear it.

Top Concert Countdown – #1

I have kept you all waiting in suspense long enough – it’s time for the big reveal of number one.

If you know me even a little bit, you’ve already figured out who it is. However, in true Gina fashion, before we get to the story of THE number one concert, I’ll have to set the stage for you.

The year is 2003 and it’s the summer between my 5th and 6th grade years. I was awkward and probably annoying and my older sister was 16 and much cooler than me. She had just purchased a 1994 Pontiac Bonneville, cherry red, and was seriously the coolest person I knew – pretty sure she wasn’t my biggest fan, because young and annoying and we shared a room, but you get it. It was over that summer that she won a CD on the radio, from the rock station 99x nonetheless (so cool), and basically my entire life changed. That CD was I Am the Movie – debut album from Motion City Soundtrack.

Are you surprised?

Didn’t think so.

It was through this CD and a summer with my sister who chose to hang out with me because maybe I wasn’t all that bad that not only did I gain a lifelong love interest with an amazing band, but I gained a best friend. An actual whirlwind romance began with these guys that my 11 year-old self didn’t know what to do with. And honestly, going to their concerts was the only continuous concert-going experience I had in my life at the time. It became an obsession, an absolute necessity that when Motion City was near, we were there. That all started in March 2006 when I went to my firs MCS concert and met the band for what would be the first of *insert ridiculous number here* times.

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I could write a book on the experiences I’ve shared not only with Motion City but with my sister, because of these guys. When she moved away to college sometimes the only times we would see each other was when Motion City was in town and we met up to go together. We bonded over timeless songs and moogs and the most perfect string of lyrics. Her and I share a deep love for words and all things poetic and if you’ve never listened to a Motion City Soundtrack song it really is time for you to change that.

But a concert with Motion City Soundtrack? That is something that will be difficult for me to fit into a well thought-out few paragraphs, but I’m going to try.

I don’t remember much from the first one other than meeting the band behind the House of Blues in Orlando right next to a dumpster. It’s an experience that we continued to recount with them every time we met with them after that, especially when I got them to sign that picture for me the next time we met them. They talked about it in my very last conversation with them – but we’ll get to that.

What I can pull from that first concert was, as absolutely obnoxious as this is going to sound, being changed. This was the first time that I ever actually FELT music. Again, I love words and I feel songs all the time, but I’d never had my body shaken by a drum beat or had the electricity from a favorite song being sung by the crowd flow through me like it did then. There was no stopping the love train after that.

My sister and I have tried to count how many times it has been and we both have our own lists. We’ve not always seen them together, there’s probably 1 or 2 missing each other, but we’ve always managed to make it up. I can’t possibly go into so much detail about them, but we’ve done a lot of the “only crazy fans would do that” things for Motion City Soundtrack.

There was a 2x4x7 tour where they performed all 4 albums from start to finish over two nights only in 7 select cities; which just so happened to be when we both lived in New York City.

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There was an additional New York City concert that also coincided with our residency.

There was a 10-year anniversary tour for their 2nd album Commit this to Memory.

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There was a comic book festival in Miami.

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There were multiple random club concerts in Orlando, one of which we listened to their new album on an iPod in the smallest dressing room ever – note awkward picture.

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There was the first tattoo.

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And then, there was the final tour and the 2nd tattoo.

In March of 2016, Motion City announced their farewell tour and I’m pretty sure mine and my sister’s hearts both broke. It’s a weird feeling when something you’ve loved for song long feels like it’s coming to an end, but we had no choice than to figure out how to see them one last time. There were ZERO dates in Florida when they announced, so we started looking for plane tickets, dates that worked, who we knew in what area, etc. We were getting ready to book VIP packages for some random city across the country when the Florida dates came. August 12, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale……and August 13, 2016 in Orlando. In true Rossi sister fashion, we bought both. There was no way we would only see them for the last time…once. Though we did have separate meet & greets – we were both able to say So Long, Farewell, in person, for one last time.

Before the shows, my sister & I felt like we needed to commemorate this time in our lives somehow. As you’ve seen, I already had my first Motion City tattoo so when she said she wanted one too, I knew we had to do it together. A week before the last concert of theirs we would ever go to, we got matching tattoos.

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The feelings that came with those two concerts, the very last one in Orlando being the very best of them all, leaving it all out there, crying, screaming, singing, was the most I’ve felt in a very, very long time. It was an exciting blast from the past seeing some openers that we’ve watched them perform with a hundred times. It was bittersweet knowing I was scream-singing my favorite songs for the last time; there’s only so far a car-ride karaoke session can go. All of these things I’m saying are so cliché and borderline pathetic but it all just felt magical. Like I was a part of something that was so much bigger than me and bigger than my sister & I combined, but just being a part of it was enough. Every time I listen to MCS since then, or every time I look down at my arm, it’s like I’m in on an inside joke and that’s a really fun feeling.

I thank Motion City for everything they’ve given me – including my sister as my best friend. I’m sure we would have figured it out eventually, that whole being sisters thing, but we will forever have that bond that was created by 5 guys and some really out-there music; and that is committed to my memory.

 

From the Bottom of my Heart

It’s been a weird morning, as they all are after a tragedy. First and foremost, the fact this feeling is something we are having to face more and more as time goes on is a bit devastating in and of itself.

I feel it necessary to share my perspective, because what happened last night, though it could happen anywhere, at any time, happened in a place that is sacred to me. I’ve had people reach out to me, my mom text me that she loves me, and even a friend hug me for an extra moment this morning because, very plainly, that could have been me.

It was only a month ago that I was in the crowd at a Jason Aldean concert, too. It was only two weeks ago that I was in a crowd for a concert at all. It will only be two weeks until I’m in the crowd for another concert. The fact that someone could very easily attack a group of ten thousand innocent concert-goers is beyond my brain’s ability to comprehend. This is what I DO and what I LOVE, as do all of those who were in that crowd. It’s unacceptable.

I can’t speak to the person’s character who did what he did last night, and I won’t try to. What I will speak to is the kinds of people I’ve met at concerts and those I’ve witnessed who put on these performances for us.

In my experience, I’ve watched people come together to have fun and enjoy themselves hundreds of times. Sharing drinks and sunscreen and blankets and, for me personally, offering up meet & greet passes (specifically to Jason Aldean). I’ve watched & participated in people dancing together and being their true free spirits with one another. People laughing, taking pictures, sending videos to their friends. I’ve never ever experienced that being interrupted by anything, let alone the type of disruption that occurred last night.

I’m sick of there having to be benefit concerts like the one in Manchester. It’s a difficult emotion to try and come to terms with, when one part of you is proud of these people for coming back together and facing such a tragedy to benefit those who didn’t make it, and the other part is really really tired of the need for such a benefit.

There is not a damn thing that separates me from anyone else. We are all human beings with flaws and positive attributes and hearts and families and wishes and dreams. To look at anyone else and tell them they don’t have rights, or physically taking away their right to life, is abhorrent. Look around you; do you think there is anything that entitles you to life more than the person standing next to you? I didn’t think so. But be mindful of the fact that, sadly, there are those who think differently, and sometimes they act on that thought. So to make up for the sad, sadistic ways – be a better person.

The more I grow into who I am, the more consciously I decide to be nicer to others. It is not something I have ever been good at, the inherent niceties that others seem to possess, so I am mindful of the way I act, the way I look at others, and the way I treat other people. From the small act of saying thank you whenever possible, to smiling at a stranger you pass in a hallway. It’s silly, but it’s a real thing. Though these small acts won’t bring back the lives that were taken from us in such a senseless tragedy, but the world needs more LOVE.

Bless you all, honestly, for reading and thinking of me at this time. I’m not the one who needs your thoughts right now, but I graciously appreciate all of them. My wish is for us to come together time and time again and not let the violence of others stop us from living life.

Top Concert Countdown – #2

These next two are basically neck and neck – but for the sake of a countdown I had to choose a number one and a number two. So here we are with number two in my top five concerts countdown.

When I was three years old, my parents took me to my very first concert ever back when we lived in Boca Raton. I have absolutely zero memory of said concert, but somewhere deep inside me remembers because that concert led to an entire life outlined by that music – the one and only Garth Brooks.

Growing up, there was no such thing as a Garth Brooks concert. It wasn’t even something I thought of because he’d always just never been on tour. I have distinct memories of car trips where we didn’t listen to anything other than Garth Brooks. I kind of remember standing in a line at a Walmart for something to do with Garth Brooks. My favorite GB song ever recorded was on the soundtrack for the movie Frequency (if you haven’t seen it I recommend you go watch it right now – it rules). So imagine my delight when he announced a world tour. At the time, there were only three cities announced, one of them was Jacksonville, and it was MY BIRTHDAY WEEKEND. All of these things together equaled Gina is going to see Garth Brooks if it’s the last thing she does.

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Per photographic evidence above, that is exactly what we did. I got a group of my best friends together and had an absolute blast. I cried, I won’t even deny it. It was everything I wanted. I may have been in the LITERAL last row of the arena BEHIND the stage, but I did not care at all. I was in the same room as Garth Brooks and he was singing to ME and it was amazing.

If you thought that was all I had to say about Garth, you’re very wrong.

6 months or so later, he announced he was coming to Tampa. Now this time I didn’t want to be selfish so I didn’t buy tickets and everyone I knew was going and I was almost annoyed that I wasn’t going and then…the Tampa Bay Lightning made the Stanley Cup Playoffs and they CANCELED the whole concert. Awful for people who had tickets, but I kind of felt like I lucked out. Why you ask?

Because then he announced a show at the BB&T Center and my best friend knows what to get me for any birthday/holiday ever and bought us tickets. This was our first concert of the 2016 concert season and it was the (almost) perfect way to kick it off. I say almost because (I’m about to rant) PEOPLE ARE RUDE.

Here we are, two lovely ladies surrounded by middle aged folks in pretty high up seats at a Garth Brooks concert, just looking to have some fun as people do at concerts. Except the people around us were NOT about having fun. As one might do at a concert, we stood, danced, sang, etc. during the entire concert. The people behind us? They wanted no part in our desire to have a good time at a concert. Since they are grown adults and not petulant children, you are thinking that they kindly asked us to sit down so that they could enjoy the concert – or perhaps they moved to empty seats to enjoy an unobstructed view as they chose to sit through GARTH BROOKS, but you would be wrong. Instead, as grown adults do, they threw water on us. I shit you not. They took their water bottles (that they prob paid $9 for so who is the real winner here?) and continuously tossed water on us. Since I had to be the adult in this situation (no lie these people were roughly 50), I interrupted my concert-going experience to tell the nice usher gentleman that we were being harassed and….nothing happened. We were eventually the bigger people and moved so that we could continue to enjoy ourselves but NEVER in all of the concerts I have been to with the most obnoxious people on the planet have I ever experience anything remotely close to these ADULTS actions. Moral of the story – don’t be a dick when you go to concerts, please and thank you.

Suffice it to say, it was still a great concert because Garth, but I’m lucky enough to say that that experience wasn’t the last one I have to hold onto until who knows when.

Since I’m still on the Garth mailing list, every once in a while I’ll check what cities he’s announcing when the email comes out. It was one of those days when that beautiful flashing image said ORLANDO – October 8th. Ya’ll that’s my ACTUAL birthday. So for this one I recruited my beautiful sister who spent a good amount of money to get us tickets that weren’t in the back of the arena, or behind the stage, and set me up with the 2nd best concert of my life (it’s like basically a tie for first but…you’ll get it when #1 comes out).

We get to the arena and we have aisle seats which is always a win and I’m amped because I’m still obsessed with Garth – it’s not changed even a little bit – and I can just feel that it’s going to be a good night. Well, this man and…we’ll call her his date…came up to us to take their seats directly next to us. She sits down, but he stands in the aisle, looks at us and says, “actually, if you guys don’t mind – I will buy you drinks the entire night, here’s my credit card actually, if we can have these aisle seats.” You might think I’m lying, but matching bruises I received after falling on my way out of the concert will tell you that we took him up on it and it was the greatest decision we’ve ever made. He no joke bought us every single drink we had that night and all we had to do was get them one whenever we went. They also went missing for a good amount of the concert, too, so all in all it just worked out really well for us. These are our friends below.

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There has been only one other concert where I have danced as hard, laughed as much, cried like a little baby, fallen to the ground with excitement as I did at this concert. At the end of every concert, he’ll come out to the very front of the stage and look around the crowd at the signs that people are holding up with songs they want him to sing, and since probably 30 seconds to a minute of them. WELL. Since it was my birthday and the concert gods were smiling down on me – someone had a sign that said “When You Come Back to me Again”. That’s when I lost it – THAT (like I said before) is my all-time favorite Garth song. He sang the shit out of it, I crumbled to the ground, crying, and sang the shit out of it with him.

It was at this point that I had a flash back to people throwing water on me, and I turned around to apologize to the people behind me for the dramatics. To which this darling girl said, “you guys have been the absolute best part of this concert.” SO SUCK IT CROTCHETY OLD PEOPLE I’M FUN.

Long story(ies) short, Garth Brooks is the actual GOAT. If you EVER have a chance to see him, go buy a ticket right now. And if you don’t know many Garth Brooks songs, I have the box set of CDs if you’d like to borrow it. Sup.

It’s the Little Imperfections, it’s the Sudden Change in Plans

I have to start off by acknowledging the chaos that has been the last 12 or so days. I’m already annoyed by the topic so I won’t go that deep into it, but hurricanes suck and they turn lives upside down and I’M NOT HERE FOR IT.

Last Friday I was supposed to go to Boston for a once in a lifetime experience to be at one of Thomas Rhett’s three album release parties that day and it was going to be a 24-hour whirlwind and so much fun. Alas, here I was on Friday putting up wood boards on windows, tearing down patios, and packing one single duffel bag of belongings not knowing if I would have a house or stuff to come back to on Monday morning.

Yet here I am, a full week after the storm rolled through, and I have nothing to complain about. I look around at a virtually untouched house, safe family & friends, and I’m nothing short of blessed. There’s not many words to describe what it feels like to put all of what you hold dear into one bag, plant a kiss on the wood frame of your house, and walk out not knowing what would be on the other side. I could complain about the fact that after 8 days my house still doesn’t have power, but I physically can’t. I’ve been blessed enough to have family & friends that have opened heart and home to me without hesitation. I’ve been sincerely humbled by this past week and things that annoyed me before, or that were trivial and I didn’t think about, now aren’t so big and don’t bother me as much. I’ve learned to think before I speak and evaluate the bigger picture before jumping to simple conclusions. I’ve learned that sloppy joe’s can make your heart happy and a bottle of cold water is a gift. And I’ve continued to be shown that music is healing.

This post obviously had to do with a concert.

So this last Friday amidst all of this chaos, we were scheduled to go see Brad Paisley in West Palm. We didn’t know if it would actually happen or if it would get cancelled, but I kept my fingers crossed for a green light on Thursday because I knew what I needed after all of this. Thankfully, we got exactly what we hoped for and the concert was on.

From the first opener, Lindsay Ell, you knew that the artists knew what we needed. Floridians are a resilient bunch and if nothing else, we needed a chance to get away from our hot houses and long lines for gas & water to just let go. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing Lindsay Ell before but holy shit is she talented. I’d only ever heard her first single on country radio a couple of times, and her album The Project just recently came out and admittedly I’ve not listened to it. But I know I’ll take the time to now because she can kill a guitar solo and sing her heart out. She didn’t dwell on the fact that we’d just dealt with some shit, she just put on a great show.

Chase Bryant was the second opener and all I could think the whole time was how much he looks like Robin Thicke. Seriously, look for yourself. He’s someone that I’ve seen before, actually locally at Lakeside Country Bash so I was expecting just as good of a show, and that’s what we got. I’ll admit that I did choose Chase’s set to go get another beer since I’d seen him before, but I swear he’s good.

Dustin Lynch was the third opener and I don’t even need to tell you that he was good – you should just innately know that. Although I have to say, nothing beats seeing him perform in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. Are you sick of me saying that yet? And actually, that’s not even the best I’ve ever seen him. It was honestly when he was incredibly drunk in the middle of the afternoon calling bingo on that same cruise ship. If you’ve not seen your favorite artists hammered, you’ve not lived. It was one of my favorite experiences and we missed our flip cup tournament for it and nothing has ever been so worth it. He’s a partier for sure so when you’re looking for a good time, I would highly recommend a Dustin Lynch concert; they’re probably close to the top of my list.

Then of course, Mr. Brad Paisley himself. I’ve seen one other of his concerts before here at Germain Arena and I remember it being nostalgic. That’s the only way I can think to describe it – the songs all bring me back somewhere or to a certain time in my life because they all have such heavy meanings. That’s where I was last Friday, too. It had been a fucking WEEK and I had a couple beers and with all of my recent realizations I was so much more in the moment than I’ve been lately. I closed my eyes a lot, I breathed in that sticky & wonderful summer air, and let the music remind me that there are so many things to be grateful for and to focus on that the shit was the week before. And THIS is why I do this. When life is insane, I’m able to find my feet on the ground on a familiar piece of land singing songs I’ve been singing for what it feels like has been my whole life and try and put it all back together.

They said themselves that the weekend of the hurricane they told them they wouldn’t be playing their Florida shows. We knew it wasn’t true and so did they. Most compasses point north to help you find your way home; mine points towards music and towards those who understand that. Everything about this past weekend was just what I needed, and I thank my best friend helping me find order in the chaos.

Stay tuned for the rest of my top concert countdown coming back soon!

Top Concert Countdown – #3

I’m about to throw ya’ll for a loop with #3.

November 2nd, 2011. I was 19 years old, living in New York City, completely and totally lost in life. I didn’t know it at the time, so that’s the plus. But thinking about where I am now in my life it’s almost laughable how much of a mess I was back then. But that’s neither here nor there – this post about a concert that, until recently (see posts #2 and #1) was the absolute best concert of my life. You’ll see that I don’t have a single picture or video from the night, and outside of this really annoying Facebook post, nothing to look back on and remind me of it other than my memories. As I write this, though, I’ve started shuffling through all of their songs on iTunes to put me back in that place. Other people have videos (below) that when I watched them before I started writing this put me right back in that place.

So who is it? Yellowcard, obviously.

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Wait – Yellowcard is NOT my style, you say. Well, you’re wrong. My music taste is actually really weird and I can get down to pretty much anything, I’m just choosey when it comes to who I’ll pay money to see. I’ve seen Journey & The Doobie Brothers, okay? Point being, I like to switch it up sometimes; therefore, Yellowcard.

Now we all grew up, seemingly being born knowing the words to Ocean Avenue, but it wasn’t until the Paper Walls album came out that I really fell in love. I was an angsty pre-teen and there is one vivid memory that I have of making my parents take me to a Jesse McCartney concert (YUP) at Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven and I rocked out in the backseat on the way there to my Yellowcard CD on my CD player. I’m really trying to help you imagine what it was like being me growing up, hopefully this is working – it was a disaster.

So fast forward to my college years and I still never let go of Yellowcard. They did a cover of Don’t You Forget About Me at the MTV Movie Awards for the 20th anniversary of The Breakfast Club when I was in high school and I probably played that song on repeat for months. So that carried me into college. Then they released When You’re Through Thinking Say Yes and all of the songs were so clever and catchy that I in turn listened to THAT on repeat, but don’t worry we had moved onto iPhones by this time so the CD player was laid to rest. RIP.

My sophomore year at NYU, I actually lived directly across the street from a really cool concert venue, Irving Plaza. I found out that Yellowcard was coming and even if I had to go alone, I was going. I did and I was essentially alone; my friend was a crowd mosher and I certainly am not, so I stood up at the top of the venue and rocked OUT to some Yellowcard all by myself. I couldn’t tell you what it was about that show or that night or that music but I walked out of the venue into NYC fall weather and I was electric. It might have had a lot to do with the fact that I was a lost soul during that time and when you’re so trapped in a moment you don’t feel anything else. There’s not a lot to say about this one because it’s really hard for me to articulate just how that experience made me feel, but I’m hoping you’ll watch these live performances below and see what I’m talking about.

Top Concert Countdown – #4

Now that we’ve established that Old Dominion is fabulous, and you most certainly bought their album on Friday, RIGHT?!, we can move on to #4.

This story starts out what could be considered a bit strange, but if you know me and those involved, it’s not very strange at all.

Back in March of 2013, here I am at work on a Friday and I get a text from a friend that says, “hey – my mom won tickets to Kenny Chesney/Eric Church tomorrow and I can’t get off of work…do you want to go?” Now back in 2013 I wasn’t this radical fly-by-night you all know today, but this might be the moment I can look back at that turned me into that girl. I thought about it, I knew I had to work, and I said “YES; I’ll figure it out and I’ll be there.” Somehow I got off of work, I really don’t know what I told them but I’m 99.9% sure it wasn’t the truth and it’s doesn’t really matter because that job was the worst and I quit a couple months later anyway and long story short GIRL I went to that concert. Big shout out to Mary Lou & Jamie Gibson, ya’ll are my people.

The next day Mary Lou & I took our happy little butts up to Tampa and Raymond James Stadium. She packed a cooler, it was the cutest, and we had so much fun. The openers were Eli Young Band and Kacey Musgraves, but we missed them. UGH – I know right? Both great acts, both artists I’ve not seen again, how could we be so careless? HA, I’m sorry – we weren’t careless – we were quite early. Did I not mention that these tickets Mary Lou won on the radio came with a meet & greet for ERIC MF CHURCH!? Oh, well, IT DID. Did I mention that I have the coolest friends?

So here we are, tunneling our way through Raymond James – which, also cool, because I like football and it was awesome – going to meet Eric Church. Outside of bands only I and like three other people like, I don’t think I had met anyone “famous” in that capacity. Seriously – this concert changed the game for me. We got a signed picture and cool stuff and then we got to stand next to him and he put his arm around me and I probably whispered something akin to “we’re married now” before skurrying away – but that was pretty cool. We listened to him be interviewed by a fan, also cool. All around 10/10 for the FREE things I’ve done in my life.

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After the meet & greet we made it to our seats, Bud Light Limes in hand because ya girl was finally 21 and drinking in public – seriously, this was A TIME in my life, and I had an absolute blast. I remember singing ever word to every Eric Church song, somehow having forgot how much I loved Eric Church. This was right when Chief came out so all of his songs were amazing and hard core and perfect. When he sang Springsteen I closed my eyes the entire time until the very end when I watched ALL of Raymond James light up and sing back to him and I probably cried. It was too much – it was everything. I took my boot off to sing These Boots (which I would later watch a couple get engaged to that song at another Eric Church concert, but I digress). I think I knew then that Eric Church understood, but it would be almost 4 years until it really hit me when I watched him perform with no openers for three hours straight at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. No but really – what is this life?

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Now that I’ve written a love story for Eric Church – maybe we can move on to KENNY CHESNEY?!

This was the first time I ever saw Kenny and I’ve been blessed to see him like 4 times since – but you don’t forget the first time. I vividly remember the goosebumps I got singing Anything But Mine with the rest of that stadium and no back up instruments. I just gave them to myself again even just thinking about it.  I traveled back to being a kid in the backseat of my parents’ car, on road trips or just running errands with them, listening to No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem. Talk about the early 2000s. I LIVED for The Good Stuff. I learned what it meant to be in a moment during that concert and I’ve never stopped searching for that feeling. I can draw it all back to that night.

This is only #4, ya’ll. Can you even imagine what I have to tell you for the next THREE!? Damn.

Top Concert Countdown – #5

I have a bit of a lull between now and my next concert – so I’ve been thinking about cool ways to keep ya’ll involved in this crazy life I’m living. How about a countdown of the top 5 concerts (or events) I’ve been lucky enough to go to? What you won’t find on this list are stories I’ve already told – even though I might consider them top 5. Because again – to say that FGL/BSB in Chicago is not top 5 would just be me lying to you.

Let the countdown begin with lucky number five: Old Dominion at Runaway Country.

Last year, a new festival popped up in central Florida that was going to have a ton of really cool people – Thomas Rhett, Kenny Chesney, and the group of guys I’m basing this post on; Old Dominion.

Back then, the only thing we knew about OD was Break Up With Him and a little bit of Snapback. I remember where I was when Sam sent me a text that said, “yo – go get Meat & Candy, it’s a game changer.” And what do you know – she was right. It was a different spin on country music with plenty of songs with catchy tunes and the perfect mix of wordplay to make it seem intelligent, which it was. I listened to that thing on repeat for months before going to this concert, knowing only that they had some really catchy songs.

The morning we were driving up, before we left the house I pulled a classic Gina YOLO and bought us pit passes for Old Dominions performance. This is one of those shows where you don’t get pit tickets for the whole concert, you just pay a certain amount (depending on popularity of the artist) to be up by the stage only for that act. I have never been more pleased with myself for a last minute decision – their performance was absolutely amazing.

This group of guys is so engaging, into their music, and dedicated to putting on the performance of a lifetime every time they get on stage that you can’t help but fall in love. When we walked out of the pit I wasn’t even excited anymore for the headliner, I just wanted Old Dominion to keep playing forever and ever because it was just THAT GOOD.

But do you want to know the worst part? It’s like people are STILL sleeping on them. I say this because last November, Sam & I went to a different music festival that was kind of awful, but Thomas Rhett headlined and OD played the next day – at 3:30pm. The lineup on that second day was pretty worthless other than Old Dominion, and we literally only went to that day of the festival to see them before driving home. Putting OD on at 3:30 in the afternoon is legitimately the equivalent of putting Baby in the corner and I’m here to be Patrick Swayze. Like – stop doing that. The petty part of me doesn’t want that to change because tickets are cheaper and we get to be closer to them, but the larger part of me wants them to be recognized for how incredible they are.

I know it’s coming – their new album drops FRIDAY; it’s called Happy Endings because they are hilarious and I love them; and I’m already obsessed with every song they’ve released early. Here’s another plug – if you don’t have Apple Music you should probably just pay the $10/month to get it and get every single early release of every album ever. It’s basically New Music Friday every week and it’s what I live for.

I will say – Tortuga 2016 they were supposed to play the first day (at 5pm, still a shitty slot…) and got rained out. Then, because they are amazing and all sorts of perfect, they did a pop-up performance at Bahia Mar for whoever could get in the door. Unfortunately that wasn’t me – but did I mention that they were perfect? They actually got on stage at Tortuga 2017 and I felt the same way I did the first time – I just didn’t want the performance to end.

Long story short – Old Dominion is top five because they are incredible performers, incredible people, and make amazing music. GO PREORDER THEIR ALBUM RIGHT NOW (whenever you read this).

 

 

 

They Don’t Know

Happy Monday!

I’ll admit that this post won’t be as fun as my last two – but can you really top a concert in Wrigley Field? Well – we’re going to try soon but this isn’t that post.

This last weekend I headed over to West Palm again for the Jason Aldean: They Don’t Know tour. There’s one thing I can tell you about the crowd at this concert – they are nuts. And not nuts like know-how-to-have-fun nuts; I’m talking like I’ll-kill-you-for-standing-next-to-me nuts. But let’s go back to where my time with Jason started before we get to this weekend.

The first time I saw him live was at the same Florida Country Superfest I’ve talked about 600 times already. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect because I’ve told you about my whole obsession with words and I didn’t expect much from Jason Aldean. But what you don’t realize when you get to these people’s concerts is what songs actually belong to them. That first concert was one of those experiences. He came out and it was just hit after hit of stuff that I was used to hearing on Pandora, never looking to see who it was. Now that I knew these bangers belonged to Jason Aldean I was in. He brings the party crowd for sure, which again is usually not my style, but he’s an entertainer and I just focused on that. Probably why he’s won Entertainer of the Year at the CMA’s like twice.

I saw him again as a headliner in West Palm Beach two years ago and this was right after my best friend started dating her boyfriend and the first time we brought him to a concert with us. Well, turns out that when you bring significant others they provide you with drinks that we are usually too lazy to get for ourselves during concerts. So when I say we had a blast – I was pretty close to rolling on the ground on the lawn I was dancing so hard. I think we missed the openers (it’s a little blurry) but it was so much fun. If you’ve never sung The Truth at the top of your lungs slightly intoxicated, you haven’t lived.

There may have been a show in between this next one, but he headlined one of the nights at last year’s Country 500 in Daytona. But this is a fun story. So we are hanging out in between performers, I think we had just gotten to the track and we’re just people watching and trying not to sweat to death. The local radio station was up on the stage talking about solo cups signed by Tyler Farr, I just caught the end of what they were saying and then didn’t really think about it. About 3 minutes later, the people that were on the stage were now walking in front of us and I just pointed at them and said “solo cups!” They turned and offered the three of us three solo cups – so that was pretty cool. But want to know what’s even cooler? This couple sitting next to us came up to me and said, “hey, we really love Tyler Farr; we have these Jason Aldean meet and greets – would you be willing to trade?”

I don’t think I need to tell you what we said, but that’s how Sam & I met Jason Aldean.

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Now fast forward to this past Saturday. I pulled into the same parking lot we always use which is really fun because our version of tailgating is drinking a tall boy of Mich Ultra and eating dippin’ dots from the gas station down the street while people watching. Seriously, you’re missing out if you’ve never done it. What’s the best is that every concert has a different crowd. So Dierks was kinda chill kinda rowdy; Lady Antebellum was very chill; Sam Hunt was much younger & much more made up than I will ever be; and Jason Aldean was a straight up shit show. I’ve already asked for forgiveness on this one, but I sent a text to Sam, who was on her way to said parking lot with my dippin’ dots, that read, “I can’t wait for you to see the dregs of society that have come out of the literal woods for this concert.”

Now, I know; that’s really harsh and I am also in attendance at this concert and who am I to judge, etc., etc. I know – I told you I already apologized. But like, people are VERY interesting in their choices of outfits (see-through leggings, belly shirts exposing said belly) and choices of activities (beer pong with warm twisted teas). It’s just a lot to take in and here I am in my American Eagle jeans and Express tank top like, “hey guys; do you know where I can get the cup that has the pink cowboy hat on top!?” Don’t worry – we found it.

Then you fast forward to the concert and people are just terrible people in general, but more so when they’ve been drinking. And this is really the first concert I’ve watched people be so rude. You have the normal groups trying to push their way to the front…of the lawn..and others who were yelling at the people working just doing their job. This crowd was a doozy – but the show was great.

Kane Brown was the first opener; we’ve talked about him and I really don’t have anything else to say..sorry Kane.

But Chris Young was the second opener and I can get down to some Chris Young. I’ve only seen him one other time, but he headlined down here in Fort Myers two years ago on Valentine’s Day and I went on a cute date with a couple of girls…who missed the entire concert. But if you’re looking for proof that I get down at concerts no matter if I’m alone or not – one my friends texted me saying, “I see you dancing by yourself girrrrl.” No shame – thanks Alyssa.

He’s another one with songs you don’t know are his until he starts playing and you know every word and you’re like oh heeeey Chris Young I see you. He’s a lot of fun and likes to get the crowd involved which is important for me, too.

Then we had good ol’ Jason and it was just as good as every other show. He tells you up front that he’s not really a talker and will just sing songs rather than make small talk. I can hang with that. He also knows the parts of his songs that you know you sing the loudest when you’re in the car by yourself and lets you do just that when he plays them live. I can appreciate that. And yes, I did get to scream-sing The Truth again, just this time much less intoxicated since I had to drive back home after the show.

Moral of this post – be nice to other people. If you feel the need to judge, which I do because I am not a perfect human being, just do it silently and ask for forgiveness later. Don’t yell at people for doing their job. Don’t show up late to a concert and expect to get a good spot/don’t steal a good spot from someone who did show up early. And know how to navigate a parking lot. If you see all cars going one direction to get out – go the opposite direction. I promise you it works every time and I snuck out of this crowded parking lot in less than 10 minutes.

Thanks for reading; we have a break until my next adventure but stay tuned I’m going to come up with something fun for next week!