Many things in life come and go with timeless memories to be made, as well as events that will forever be lost to history as “just another day.” Some things though simply cannot be forgotten. I cannot seem to remember what my economics professor rambled about in class today, but I will always remember the very first legitimate and well-known concert I ever attended.
Brad Paisley has made a few trips to Panama City and the surrounding areas over the years, but after his explosion onto the country music scene he just does not seem to have time for small town shows anymore. In January 2009, the Pensacola Civic Center gave way for what was quite possibly the greatest concert experience a man of my nature could have ever imagined.
I managed to come across tickets for the concert through StubHub. At the time, the concert was sold out so the hundred dollars per ticket cost did not seem like such a bad deal. As my girlfriend and I were finding our seats, a shocking realization had occurred to the two of us: our tickets were for floor seats! This discovery seemed to good to be true, as we had already accepted the fact that we would probably be enjoying the show from the “nosebleed” section. Regardless, we quickly found our way to the fold out chairs that were laid out on in front of the stage and sat down as we watched the stage crew finish up with their initial setup.
The lights eventually dimmed and the deafening sound of thousands of die-hard music lovers filled the room. A pitch-black stage then suddenly came to life as the flashing lights ignited to reveal a full band already blasting away on their instruments. A familiar melody led by a pair of fiddles energized the audience as a likewise familiar face made his way on stage: Darius Rucker. For a rocker-turned-country music artist, he put on a great set. His style of music highly reflected his past work with Hootie and the Blowfish, yet set a unique tone in what has developed him into a rising and extremely popular solo artist.
Darius Rucker finished his set and the stage crew went to work again setting up the next act. At this point, my girlfriend and I had decided that our seats just were not good enough and we deserved something better. We stood up and began making our way towards the stage to a couple of empty seats we had noticed earlier. Before we even made it half way, however, Dierks Bentley came out of nowhere and rushed out on stage with microphone in hand and yet another eruption of cheers. The seating chart on the floor of the arena quickly became irrelevant as thousands of excited fans all followed our lead and made their way to the front in an attempt to get as close as possible.
My girlfriend was a huge Dierks Bentley fan at the time, so it was no surprise when she began to lose her cool, falling in line with the hundreds of other crazed girls screaming at the man on stage. We had pushed our way to the very front of the crowd and were now standing at the very edge of the front runway. The view was incredible, needless to say. Arms resting on the stage, Dierks Bentley made his way down the runway straight towards us. When he got to the end, he reached down into the crowd shaking hands and grabbed hold of my girlfriend’s hand and smiled at her. Part of me wanted to jump up on stage and tackle him. The other part of me was thinking that was the coolest thing that had ever happened. One more part of me was also busy holding up my girlfriend who had just nearly collapsed out of shock and excitement.
Dierks Bentley finished up his set and made his way backstage as the crowd continued to roar. Several announcements came on the loud speakers instructing us to find our seats, as Brad Paisley would not be performing until everyone was seated. That did not seem stop him though, because the intro to “Mud on the Tires” rang through the arena not long after.
At this point, I knew that I could not be much happier. Brad Paisley put on an amazing show that went on for hours. He played literally every song that I could have ever wanted to hear him play live. Like Dierks, Brad made his way down the runway playing his guitar and singing about how much more fishing means to a man than the lady waiting back home. Just being able to watch a person play a guitar like he does is just simply astounding. I had never seen a set of fingers move so fast in my life, and it was all done while creating intense riffs and solos. I could not help it. I reached out and touched his boot, took a picture on my phone, and uploaded it to Facebook immediately to broadcast just how awesome our seats were.
Perhaps the most enjoyable song he played that night was “Celebrity,” not for the song itself that is, but because of everything else going on in the background. Taylor Swift came up on the jumbo screen behind the stage and began going to town on her Guitar Hero controller, while William Shatner was on another screen… being William Shatner.
To close the show, Darius Rucker and Dierks Bentley both came back out with microphones and, as a trio, performed “Alcohol” while the crowd sang along. The entire night was full of great music and an arena full of people that apparently love to sing more than any of the artists do. Apart from the music itself, I think one of the most spectacular events of the night was the last thing Brad Paisley did before he made his way offstage. A young girl was sitting on what appeared to be her father’s shoulders not too far from us at the edge of the stage. As Brad Paisley was singing his last few lyrics, he took his signature white Stetson hat off his head and placed it on hers. The crowd went wild and that little girl not only gained a very expensive souvenir, but a valuable memory and a cherished moment that she will never forget as long as she lives.
Looking back, I simply cannot believe how amazing that night was. Pure luck ended up yielding awesome seats and a load of memories that I will never forget. On the downside, every concert I have been to since has seemed to almost disappoint me as my first experience left little room for improvement. It is hard to justify spending hundreds of dollars on tickets like those that we had, but it is also hard to justify not buying those tickets when that one instance left such a huge mark on me.