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.

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.