Warning: this is long.
So last ya’ll heard, I just got off a cruise to Mexico with the boys of Florida Georgia Line and 2500 of my closest friends. But that was two years ago and we’ve made plenty of memories since then, including this past weekend. Ready?
The following year would prove to be just as full of FGL as previous ones, but in a much bigger way. I’ve talked about Florida Country Superfest that used to take place in Everbank Field in Jacksonville – which is really cool in itself, since I have a soft spot for sports, stadiums are pretty legit. For 2016, the concert changed its format and would now be held in Daytona – at the Daytona Speedway – over Memorial Day Weekend. The coolest part about this venue is that you literally have to walk across the track to get to where the stages are set up. Like what? I don’t even like NASCAR and I think that’s pretty legit. This is where I would see FGL next. It’s a 3 day festival that you can camp at, or stay at a hotel physically on the beach and make a whole trip out of it – which we do. It’s probably my favorite festival to go to because you only have to wait at most 20 minutes for a performance where at festivals like Tortuga they are an hour or more apart. I like my music on a continuous loop, thanks.
FGL headlined the 2nd night and they might be the only people I will sit through a performance of Kid Rock for. But hey – to love music is to like it all, right? BK, one half of FGL, is actually from Ormond Beach, or basically Daytona. He pointed out during the concert that he was actually born in the hospital that sits catty-corner to the speedway. It’s just as special for me to be a part of a show and an experience that is unique & special for the performer, you can actually feel a difference when it’s a night like that. They played their full tour show, including brand new songs from their yet-to-be-released 3rd album Dig Your Roots. Little did I know that I would actually get to see this exact show again 4 months later…
Because I am a crazy person, and FGL hadn’t announced any Florida dates beside the one above for their Dig Your Roots tour, I had to look into where else we might be able to see them. Atlanta isn’t so far – maybe that’s an idea. Then that’s when I saw it; October 14, 2016 they were playing in Nashville. Now you see, Nashville is a little further away than I originally planned – but flights couldn’t be that expensive, right? Wrong. Really expensive. But I love to drive – so it couldn’t take that long, right? Wrong. 14 hours one way to get there. In my head, it was worth asking my friends if they would do it, knowing they would say no.
Except they didn’t say no.
So here I was, presenting a pretty ridiculous idea to drive to Nashville on Thursday night, through the night, go to this concert on Friday, and drive back Saturday because I needed to be at a work conference on Sunday. 28 hours of driving for 30 hours in Nashville. And you know what? It was absolutely worth it. I used my birthday as an excuse because turning 25 in Nashville was like – a big deal to me.
We got pit tickets for this concert because I wasn’t going to Nashville and not being in the pit – plus I don’t think there was much of a difference in price so YOLO, right? We stood in line to be in the front, but you already knew I would do that. We ended up being right against the gate in the front, where we made friends with security. If I am to give you any advice about going to concerts, always, ALWAYS, make friends with security. They know things and have a little more power than you probably think they do. Because we made friends – we were able to know who the surprise guests would be that night; because we knew there would be surprises at a Nashville show. And we were right; the freaking Backstreet Boys were there. Let me just say this now as a disclaimer; I am an *NSYNC fan through and through and will never deny that – but come on, it’s the Backstreet Boys.
Kane Brown & Cole Swindell opened; both perfect and as I’ve said before Cole Swindell is just so good. Also Kane Brown is like 12 and has a voice of a grown man – also great. Remember the whole thing about making friends with security? Yeah, they grabbed me Cole’s & FGL’s set list. Seriously – make friends.
Back to FGL. Like I said, their 3rd album had been released in August with plenty of time for me to learn every new song they would play at this show – and it was amazing. I think I could see the same performances over and over for the rest of my life and still walk away feeling like I’d gained something special or appreciated something new like it was the first time. And that’s exactly how I felt that night. Like I never could have imagined that in 2016 I would be at a concert where the Backstreet Boys were a special guest – never in a million years – yet here we were. Front row. Being tricked. FGL was on a small stage in the back of the arena playing some acoustic stuff while the MFin’ Backstreet Boys were getting in place on the main stage. But I’m no fool – I turned around and caught Kevin’s eye and subsequently screamed to everyone around me to turn around. So there we are, screaming every word to Everybody (although we were kind of alone in that, turns out kids these days don’t know the words…) and I’ve never felt more ridiculous in my life – except maybe until this weekend, but we’ll get to that. Jake Owen showed up; Nelly showed up. I also never would have thought I would be seeing Nelly perform ever in my life but here I am – THREE Nelly performances deep.
Terrible quality – but I need you to understand.
I’ve talked about the feeling you get when you’re leaving a concert – kind of buzzing and loopy trying to comprehend what you were just a part of. I thought that it couldn’t get better than Mexico. Then I thought that it couldn’t get better than Nashville. Then I proved myself wrong.
So here it is – this past weekend.
Earlier this year, FGL announced that they would be going on a 3-stadium tour as a part of their Smooth Tour, which would actually FEATURE the Backstreet Boys. The only problem was they were only going to Boston, Minneapolis, and Chicago. But if we’ve learned anything about me, that’s not really a problem. So I did what I always do and I found a way to make it happen. The idea of celebrating a 25th birthday with FGL was already a thing – and my best friend actually turned 25 on 8/5 so we could make it work, right? YUP.
Fast forward to this past Friday, driving to Fort Lauderdale to catch an 8pm flight that got us to Chicago at 10:30pm, checked into our hotel at 11:30pm. Now I’m pretty low-key by nature, in all seriousness, but I knew that I couldn’t just casually go to Chicago for 30 hours and be low-key. So we stayed out until 4:30am which is technically 5:30am Eastern time which is exactly 24 hours after I had woken up that morning. But that’s neither here nor there. Ya’ll are reading about concerts, not how crazy I am.
We pulled up to Wrigleyville around 2pm and I am not lying to you even a little bit when I say that when I saw Wrigley through the dashboard of that Uber my stomach did flips. Is this even real life? Attending a concert in the same stadium that just celebrated its first World Series victory in 108 years? You’ve got to be kidding me; but here we were. This is probably not going to make a whole lot of sense from here on out because I can’t even really put into words what it felt like to be there for this; utter insanity is about all I can give you.
Chris Lane was the first opener and he has just got to be the ultimate hype man. We’ve seen him on the cruise, we’ve seen him open for Chase Rice, he has just always been around and for good reason. When it’s 6pm and someone has to start this show, if I were you I’d choose Chris Lane.
Then came Nelly. I just have to hand it to the guy for knowing his truth. His truth being that he had some bangers back in the day and people will forever and always know the words to Shake Ya Tailfeather. He also referred to himself in the 3rd person the entire time, which I fully support because you’re Nelly and you really can do whatever you want. There was lots of butt shots of girls on the stage dancing and references to members of his crew being in jail and missing some of his biggest hits, but again – that’s Nelly. And I still got the same feeling I always do when a crowd sings together when the entire stadium sang Dilemma, mind you while the music video played in the background. It was the year 2000 in there on Saturday night and I just wanted to stay there forever.
Next up were the MFin’ Backstreet Boys. When I said earlier that I would’ve never guessed I would be watching the Backstreet Boys at this age – yeah I never thought I would be at a freaking BSB concert in 2017. And that’s exactly what AJ said, too, which makes me grateful that they acknowledge it’s kind of a big deal they get to keep doing this 20 years later (August 13, 1997 was when their FIRST album was released; literally 20 years to the day). There was lots of jamming out and literally dancing like I was 7 years old again in my room making up dances to these songs (okay maybe they were *NSYNC songs I was making up dances to, but you get my point). They played The Call which is basically the best song BSB has ever released so getting to be a part of that was enough for me. I felt like a kid again, is my point. I am a full grown adult and here I am singing songs I typically reserve for singing alone in my car, with a group of strangers. I couldn’t stop looking around me, taking in the immensity that was this crowd of people and thinking about how lucky I am.
Last but certainly not least, I got to witness the best FGL performance I’ve seen to date. I really couldn’t tell you if that’s because we were in Wrigley and there were 45,000 people there or if it really was the best, but it was incredible nonetheless. There were fireworks, they sang songs from their FIRST album that weren’t just their singles, they played obscure songs from their second album that no one knew, they played new music that they might never release – all of it was exactly what I want in every single concert I go to for the rest of my life. It was just…special. They sang H.O.L.Y on a piano and brought their wives out to give them flowers and thank them for loving them. I mean come on. There was fire shooting out of the bleachers that were cleared for said fire to shoot from (even though they caught the seats on fire for a sec, NBD). It was…perfect.
The encore was a combination of Hot in Herre, Everybody, and Cruise – which is exactly what the encore needed to be. They did a synchronized boy band dance to Everybody with the Backstreet Boys. There were more fireworks. They brought out bottles of champagne to both chug and shower the people in the pit. I couldn’t believe that I was there, but do you think they can even believe they were there? This is like – top of the top. They posted that 5 years ago they were playing Joe’s Bar in Chicago, probably for $10 and now here they are headlining Wrigley. I can’t even believe that for them.
I write all of this to say that THIS is what going to these shows is all about. Being a part of something that is just bigger than who we are as individuals and acknowledging that to be true. It’s a scary thing, stepping out of your comfort zone, going to strange cities where you know next to nothing and just letting life happen. I stopped saying no to the things that scare me a long time ago. Lean in to the crazy, spend your money and stop wishing that you would have done something differently at the end of all of this. I would give anything to live this past weekend over and over again, the lack of sleep and all.
Thank you for reading my ramblings and being on this crazy journey with me. There’s much more to come – but for now here are some memories I can share with you. Shout out to Sam Anderson, Amy Bohn and Kim Collier for these pics & videos because my phone was most definitely dead before the concert even started.