The last year and a half has been difficult for everyone. And for people like me and Colton who draw more inspiration from concert experiences than anywhere else, that time has been even worse. We already had four shows planned the spring and summer of 2020 when the rug was pulled out and we were all sent home to isolate. Life as we knew it ended and with it my two greatest sources of mental sustenance in cruises and concerts.
As my therapist has pointed out repeatedly, transitioning is hard for me. I thrive on routine. And much to my surprise, even the transition back to real life has been hard for me. This vacation helped and even though its not typically someplace I crave, its been very nice.
Now add to that last night. It may have been just the boost I needed to get over the hump and get my head back to where it needs to be. We learned about the Carolina Country Music Festival researching for the trip a while back. Modern country is of no interest to us though, so we gave it little attention. More and more through the week, as we drove by the festival site and saw lightning, signs, stages, equipment trucks and busses we realized the scale of what was happening. Finally over lunch, in that part of town, out of nowhere, Colton says he wants to go. I asked no questions, picked up my phone and within minutes had two tickets to our first concert since November 2019. Well, I guess I did ask one question, if Steph wanted to go. But that sort of thing isn’t her cup of tea, so not surprisingly she opted out. Adding a couple of barcodes to my Apple Wallet would seem like a trivial act to a normal person. But what it symbolized was huge.
After dinner Steph dropped us off a few blocks away and we walked what seemed like miles around the festival site to the gates. Colton was in a Blink 182 shirt and I had my Pennywise tour shirt. The culture shock was real. We definitely didn’t fit the mold of hats and boots, but on a scale that big I’m sure it wasn’t noticed.
We tried to enter the gates with the barcodes and were told we needed wristbands which were available at the theater across the street. It seemed a mere nuisance until we saw the line down the block consisting of at least a couple hundred others. Believe it or not, we considered throwing in the towel because it was already late and this line would easily take an hour or more. But, we stuck it out. And man were we ever glad we did when it was all said and done. After an hour or so in line to and through the theatre serving as box office for the festival, we finally emerged with wristbands that allowed us to enter our first legitimate concert since November 2019.
It was so much more than a concert though. We emerged from the gates into what seemed like paradise. And this was even with loud country music playing! Colton and I are the type to avoid the outstanding food at Texas Roadhouse simply because of the music. But that special Thursday night, it didn’t matter. The loud and live music, the people, the beer stands, the food stands, the merch tents, and on and on. I was near tears with joy. We hugged and I said, “we made it Colton.” We were back. Back to where we wanted to be. Sure, depending on how you look at it, those weren’t necessarily our people, but considering the circumstances and what it meant down deep to the fans and artists as well, it didn’t matter. Not that show, not that night.
Instinctively, we walked as far forward as we reasonably could. Still so far from the stage which was over near the beach, it was unbelievable. Undoubtedly the biggest music festival we had ever been to. It wasn’t long before 9:30 rolled around and Clarksburg’s own Davisson Brothers were to play on one of the three minor stages toward the back of the festival site. You may not believe it, but show wise, this was the highlight for us. They had a good crowd for a second stage situation. After a couple songs, of course he asked if anyone from West Virginia was there. The response was loud and enthusiastic as it nearly always is with folks like us who are ridiculously proud to call this place home. In fact, I’d be willing to bet there were a bunch of us who bailed on Jordan Davis just to go see the West Virginia boys get to perform at an event this huge. Of course they played Country Roads and didn’t even need to sing because the crowd took care of it. It was so great. After that was Let’s Goooo….Mountaineers! which further cemented my already emotional state because it immediately took me back to Mountaineer Field with my Dad.
Next was a quick trip through the merch tent where we both would totally have bought Davisson Brothers shirts if they were available.
It had been a long and busy vacation day already so we were both exhausted, hot and sweaty by the time Jake Owen took to the main stage. We didn’t stick around long after his weird choice of opener and began the long walk to the gates and Ocean Blvd. to meet Steph. Since it wasn’t over yet, she was able to practically drive clear up to the road closure. We were so hot and so tired, but at the same time so content and relieved that the worst is surely over. It may have been a country music festival but it will always be remembered as one of the most important shows we’ve attended. Now, if I can only get on a cruise ship….