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.