Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer Adventures Abound!

I can't believe that it's been since the end of May since I last blogged!  My intentions from the beginning were to try and blog on a weekly basis, but I've been busy.  In fact, the things that have been keeping me busy will likely be the primary focus of my blog.  I also can't believe that the summer is about half-way over!  While I don't have the fortune of being off work during the summer, there is just something about that laid-back-summer-mentality that I love.  It has been extremely hot this summer in Arkansas, but it does seem that it has been cooler than last summer, which is welcome!

I have been very fortunate to have already had several super-fun summer adventures that are definitely ones "for the books."  Along the way, I've also made some new good friends and enhanced my relationship with my current friends.  Since several of my friends have told me that they "live vicariously" through my travels and adventures, I will try to share the highlights of my summer so far.

Just a few days after my last blog, I was blessed to have my favorite band (Widespread Panic) come to my hometown and headline the Friday night Riverfest show.  While they have played in Little Rock several times in the past (at Robinson Auditorium, Riverfest Amphitheater, and Alltel/Verizon Arena), they have never played Riverfest festival.  This year, WP played a "festival tour" in May where they played several music festivals - primarily around the Southeast.  There is nothing better in my book than having WP play in Little Rock.  Hometown Panic makes my heart very happy!  That particular day was one of the best days I've had in a long time.  I had a new friend from South Carolina come to Little Rock to hang with me for the Panic weekend.  We started the Panic celebration with a huge pre-show gathering at my long-time favorite Rivermarket bar, Sticky Fingerz.  It's been too long since Panic played in Little Rock (which always includes Sticky Fingerz events), and so I was very excited just to pre and post party at Stickyz.  To add to the sweetness, I was completely surrounded by at least a hundred people who I haven't seen in forever.  There are so many people that I've met through the Arkansas music scene and through the Panic music scene, so the pre-show, the Panic show, and the post-Panic show were all like a huge family reunion of people that I love.  Some that I see regularly, some that I haven't seen in years, and even a few that I've met through WP related Facebook groups but had never met in person.  It was absolutely wonderful and I was in heaven.  The stage that Panic played on was on the Little Rock side of the river and faced the Clinton Library.  The weather was perfect, the crowd was awesome (especially for a festival crowd), and I was surrounded by some of my most favorite people in the world.  As if life wasn't already great enough that day, my friend Chris Kotoun surprised me with an extra backstage/VIP pass that allowed us to hang backstage during the show and watch the concert from an elevated reserved area on the side of the stage.  After 140+ shows, I've never had the fortune of going backstage or even meeting a single band member, so this surprise was one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to me!  Chris and I were backstage before the show, and while we didn't get to go into the band's lounge area, we were literally at the foot of the stage when the band exited their trailers to head to the stage.  Of course, I was dressed in my alter-ego 'costume' which is basically a platinum bob wig that makes me feel very rockstar-esque and I have SO much fun when I wear it.  As the band walked towards the stage and past Chris and me, most of the band members weren't paying any attention to us, but Dave Schools (rockstar extraordinaire) pointed at me and mouthed "rockstar" at me.  There are no words to describe the pride I felt by his simple words and acknowledgement.  We watched over half of the show from the elevated viewing area on the side of the stage (see pictures for view), and it was completely amazing to see the boys so close and, even better, to get to view the crowd from the band's perspective.  During the show, I floated back and forth between the backstage area and the spot where most of my crew was hanging on the lawn.  The viewing area we hung out in was on Jimmy's side of the stage, so I was essentially facing Schools all night.  While it may sound like an exaggeration, I know for a fact that Schools on several occasions made eye contact with me and gave me the raised eyebrow right before he dropped a huge "bass bomb" as if to say 'watch this.'  I felt like he was playing for me, and I have no doubt that he could sense my awe and love for the band.  I was grinning from ear-to-ear all evening.  I am forever grateful and forever indebted to Chris for sharing his extra backstage pass with me.  I will never forget the experience, and to have it all happen in my hometown just makes it seem like a dream.  After wrapping up the evening with an awesome post-Panic show by Weakness for Blondes at Stickyz, we headed for my house to get some rest because we had a big day ahead of us the next day.

Saturday morning came and we trekked to Kansas City to see Panic in the only non-festival venue of that tour.  Though I had been to KC several times for work, I'd never seen Panic in KC and have always heard wonderful things about shows they play in KC and about how super the Midland Theater was.  We made it to town in time to have some local barbecue at Arthur Bryants (awesome).  We were lucky enough to have a hotel that was literally a block from the Midland Theater.  The boys played a smokin' show in KC that night, and I left town the next day feeling really satisfied and so glad that we made the trip.  Memorial Day weekend was definitely one I'll never forget, and there's nothing I would do differently.

The best way to avoid "post-Panic depression" is to have future plans to look forward to when returning from a good Panic weekend.  Fortunately for me, I had a big one to look forward to after the LR > KC weekend:  Red Rocks.  Though 2011 would be my 7th year to see Panic at Red Rocks, it had been since 2006 that I'd seen them there and it felt like forever.  I made the trip with my awesome sister and met my friend Richie in Denver.  However, there were several (10+) people staying at the same hotel as us that I have met recently through Panic, so it was awesome that we got to hang with some of those good people.  Additionally, we spent some good time with my new friends Mac and Chance, some fellow Arkansas boys who love Panic like I do.  Once again, there were so many people in Denver that I knew and though they played 3 nights (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), there were quite a few people that I either didn't get to see at all or didn't get to spend the amount of time that I wanted to with them.  That seems to happen everywhere I go.  Panic has always played excellent shows at Red Rocks, but I knew that this year would be extra special because 1) it's their 25th Anniversary year and 2) they're taking an indefinite hiatus after this year.  They have been 'breaking the rules' and playing songs that have never been played before, so I knew we were in for quite a treat at Red Rocks.  I just had no idea what a treat they had up their sleeve.  While Friday and Saturday nights were great shows, the Sunday matinee show was hands down one of the top 5 shows I have EVER seen.  I don't say that often, but I mean it when I say it.  The first set was all original Panic songs and the second set was all cover songs.  And not just any cover song.  Every single song they played in the second set were songs that I "chase" for months at a time.  The second set of Sunday night was one that I don't think I could have even dreamed up.  And if I did, it would have been just that - a dream.  I never in my life thought that I would witness a set such as this.  And to make things even better, Sunday night was the night we chose to do the "tarp run," which scored us second row seats and put the icing on the cake.  "They" always say 'never miss a Sunday show,' and "they" are so freakin' right.

I was completely exhausted after traveling and 3 intense nights of Panic, so I really was looking forward to going to our family's lakehouse the following weekend for the Fourth of July with my favorite girls - my mom, my sister, and my niece.  It was a nice relaxing weekend and I got to spend some great quality time with my family.  Every time I am around my niece, I fall more in love with that child and I would do anything in the world just for a sweet smile of hers.  The long weekend at the lakehouse was just what I needed to re-energize for what was to come on the following weekend.  :)

I have never been to California before in my life.  The opportunity presented itself and seemed like it was meant to be because 1) Panic was playing a 2-night run in Oakland at the Fox Theater, 2) I have a good friend who lives just a few minutes from the Fox Theater, and 3) I had a Delta travel voucher for a free flight that I hadn't used.......yet.  So, I had the fortune of traveling to San Francisco for a 3-day weekend and got to visit my friend Richie while also seeing Panic 2 nights in Oakland.  Though I knew 3 days would fly by, we were able to squeeze in a few touristy things and saw enough to know that I definitely want to go back when I have time to do all of the wonderful things that the SanFran area has to offer.

Returning home from California, I was absolutely exhausted.  I was honestly a little glad that I didn't have anything planned travel-wise (at least anytime soon) and could just look forward to being at home and relaxing.  Don't get me wrong, I would always love to be on Panic tour, but a good part of me also just wanted to be a homebody, stay home with my dogs, and just relax and enjoy some "me time" by the pool.  And that is just what I intend to do.

Though work has been keeping me very busy (and stressed) in the last couple of weeks, I am trying to focus all of my efforts and energies on doing things that make me feel good, productive, and relaxed.  Even if it is as simple as sitting on my deck with ice tea and a good book, it is an indulgence that I intend to pursue.  There is some serious "downtime" that is long overdue, and I plan to get caught up on it.

Just reading through all of the fun things I have done recently makes me tired.  And so, I will wrap up this blog entry by saying how grateful I am that I have the means and motivation to do such fun things.  I love and appreciate all of the people that I have spent time with in the last 2 months.  I appreciate that I have a job that allows me to take time off to do the fun things that I do, and I don't take any of what I have for granted.

I am very excited now about the relaxation and productivity that this weekend holds.  I think I'm gonna turn off the phone and the alarm clock for the weekend and just breeze through the weekend without regard to what time it is and any place that I'm expected to be.  Just let me make it through the workday tomorrow and all will be well with the world.

I hope everyone has as great of a weekend as I plan on having!  Peace and love to all!.......

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