In the last few months I’ve seen tons of posts to Facebook and Instagram from friends at concerts and music festivals. Smokey stages with ethereal lighting and itty bitty figures on a stage. This got me thinking about how much I miss live music.
In the hot and sticky summer of 2009 I was living in Sacramento and preparing for my big move across the country to Michigan to start grad school. I didn’t have a ton of money saved up, and what I had I wanted to save for moving and school costs. Going on a vacation felt like too much of a stretch. Mid-recession the phrase “staycation” was the local entertainment marketing rage, and I decided that was the way to go. I went on a concert binge that summer. I saw Kenny Chesney, Coldplay, and Keith Urban. Each show was a different vibe, and wonderful for completely different reasons, but afterwards there was always the same outcome: I felt renewed, rejuvenated and relaxed.
There is just something so cathartic about listening to music live, singing along with a group, and getting wrapped up in the entertainment and atmosphere of the production and crowd.
I usually prefer an outdoor summer concert. There is something truly magical about sitting outdoors at night, listening to great music, looking up at the stars in the hot summer air. The night we saw Coldplay it was beyond any concert experience I’d had before. The Sleep Train Amphitheater in Wheatland, CA is the perfect venue for summer concerts. Nestled into what looks like a hillock in the middle of a farm field, this venue is made for breezy, steamy summer nights. The stage production and surprises Coldplay used for this show felt like they were designed from the imaginative experience of a child. There were oversized large yellow balloons bouncing through the audience during “Yellow”, that when they burst, sprinkled the audience with yellow confetti. There were air rockets shooting multicolored neon and metallic paper butterflies on the audience from every direction timed perfectly with the music and building energy during “Lovers in Japan”, or was it “Strawberry Swing”? I don’t recall, but it was awesome. There was just so much imagination in this show it was like an altered state. They even gave out a CD of the set recorded live at previous shows. It was an incredible experience and the gimmicks all worked on me.
The night I saw Kenny Chesney in San Francisco at AT&T Park, it was less of a production, but enjoyable all the same. The cold San Francisco summer air was enough to make him put on a shirt with sleeves (if you know Kenny Chesney, you know what that takes). Lady Antebellum opened, and though Sugarland didn’t make it to open, Miranda Lambert did and she was AWESOME. AT&T park is great, but cold and big for the kind of show I like. The music was enough to carry us to a warm beachy state of mind.
To be honest, when I decided to see Keith Urban at the Arco Arena in Natomas, CA that summer, I was really going to see his opening act, Leann Rimes. Leann was the first country artist I liked as a child. I used to stand on the trunk at the foot of my mothers bed with Leann’s debut album Blue blasting on the stereo. I’d hold my moms brush to my lips as a microphone and belt out each song, word for word, to my (very tolerant) audience of 1 (my mom). Leann and I are almost exactly the same age (a matter of days) and that just made me love her singing even more.
Excited to see one of my childhood idols, I did a little research online to see where the best seats for my money (which there wasn’t much of) would be. I read a few reviews that suggested there would be a second stage at some point in the show were Keith Urban would play a few songs out in the audience. I looked up the layout of the Arco Arena seating charts and made a guess as to where that would be. When we picked our tickets up at will call they told us the seats we purchased weren’t available because a camera would be placed there, so they were moving us. I was livid! I had purposely chosen that location, how could they ruin my plan! Well, it was all for the best. We ended up seated what seemed like a mere 5 feet from the second stage, right on level with him as he sang. This was our view:
It was AMAZING. I hadn’t been a big fan before the show, but by the time it was over I was sold. 100%.
Since I moved to Michigan that August of 2009, I have made it to a few great shows. Jay Z and Eminem at Comerica Park in 2010 was most memorable (Dr. Dre showed up! Beyonce was dancing in her seat!). Brian got me a ticket as a birthday present and we had a blast. We also saw Jason Mraz at a local outdoor venue, DTE Energy Music Theatre, summer 2012 around my birthday again (a theme I guess). I love Jason Mraz, but the set list wasn’t fabulous and it was a weeknight. By the time the vibe picked up and he started playing songs more familiar to the audience we were already headed out for the night… but at least it was outdoors!
With New Years Eve creeping up on me this year, I started longing for a musical vacation. It is such a stress reducer for me, seeing bands I like play, the thrill of the evening, the music. Last New Years we went up north here in Michigan to Petoskey and rented a house with a few other couples (Details will have to be for another post). It was so much fun exploring the northern lake towns with my hunny, playing in the snow with our puppy, and hanging out with friends. How could we top that? Well, the Zac Brown Band is here to save the day.
I can’t wait to head down to the historic Joe Louis Arena on the Detroit River tomorrow night to ring in the new year with my brand spankin’ new husband and the Zac Brown Band! I really hope they play “Free,” that violin intro melts me and I can’t imagine how it will rock my soul live.
Here we come 2014!