Summer Just Started and We’re Already Done

Here we are, 48 hours and good bit of self-actualization later. I have to admit I figured I was being a little excessive thinking that I would go to New York for a couple of days and come back a different person, but…maybe a little.

The first thing I noticed about the gloomy and grey New York skyline was that it was just that. Gloomy & grey and no fuzzy feeling to be found. I was nervous that I’d made a mistake. That this place wasn’t where I should be and I was going to waste two days by myself when I could’ve been with friends & family at home celebrating the 4th. But I got to where I was staying and the TV was on the news of a woman scaling the Statue of Liberty and protesting ICE and yeah, it made sense that I was there for that.

The first night was spent watching people by the Brooklyn Bridge prepare to watch fireworks and catching up with my brother in-law. I traveled a thousand miles to have a real conversation with family and I was okay with that. It doesn’t sound like I did much but the text rant from that night to my best friend tells me that I had been hit in the face with some serious emotions I’ve spent a lot of time ignoring. I didn’t know how I felt about this city that I considered my home and that even when I left it, I knew it would always welcome me back. I wanted it to forget me, or for me to forget it, and I don’t know why. What I learned is that when you are traveling with yourself, there’s no one to help ignore your thoughts & feelings, you just have to listen to them and rationalize them right then & there. To be honest, I was a little afraid to be by myself. I thought I was going to love it and I’m this strong independent woman but the little to no sleep I experienced night one told me that…I need other people. That in and of itself was enough of a realization to justify coming home successfully “found.” But that wasn’t all.

I resolved to spend the next day reminding myself why I loved New York and confront the girl who ran from it. I toured the New York Public Library, walked through the 9/11 Museum and spent some time sitting in my old college Starbucks watching the kids who used to be me. It’s kind of like when you grow out of your favorite shirt so you donate it and happen to run into the next person wearing it. You’re happy that someone else is enjoying it as much as you used to and for a minute you want it back if only for the feeling it used to give you, but you know deep down it doesn’t fit you anymore and you have to move on. A lot of feelings for a Starbucks. But I did acknowledge that I love the NYU area more than any other part of NYC and that’s where my home will always be. I caught up with a college friend who is moving to Italy because that’s what people who graduate from NYU do, and that’s why I love the people so much.

I was going to call it a day, go back to my Airbnb and think about my day when fate stepped in and told me I wasn’t done with my city. Friends from high school happened to be in the city and I found myself linked up with them, ultimately becoming their tour guide for the next few hours. And that’s when I knew NYC wasn’t done with me. I needed to be able to show other people what makes that place so special to be able to see it for myself. I took them to touristy places and we lit candles in St. Patrick’s Cathedral and I took them to dollar pizza and NYU bars where drinks are cheaper. Sometimes I wonder if I’m where I’m supposed to be and then these kinds of things happen and I know I’ve been right all along. Every step I’ve made has been the right one, whether it was the long way or not.

What I was so upset with myself for that first night was that I felt like this trip was me running to find happiness I didn’t have. And then I got there and I realized that I’m very happy with what I have and I need to stop running around trying to find that next happy feeling. But…then I realized I wasn’t looking for happiness somewhere else after all. I was looking for the definition of who I was and how that can help me be who I want to be.

It was a very long two days and this is a very long post all about me but I hope it helps someone else find themselves. You can be content with what you have and still want to explore the other parts of you. We are multidimensional creatures that deserve an understanding of each intricate part to be able to give pieces to others. So if I see myself a bit clearer these days, you know why.

That’s a Real One in your Reflection

It was about 10 days ago when I decided that with a long weekend coming up I wanted to get out of town. I only wanted a couple of days and I wanted somewhere I could explore, and still ended up choosing NYC.

I know, I know. That’s not new. Shit, I lived there. But that’s where the adventure comes in. I’ve done a good bit of traveling in my short life – usually alone to meet up with someone or with some sort of purpose on the other side. This is the first trip, albeit very short, that’s all about me. There is no one on the other side of the tarmac and really, no plan.

You don’t notice it until you pay attention to it, but the next time you tell someone you’re going on a trip try and remember what the first question they ask you was. For me, every time it has been some version of: “who are you going with??” My favorite part is the reaction when I say: “no one.”

There’s a myriad of answers and facial expressions when you tell someone you’re doing something alone:

REALLY?!

Wow – be CAREFUL!

That’s cool – I’m jealous.

Most of the faces are of incredulity but that’s to be expected. My friends and family don’t really react anymore because they know me but when I get those reactions from other people, I have to fight not to feel bad for THEM.

I don’t usually think twice when I make my decisions and it’s hard for me to understand those who do. Probably just as hard as it is for them to understand me. But my sense of pity (maybe? That word sucks but gets my point across, I think) is for those who haven’t had the chance to explore who they are. I would lack any sense of accomplishment in this life if I wasn’t sure that I knew all of the choices I did make were what is best for me. But you can’t do that if you don’t know yourself. It’s a real catch 22. I mean this isn’t a new concept – that Eat, Pray, Love movement was a real thing. But I don’t think you should have to wait until you’ve been jaded by an ex-lover or you rushed too quickly into a career you didn’t really want or you had to spend 18 years raising your children before you could find yourself. DO IT NOW.

There needs to be an emphasis put on the perception of the word “alone”. I don’t do things alone, I do them with myself. Not even by myself, but WITH myself. I’m not alone. I have friends and family who love me whether I’m in their presence or not. I have a team of people in my corner at work. Just because I’m not physically with them doesn’t mean I’m alone. When you are constantly in the presence of others I think you actually have the ability to lose your sense of self. We unconsciously express biases and opinions and thoughts that convolute what we believe to be true. But you know where that doesn’t happen? When you’re present with yourself. Happiness usually follows self-actualization.

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I know this isn’t about a concert but I thought it was important to talk about. I’ll follow up on how this adventure goes and what I learn – after all I’m going back to a city where I was a younger, much different version of myself. I’m doing this as much to remind myself who I used to be as I am to see how far I’ve come. Especially from that hot mess express up there. Woah.

 

She’s on the Good Side of Goodbye

My favorite weekend of the year starts tomorrow and we’ll have a whole post about that soon to come, but I have to back up and go into my last show, which I didn’t post about immediately. And even before I do that, I should probably dig into why that is.

When I think about WHY I write, I come back to two themes: happiness & heartache. Want to know which one is easier to write about? You may be surprised by this answer (you won’t be if you know me); for me, it’s heartache. I have no problem putting onto paper what it is that makes me ache and being vulnerable in a way that only heartache can produce. What’s extremely difficult for me is writing about happiness, which is why it has taken so long for me to write about my last concert; because I’m very happy right now. Isn’t that ridiculous? Writing when I’m happy almost feels like a cop-out. Sure, hopefully people want to see others happy and you hopefully continue to want to come with me on this journey of seeing some of my favorite artists up close and personal, but sometimes I think we just would rather know that we’re not alone when we feel gut-punched by our emotions.

In short, I’m sorry it has taken me a while to put this together. Now I will move forward with my recap of Runaway Country & being the ultimate fan-girl because…it’s what I do.

Runaway Country is a festival at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee every March. This last one was I believe the 3rd year, but our 2nd going to this one. The first one wasn’t great, which the first year of anything usually isn’t that great, but the lineup this year was enough for us to try again. With that being said, I’m only going to talk about who we saw because (this is going to sound braggy so I apologize in advance) when you see the same people over and over, sometimes you’re just kind of over it and don’t need to stay for a whole concert. We tend to see who we want to see and then…go to Taco Bell. It’s a pretty great progress, but I digress.

They run tickets only a little different for this one, which is to say that if you want to be in the “pit” you have to buy individual tickets to each performer. It’s a cool concept because you can pick and choose who you want to be that close for instead of having to stay there all day for people you aren’t big on. For this reason, I picked two people for us to be up there for. I say that I picked versus my friends picking because as always, they let me be the annoying fan-girl over and over again and still put up with it. We’ll start with Walker Hayes.

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I just talked about him in my lost post about him opening for Kelsea Ballerini, and before that back in October when he opened for Thomas Rhett and I was crying on my way to the concert because I thought we were going to miss him. **This is a disclaimer I am very annoying to go to concerts with.** But now I got to see him up close and personal. I’ve been following Walker for going on 2 years now when he released his Mix Tapes. His music is just different & I can’t quite explain it. It’s fun, it’s sad, it’s melodic, his songs have messages and sometimes they’re just about being different. Whatever it is that drew me to him, I’m still into it. After the show I got him to sign my koozie and we took a picture together and I’m content. Go get him album AND his mix tapes. Thank you.

That was Friday. On Saturday we went for 2 people so instead of going to the concert all day, we found an outlet mall and I spent all of my money there. The hard part of going to three day festivals where you don’t want to be there all day is finding something to kill time that doesn’t cost a lot of money. We haven’t figured that part out yet. I want to buy an RV and camp, but I can’t get anyone to agree with me yet. I’ll break them eventually.

The other pit passes I got us was for Brett Young. This was also my 3rd time seeing Brett, but again next this close and now I can cross him off the list. Brett gets me IN my feelings, which is very important. Also, very obnoxious. I have only 1 video that I took where you can’t hear me screaming in the background. Woops. There’s an even more embarrassing one of me that…I’m going to share with you. Because remember my disclaimer about how I’m annoying? I’ll let you watch the video and decide for yourself. But you know what? I think if you’re not gettin’ after it are you really feeling it? I don’t think so. Needless to say, I was only a little better than the girl who was screaming she loved his eyes & likely tried to find his tour bus after the show. Back to Brett – he sings into your soul & if you’ve not experience any sort of show yet I encourage you to buy tickets right now because he’s going to get big and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

You ready to hear who was after Brett Young?? Yeah??

None other than….Florida Georgia Line! Are you surprised? Remember when I said that sometimes we leave because we’ve seen people too many times? Well…13 is not enough for FGL and we 100% stayed and I probably jammed harder than I have in a while to these guys. I just don’t know what more there is to say about their performances that I haven’t already. What I will say is that they are two of the sweetest guys and for this concert had invited a little girl who has cancer to come to the show with her family & brought her up on stage and it was the cutest. While they were doing that a drunk girl also jumped on stage and then prompted was removed by security and we saw her in the back of a cop golf cart(?) after the show and I can only hope she actually got arrested. PSA: don’t be the drunk idiot at a concert, it’s not funny.

On the last day we only went to see Lanco, who I also wrote about last time and their performance was just as great. If you still haven’t gotten their new album you should do that, too.

In conclusion, I’m sorry for being lax with the writing but my life has been really really HAPPY lately and instead of finding time to put it on metaphorical paper, I’m just out living it.

I promise really cool stuff from this upcoming weekend, though, because TORTUGA. Who’s coming??

In Between Beer in a Basement & a Napa Valley Vacation

For this only being my 2nd concert weekend of the year, I’m afraid I’ve set the bar a little high for myself. Needless to say, I was reinvigorated by music this weekend – nothing like a double header cross-state trip to bring you back to life.

When I was thinking about how I would present this post a little differently than my others, I settled on the idea of the ever-evolving artist. Since I’ve seen all but one of the acts this weekend more than once, I can draw back to the first, second, (or third…) time I’ve seen them and share with you how exciting it is to watch someone grow like that. But first, before I go into all of that I need to talk about the most amazing part of this weekend for me.

I’ll link you back to it, but if we go back to my post about Lady Antebellum, you’ll recall that I talked just a little bit and not crazy fan-girl-ish at all, about Nicolle Galyon. You can go back and read all about what I had to say about her, but GUYS. SHE. WAS. THERE. On Friday morning I was minding my own business, watching some Instragram stories , when BAM – Kelsea Ballerini posted a picture of Nicolle sitting on her bus. Now this might not mean anything to you – it doesn’t, actually – but to me it said “Gina, Nicolle is going to be at the show tonight.” But songwriters do this all the time, go out on the road with artists to write because it’s like killing two birds with one stone. But if you’re me, you know that Nicolle sings on one of Walker Hayes’ songs, who happened to be opening for Kelsea. Do you see where I’m going with this?? It’s one thing to be excited for a show or artists you love, but when you get to experience something that 1. you never thought you would and 2. not many people get to – well, that can change a girl. See below for conversational proof.

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This is Nicolle. She’s written songs like Tequila for Dan + Shay, and All the Pretty Girls for Kenny Chesney, and Female for Keith Urban, and Boy for Lee Brice. While I’m not physically dead, I’ve peaked for sure.

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But I digress; of course I didn’t know Nicolle would be there so the reason I had tickets to this concert was for my girl Kelsea and my dude Walker.

I first wrote about Walker Hayes back in October when he opened for Thomas Rhett. I know I do this – so I don’t know about the rest of you – but when I’m getting to see someone for the first time, I set expectations of what it’s going to be like. Usually it’s unfair because if it’s the first time, they are typically newer to these kinds of performances and only have about 25 minutes to show what they can do. With that being said, and with this post being about the evolution of the artist – I can say that even in the last few months there is a difference in the way Walker performed. More confidence, maybe. But the first time I was further away and the sound kind of sucked and this time I was able to actually feel the music I love so much. I’m also used to see people for the first time from the pit, so the fact that I haven’t seen him from that perspective yet might be throwing me off. But that’s going to happen in March & I will gladly report back.

The main act for Friday was Kelsea Ballerini. Now you might also remember that in that same Lady Antebellum post where I described my girl crush on Nicolle, I wrote about Kelsea for the first time. The way her music was so honest and she wasn’t afraid to be herself and leave it all out there. It was good stuff. But this time? It was incredible stuff. That first time was just about 7 months ago and a lot has changed for her since then. The girl (I saw girl because she is younger than me and I’m jealous of her life) released an album, got married, and as of yesterday has her 4th #1 song. It is such a pivotal time in her life and you can see it in her performance. This tour & her album is called Unapologetically, which I happen to relate to on a very real level. I’m positive I’ve written it here before, but when you are unapologetically anything – it is such a liberating experience. While I am unapologetically who I am, Kelsea is writing about being unapologetically in love – and though it’s supposed to be about her mans, I feel it being more about the life she’s creating right now.

She played her entire album from start to finish – another thing that makes me love her. She knows what she has created, the story she has generated and the way it’s supposed to be told. In case you are from the dark ages, or don’t care about music at all, there is a reason behind track lists for albums and if you don’t listen to them in order you are a crazy person. But she told her story for us Friday night and broke it up between heartbreak, finding yourself, and finding love. It was magical and I felt every second of it. Watching who she was back in July and who she is now on Friday night is how I want to feel every time I see an artist for the 2nd or 3rd time.

But the weekend doesn’t stop there folks. It was supposed to, but last minute I bought a ticket to Chris Young, Kane Brown & Lanco playing here locally. It was a solo ticket and for the first time in…ever?…it was just me & some music. I didn’t stand up & sing & dance – I just watched and listened and felt. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had at a show.

Lanco is the only act this weekend I’ve never seen before, so you know what I said about expectations. It has to be such a thought-out process on their end for how they are going to portray themselves and what songs they are going to use to showcase who they are – because like I said they have about 25 minutes to prove to you they are worth you purchasing their album or a ticket to see them again. Don’t worry, I have both. They were so upbeat & fun – got the crowd involved every chance they could, including running in to the middle of the floor seats for a drum solo. That’s a huge risk to take when a lot of people are just learning you who are and going for it proves to me that they know how to put on a show. They also talked about how now more than ever it’s important to let music bring us together – so obviously I was sold on them. I’ll get my 2nd performance from them in March & I’m looking forward to it.

Kane Brown was next and I’m going to be honest – I was just meh about it. This is the 3rd time or so I’ve written about him; from seeing him in Nashville with FGL to him opening for Jason Aldean a few months ago – I can give a pretty solid perspective of his evolution. I’ll be honest here, too; I was pleasantly surprised. Without sounding pretentious, it’s like he is growing into who he is as a performer and becoming more commanding of the space he’s been given. And the boy has some fans, that’s for damn sure. He’s a cute, young kid so that’s not surprising but the number of people who knew every word and were screaming their faces off for him says a lot. He & I had a nice little conversation on Instagram this morning too – he’s good people and I’m excited to continue watching him evolve.

I could write about Chris Young again, but I feel like I just did that, so I won’t put you all through that again. Great performance of great songs; but I was much more pleasantly surprised by the openers this time around.

All in all – great weekend where I can now die happy if God so chooses to take me out of this world; I saw Nicolle perform live and that’s all I need. Sorry I blabbered on – but there’s some time before my next post so you have plenty of time to read!

Soundtrack of my Life

Bonus post alert! This has nothing to do with concerts, but rather music in general and just some things I wanted to share with you guys.

If I’m being honest, I spend a good portion of my days thinking about things I wish I could say. Whether it’s to people I love, people who have hurt me, or people who don’t even know they have an effect on my life. I string words together in my head all day long and often times never get to say them. I look for refuge from that in songs. If you’ve ever been in a car with me, or sitting at a kitchen table in the middle of the night with me, I’ve looked at you and said “hang on, listen to this incredible song that’s about to change your life.” Often times it doesn’t change anyone’s life and I just get looked at like a freak – but I wanted to take the time to share with you 8 songs that every single time I listen to them, cut me to the core.

There is no order of importance here, but if you want in on my soundtrack – here it is.

When You Come Back to me Again – Garth Brooks

I’ll start with a classic, hidden in the depths of the Garth Brooks discography. I’ve talked about this song before, because it’s on the soundtrack for the movie Frequency and that might be the first place I ever heard it. The movie itself is about a father-son duo who become connected through a radio ~frequency~ to solve a crime. Sounds cheesy, actually fantastic movie, but this is about the song. Starts out with a piano track and evolves into a soul-crushing ballad about loving and losing and hoping and wishing. Essentially it’s a song about how we have the power to take what has happened to us and shape our own destiny, and nothing is finite. Deep for the first song, but I’m just preparing you for what’s to come. Watch this video: cue the tears. (I’ve watched it like 7 times just writing this).

I Almost Do – Taylor Swift

It wouldn’t be a post about songs that have changed me if it didn’t include some Taylor – sorry not sorry. This song could not be more classic Gina. I would say that I’ve spent a good part of my adult life being the girl in this song. If you’ve not heard this song (go now) it is about that feeling you get every time you want to reach out to someone you’re no longer aloud to, but you ultimately don’t. THAT feeling, if you’ve not been there on an almost daily basis like me, is pretty killer. And she wrote a whole freaking song about it. It’s remembering the nuances of someone’s day and imagining what they’re doing right now because you know their schedule and how easy it would be to talk to them. But you don’t, because you can’t. And this song says I NEED YOU TO KNOW that every time I don’t – I almost do. Fuck, Taylor.

Shot For Me – Drake

Am I all over the place enough for you yet? I have a distinct memory of listening to this album over and over again on my commute to work when I lived in New York City. Music got me through a lot of really tough times in that place and Take Care happened to come out during my sophomore year of college. I would literally not listen to anything but this album no matter where I was going or what I was doing. (In case you didn’t know, you don’t want to be caught without headphones going anywhere in New York because, people). So here I am, sitting on the subway, taking in the words to this song. It really has nothing to do with that time in my life, deciding to move home and fully comprehending that a risk I chose to make wasn’t really working out…but the premise of the song – about knowing you are better than what someone is trying to make you believe you are – that’s what it was about. You know how I said I spend a lot of time thinking about what I wish I could say? This is the ultimate. Telling someone that you know they messed up and they’re probably hurt and trying to show they’re living their best life when you KNOW, they KNOW they’re wrong? I want to say that to A LOT of people. “This is one I know you hated when you heard it and it’s worse because you know that I deserve this – take a shot for me.” UGH.

Gettin’ ForgottenCole Swindell

This is a new one on the list, but such a good one. It’s basically about thinking you’re the one breaking up with someone, and telling them they’re going to be fine, and you’re the one who ends up getting wrecked. HA. This has to be like the ultimate dream of anyone who has ever been broken up with. Imagine ladies – you get your heart broken and he tells you you’re going to be fine (which guys, just don’t because we know and we don’t need to hear it from you) but you make the decision then & there to move on while he gets to watch. Goals. And this is from the guy’s perspective so that makes me respect it even more. The beat is perfect, too. Listen & love – right now.

Hold Me Down – Motion City Soundtrack

I couldn’t really write this post without including the song that is tattooed on my back. It starts with the protagonist in the song finding a letter his girlfriend wrote, leaving him. It goes through a laundry list of mundane thing she needs him to do, like cancelling dinner plans with friends and reminding him to feed the gerbil. You learn that the guy is an alcoholic, wherein which she encourages him to stay clean. But the most important part of the whole song is her saying “This may sound bad and don’t take it the wrong way – I love you, however, you hold me down.” To have the kind of strength necessary to tell someone that is beyond me. The line I have always loved, though, is my tattoo: “You’re the metaphors I can’t create to comprehend this curse that I call love.” It came at a time in my life where I was being treated more or less like shit by a bad dude and though I thought I may have loved him, and maybe I did, he was holding me down. The tattoo, I should say,  came at that time because I was like 14 when this song was released.

What I Almost Was – Eric Church

Does it get better than a feel-good country song? I’m hoping I’m taking ya’ll for a ride with this range of songs, by the way. Okay so here we are with a kid thinking he’s going to get a full scholarship to college for football and ends up getting hurt (cough, Kevin This Is Us, cough), goes on in life to date a girl that could have given him a nice, easy life that he runs from in the middle of the night, and ends up becoming a singer and loving the way his life turned out. This is such a classic for so many reasons, but I believe in it so much because I am a huge “what if” question-asker, and that can kill a girl. I’ve made a lot of bold moves in my life and each time I jump I really question whether or not I’m making the right decision, even though every time I never actually know the answer. But I’d say from where I’m sitting, most days uninspired and searching for that something more, I thank God I ain’t what I almost was, too.

 

 

Hell Raisin’ Heat of the Summer – Florida Georgia Line

Couldn’t make a list of bangers without my boys, either. I might be bias about this song, but I loved it before the memory I’m about to tell you about. You’ve read about 600 times now about the cruise I somehow convinced my friends to go on with FGL. Well, the first concert they did on the boat was as we were pulling out of the port of Miami, sailing off into the Gulf at sunset (if you scroll up that’s the exact moment that picture is from). During that set was the only time I have ever heard them play this song that I’m talking about here, live, and when I tell you that I think I was transcended, I hope you believe me. That moment TOOK ME PLACES. I couldn’t tell you why, either. Maybe it’s the nostalgia of it? It’s just about growing up and being reckless, something I never was so maybe that’s a part of it, too. But I decided even after I first listened to it that I wanted to live by: “we were livin’ every minute of the night like there might never be another” and that’s partially how this blog came to be, because of the concerts thing. Lastly, “I see clearer through the rearview mirror than I ever did lookin’ out over the hood” and ain’t that the damn truth.

All I Ask – Adele

Okay I had to end on a super sick ballad. Have you heard this song? If not, you’re lost in this world and I hope you’re about to be found. Complete piano track because does she need instruments? The answer is no. Have you ever been in a moment and thought that this might be the last time you get to do what you’re about to do? Did that realization absolutely obliterate you? My answer for both of these questions is actually no. You know why? Because I ignore all signs of danger and pretend nothing bad is going to happen ever. I have a tendency of talking about my gut feelings and I know when something bad is about to happen and I literally never do anything about it. I let it hit me like a ton of bricks. Are you getting why I relate to music so well? The point, though, is that in this song Adele is accepting that something bad is probably about to happen but for one more night she wants to revel in the good, just in case she never has it that good again. Imagine the strength you’d have to have to not only realize that, but then commit to the fact that this might be it and we’re gonna go for it. Holy Hell.

 

Alright I have rambled on enough – but honestly as of late I’ve been having more and more of those “what I wish I could say” moments and with a platform to share what I do about it, I wanted to do just that. I’m vulnerable, like most people and sometimes I shut down but tonight I wanted to open up.

 

Chase After the Dream, Don’t Chase After the Money

I’M BAAAACK!!!

Happy 2018 ya’ll!

I cannot tell you how excited I am that concert season has officially begun and I can start connecting with you guys again. This past weekend was the first one of the year, and the whole time I really challenged myself to think about why I was doing this and what story I wanted to share. With that being said – I want to go back to the real reason I started this blog, and I want to get there through my story of this weekend.

It all starts with my two best friends, Sam & Amy. Those who know me are very familiar with these 2 as virtually any picture on social media or post about a concert involved one or the both of them, which is something I could not be more thankful for. These ladies entertain every ridiculous idea I’ve ever had about crossing the country, or leaving it, all for a show and a performer we’ve seen a million times – all the while living their own lives working full time, going to school full time, planning a wedding, etc. Things that don’t really leave time for spending extra cash on an experience we’ve had before. But that doesn’t stop them from saying yes to me every single time. I’m well aware that there is going to come a day where all of this ends because Sam is going to have babies and Amy is going to be some sort of real estate mogul and we’ll just have memories; so for now I cherish their willingness to deal with me.

With that being said – up until Christmas this year we didn’t have any concerts planned for January which is kind of unusual for us. But luckily, because I have the best friends in the world, Sam’s gift to Amy & me was tickets to Chili Cook-Off. This is the 33rd annual cook-off held in Pembroke Pines and I had never once been. For anyone else who has never been here’s a little disclaimer: YOU DON’T GET TO EAT ANY CHILI. Not a huge chili fan so I wasn’t that disappointed but…maybe better branding?? With or without chili, we were really excited for this one because the lineup was pretty ridiculous for a fairly cheap event. Brandon Lay (which we missed, but I’ll see you in July boo), Midland (a NEVER for us!), Big & Rich (another technical never AND Cowboy Troy was there [no one cared but me]), Maren Morris (a crowd fave), OLD DOMINION, and Darius Rucker. Needless to say, we were THERE for it.

Now let me set this scene for you, and again, this is an event and a venue I have never been to – the closest I’ve been to C.B. Smith Park is Pines Mall across the street. It’s a choice area, but hey – who am I to judge?? We got dropped off by one of the parking gates (which opened at 2am – like why?) and started to walk inside. For those familiar with Lakes Park – it’s basically the same sort of place where you just walk through fields & random watering holes until you find what you’re looking for. As we’re walking through said park, I have NEVER seen so much trash & groups of people around said trash who were absolutely guaranteed to not pick it up. You could say that I wasn’t totally convinced of the legitimacy of this event.

Eventually we crossed some invisible barrier where the parking lot became family friendly & clean and things started to look up. It was roughly 10:30 in the morning and the people watching was in full force at this place. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a show where I didn’t know what to expect, but I literally had no idea what I was in for. There’s really only a few things I care about when going to a concert and they are: 1. no one around me is too drunk to function; 2. my seats or spot on the lawn is close enough to not only have to watch the show from a screen but I can actually see the stage; 3. the time spacing of acts isn’t obnoxious (Tortuga I’m lookin’ at you).

This show accomplished all things because even though people around us were pretty drunk and I’d say a good 10% of people were actually sleeping on the ground (I do not lie) and one girl went from dancing to fall down dizzy & drunk to getting back up and dancing – it wasn’t close enough to affect me. I could see the stage and there was probably only 30 minutes or so between each act.

Now I said I was going to get back to the point of why this blog exists. This blog exists because I took a few minutes during every performance to really take a look at my surroundings. People were singing when they knew the words, smiling and laughing with their friends, wrapping their arms around each other and swaying to the beat, and all in all just having a genuine GOOD time. All because of music. And THAT is why I write this blog. To capture & share with you these moments that are so small and insignificant to some, but so momentous to others. I watched wives dance with husbands, I watched groups of guys since every word of classic Hootie & the Blowfish songs to each other, I saw kids jamming out on their parents’ shoulders. Then I took a few moments to be in the music all by myself. Eyes closed, really listening to the words and not caring that I was probably dancing like a fool in a crowd of thousands.

Now I’ve already done a good bit of rambling, and I’ve blogged about most of these performers before but I’ll take a second to highlight some of the best parts. I apologize in advance for minimal pictures, but as we’ve talked about before I’ve kind of stopped with the pictures and am keeping those memories for myself.

While Midland was there, I’m going to save my opinion and recap of their performance for later this year when I see them again. I think I owe them more attention than what I was able to give in this particular venue, so we’ll come back to them.

Big & Rich were actually epic. We were supposed to see them once about 6 years ago and they got rained out so this is the first time I’ve actually been able to take in a performance and holy crap did they deliver. I remember being a kid and listening to their very first album on road trips with my parents. My dad & I have always been connected by music so it’s nostalgic for me when I get to see some of the artists we both love live, so I can trace it all back to those moments in the car. I contribute that also to why I’m the only one in that whole place who knew who Cowboy Troy was. Basically he’s the first country/rap artist from back in the early 2000s – and he was everything I hoped he would’ve been. I played the original song I knew him from on the way home for Sam & Amy – they weren’t impressed. Guess that had to be 12 years old, too. Regardless, 10/10 performance, would definitely see again.

Maren was an angel – there’s not really anything more to say. I’m in need of a new album.

Old Dominion was everything. They played ALL of the bangers from both albums – this is the first time we’ve seen them since their new music came out back in August and YAS. That is all.

This is probably the 3rd time we’ve seen Darius – once was here at Germain and he is such an entertaining performer. I think what I loved the most (because if I were him I’d do the same thing) is before he’d play his favorite songs, he would tell the crowd how much he loved that song. It is SO important for me to connect with an artist who genuinely believes in the music they create – aka why country music is incredibly easy to connect with. But I’ve not had a performer flat out say which songs they truly were inspired by or loved themselves and I think that’s really special.

Overall, it was an incredible start to the 2018 season and I cannot wait to continue sharing my stories with you guys and hopefully spreading to you some of my favorite music. With that being said – if you’re interested & don’t follow me on Instagram, typically on Fridays when there is new music released I’ll do a New Music Friday post just to share what I think are some good albums or songs you just may not know are out there. Feel free to follow & listen – @ginamazing.

Thank you for coming along with me!

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.