Three weeks ago, I was geeking out hard about a concert that I was headed to. In case you’re wondering, I had a great time. Had it been anything less, I might have burst several blood vessels in my eyes and taken to ramming my head into the nearest wall, repeatedly.
That road trip, which was supposed to be a couple of hours long …
…took five hours and change.
For what felt like days, I was in the middle of nowhere, stuck on the road with my husband and two dogs. In addition to the frustratingly crippling traffic, my little dog got car sick, several times.
The little guy yakked all over the place about an hour and a half into our journey. He repeated this horrific cycle a few times, making for a markedly uncomfortable road trip for everyone up front. The bulldog on the other hand, mostly relaxed in the back seat, soaking up the sun like a chill Sheryl Crow song.
Contrastingly, my husband was so annoyed with traffic that he wanted to stab everything in his way. He even wanted to stab me, in the face, with his words, every time I prodded him for conversation. I could tell even though he refused to admit it and the tension filled the car up quick, like a thick cloud of smoke intent on choking the fun out of all of us.
By the time we finally reached our hotel, we were spent. It was a thousand degrees outside and instead of being able to settle our dogs into their new space, we had to walk ‘em, feed ‘em, and run. We’d come all this way and endured all that traffic for a show. We had to go. We felt like jerks, but we had planned on arriving much earlier and there simply wasn’t anything we could do. The misery the traffic had stirred up was beginning to bleed into everything else about that day.
After giving the dogs extra treats for being good sports, we bolted and made our way to Thunder Valley Casino Resort. As Christoph and I drove up, we noticed that the outdoor amphitheater didn’t have any sort of canopy for shade. It was nothing more than a wide, open space with bleachers at one end and a large stage at the other. Chairs filled up the middle and Christoph & I were in the front row. The view was insane, the chairs comfortable and the setting beautiful, but still, it was distractingly hot.
Pepper opened the evening with an invigorating set. They got the place grooving before the sun even thought about going down. Every last person in that joint was jamming out to song after song of upbeat, in-your-face rhythm. A lot of folks had made an effort to get to the show early to see these guys. My friend Isabel was chief among those people. My husband too, he felt especially rushed to get there early enough to grab some drinks and socialize before we made our way to our seats. Once Christoph and I sat down, we realized exactly how front and center we actually were. I think these were the best assigned seats I’ve ever managed to get for a big show like that.
I was marveling at my view when I noticed that my legs were starting to sweat, heavily. The backs of my thighs sweat like a pedophile priest at the Pearly Gates when I overheat and it’s just as gross as it sounds. It was 106 degrees and we were ass-deep in drought-stricken California heat. Lincoln, CA doesn’t look like a big town, but it’s got this fancy casino, which in turn has this wonderful outdoor venue with no shade.
The outdoor amphitheater was actually great in every other respect, which I found confusing at first. The place was set up perfectly, there were lots of seats and they all looked to have awesome views. The sunset was going to be amazing from this location, but jesusfuckingchirst it was hot as balls. I’m sorry, guys, there is just no better way of putting it. It was warm, but being Mid-Atlantic transplants we were just glad it wasn’t a steamy, swamp-ass kind of hot. Instead, we were experiencing more of a dry heat.
So, whilst our skin cells evaporated clean off our bodies in this musical oven, we drank. My husband and I each had a couple of gin & tonics because we’re a team and it’s what we do. After one and a half, though, we’d had enough. We were afraid of spontaneously combusting due to prancing around in the heat with elevated blood alcohol content levels.
Soon we realized that we were going to have to focus on staying hydrated instead of starting a cocktail party in the front row of this particular show. We switched to bottles of water early on and hoped against hope that the sun would hurry up and set already.
Once Pepper hit the stage, their music pushed the heat to the back of everyone’s mind and they gave us all a reason to dance. Their set felt like a party from beginning to end. It was most like a celebration of the sound that makes these guys popular. No one wanted to see them go, but while they wrapped it up, they kept the energy concentrated and uplifting.
As Pepper left the stage they walked past Christoph and I to head out. Yesod Williams (drummer) looked over, drum sticks in hand, and smiled as I let out a loud and drawn out, “c’mon maaaaannn.” With a chuckle, he tossed me a stick and because I’m not the best at catching, I didn’t catch it. It landed about three feet from me, on the opposite side of the fence I was standing behind. When it hit the ground, I looked at it, looked back at Williams and then back at the stick. Finally, I just ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and summoned the biggest smile I could muster.
Homeboy smiled back, shook his head bemused and peaced out. It was hilarious and the moment was better than the stick. Besides, I’m way too old to be crawling around on the floor, dipping under fences, to retrieve concert memorabilia. Plus, I was wearing a short dress and trying to keep things under wraps.
As Williams departed, a chick that had come to the show with the group of guys standing to my left, dove under the fence and triumphantly returned with the drum stick. “Nice work,” I thought as I looked over at her. “There’s no way I could have gone after it, not with this dress on.” I said to Christoph. He smirked, giggled and agreed.
As the girl was returning to her seat, one of the gents with her said what sounded like, “…But he threw it to her. He meant to give it to her, specifically,” as he raised his left hand and pointed directly at me. When I saw this, I smiled nervously, uninterested in fighting to the death for a drum stick that may have been tossed in my general direction, but which I had clearly opted out of diving for.
Then, the most amazing thing happened. The woman thought about it for a second, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, smiled, and handed me the stick. Dumbstruck, I smiled wide like a child who’d just been offered an ice cream cone. Elated, I took it and thanked her profusely. “Faith in humanity restored at a Pepper performance, how awesome,” I thought to myself as I turned back toward the stage.
By this time, Kaleo Wassman (Vocals / Guitar) had made his way past the fans at the other end of the stage and was standing in front of Christoph and I. He had been throwing out guitar picks as he was walking out and paused when he got to me.
I knew the moment he stopped and smiled at me, that he was mocking my inability to catch that damn drum stick. This guy has a great smile, though, so it was hard to care about being mocked at the time. Furthermore, I always yell for stuff at concerts because stuff rarely gets thrown at me, so usually I’m safe. It is simply what I do and today it had gotten me two already memorable exchanges, despite dropping the stick.
In all honesty, I’m in it for the yelling, anyway. As an adult, it’s not really OK to run around yelling all the time, or at all even–it’s annoying and frowned upon. Because of this, there are few instances where it’s acceptable to shout. When we were kids, we could shout at recess or just because. As adults, we are not afforded this luxury and so I capitalize on any opportunity where it’s acceptable for grown folks to get loud.
As the resident loud person I shout-sing at concerts, in cars and while cleaning. I shout at organized sporting events. I shout at the screen when I watch boxing events. I shout whenever I can sneak it in, probably because I spend so much of my time typing silently at my desk. And, as you may have guessed by now, I shout whenever a performer ends a show and starts throwing stuff out at the audience. Usually, they ignore me, but this was not one of those times.
As I was saying, Wassman was clearly in it for the mockery when he took my hand, placed a guitar pick in the center of my palm and gently closed my fingers around it, thereby ensuring that I “catch” this guitar pick, but it didn’t matter. Excited, I thanked him for the pick with a dorky smile and then we all laughed at the mockery. As he and Bret Bollinger (bass / Vocals) left the stage area, I turned to my husband and said, “Oh my God, Pepper just made fun of me and it was awesome!” My husband simply shook his head at me in amused disbelief.
Pepper was done and now there was nothing left for us to do, but bake in the sun and wait. Christoph asked if I wanted to get some water and hang out under one of the shade tents, before 311 and I agreed. As I turned to gather my things, I looked down at the guitar pick that I was now clutching in my hand. I was about to drop it in my purse when it dawned on me that it would be lost forever the moment I did that. There are entire alternate universes in my purses and things have been known to go missing in there for years at a time, when I’m lucky.
Instead of losing this guitar pick forever, I decided I would give it to the woman that had given me my drum stick. What the hell was I going to do with the pick other than reminisce, anyway? Plus, that girl was now looking at me like “WTF I already gave her the damn drum stick and then this joker walks up to her and hands her an effing guitar pick?! Come on.” And so I walked over and said to her, “how about you take this instead?” She replied with that same wide, ice-cream smile and accepted with a kind thank you.
It was a wonderful moment and my favorite of the evening. Shortly thereafter, 311 took the stage, the sun set, and a glorious breeze hit the front row like a soft mist of relief. 311 came with it and put on a seamless show. The energy was high and the venue demonstrated why it’s an ideal location to hang out and listen to some music. In the end, even if I couldn’t catch that drum stick, I caught a good time and that was the ultimate mission. I had come to do what I do every summer: celebrate with good music and great friends. That part always proves easiest.