I've been going to concerts for the past 35 years. I saw Peter Frampton in 1976, and Lynyrd Skynyrd when they were all still alive ("Free Bird!"). I've seen Jackson Browne too many times to count, Bob Dylan twice, and Keith Urban four times. I've been to U2 concerts a few times and, yes, even seen Coldplay and Madonna. And while I've had a few up-close off-stage run-ins with rock stars, I've mostly seen them from a distance -- somewhere off to the side, in the way back or dead middle. And I'm comfortable with that. In fact, there is a pleasure in being anonymous in a huge crowd and just dancing and sweating and feeling the music in every cell. But for some reason, this summer I've seen every single concert up close. (I think it has something to do with Stubhub.com!)
I was so close to Jason Aldean in Hershey, PA, that I actually touched his leg! I also did the do-si-do with some very handsome and fresh-faced farm boys wearing checked shirts during one of his songs.
I was so close to Kenny Chesney (I was in the "sandbar") at the 50,000-plus Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia that I could see his armpit hair.
I was so close to Keith Urban that at one point he was only two rows away. He wears Levi's and a sparkly belt! And yes, he is cute up close.
Then there were the Courtyard Hounds, who played at the Bethlehem Steel Stacks Musikfest Café. The Courtyard Hounds are the Dixies (Martie Maguire and Emily Robison) without the Chick (Natalie Maines). There were only about 200 people there, and I was right up front. They smiled at me!
This is the point where you either expect me to say, "It was awesome!" Or, "It wasn't worth it!" But really, it's just different. It's harder to dance like a crazy person if you think that Keith Urban might actually think you ARE a crazy person, because he can SEE you... even look you in the eye. I have this funny image in my head of all of them getting back to Nashville for a fall picnic, and talking about this weird, old, frizzy-gray-haired lady who was up front at all their shows and looked them in the eye as if she knew them and sang along to every song. I'm just one of those summer concert tour oddities, I suppose.
But then, when I look around at all the other people I'm standing with, I realize I'm not the oldest, I'm not the craziest, I'm not odd at all. I'm part of a large group of people who are looking for joy, release, and fun while listening to the music we all love. Up close, farther back, it really doesn't make a difference. It's all good.
Next up... Sugarland at the Allentown Fair!
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com.