Last weekend, I went to my first “real” concert since 2019. The venue was Vina Robles Amphitheater, which is located at a winery about fifteen minutes from my house. The capacity, including the lawn, is only 3300 people. Now, I realize that during this time, 3300 people is about 3299 more than many of you are comfortable being anywhere near at one time. I get it. I am simply not you.
To begin with, let me get a couple of things out of the way. First of all, as a reminder, I am fully vaccinated, as is my husband, along with our dearest friends who were with us that night. The venue itself is an outdoor amphitheater, and they required proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of the concert. My county is currently under an indoor mask mandate, although as I mentioned, the stage is outdoors.
So, who did I see? You’re going to love this. I’m kind of giggling as I type, too.
I saw Train.
A reasonable question to ask at this point might be why I had tickets to see a group like Train, particularly as the first “big” concert out of the gates, after a long absence of live gigs due to Covid-19. After all, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned them occupying a spot on my list of favorites, much less have I expressed any kind of deep sorrow about not seeing them in years, or ever. These would be all fair assumptions and comments. I bought the tickets because our best friends were going, and these days – it is more important for me to be with them, than to really know the band I’m seeing. I’ll go to see pretty much anyone because there’s always something to like about live music. So yes, to at least some of you reading, I suppose I did risk my life in order to go see a band I really didn’t know. Judge away.
I would do it again.
This blog post really isn’t about the concert – or at least not about who I saw. Although, I will share my opinion that Train exceeded expectations. I had a great time. They’re a very talented group of people, and while I can’t say that their frontman is as good as OUR frontman (I mean, come on now), I still had fun. I also didn’t see women completely lose their shit over the band, try to climb the stage, or fight over set lists. So, there’s that, too. Yes, I looked. Refreshing.
Before the gates opened, we were lined up outside, waiting. Someone from security was sent out just before the line began to move. His task was casually and gently reminding those in line that before we would go through metal detectors or show our tickets, we would need to show proof of vaccination, or a negative Covid test within the last 72 hours. I don’t know how other states or countries are doing it, but here in California we have the same CDC paper vaccination record, and then there is a link through the state that can be utilized in order to get an electronic copy to be saved to a mobile phone as well (complete with a QR code). I carry both at all times.
When it was our turn, we stepped up, showed proof along with an ID, and it wasn’t a big deal. The venue was prepared to handle issues such as someone not having proof with a table set up off to the side for those problems to be addressed privately. Among the solutions offered was a 15-minute test to be completed right there, as I understand.
That night, it was about 90,000 degrees (Fahrenheit, naturally.) when we arrived. For those of you who had the joy of seeing Duran Duran in Paso Robles at the Midstate Fairgrounds back in 2016, it was warmer on Sunday night. Nearly “face-of-the-sun” hot, and no, I did not enjoy that. The good news was that we were allowed to bring stadium seats (“chairs” with backrests and no legs) in for the lawn, and we got there early enough to pick a great area at the very back. As in, we were in the last row possible. I have sat much farther back at Duran Duran shows and still not been in the last row, which is funny. The amphitheater is so small that you can sit just about anywhere, including back at the tables near the bars, and still have an excellent stage view. They also have season boxes and tables available, which Walt and I discussed with our friends about purchasing together for future years. All in all, it’s a gorgeous venue. Very classy, beautifully designed, and extremely well-managed, just super hot at times.
Originally, Walt and I had bought actual seats for this concert as opposed to lawn. As the time grew closer though, we agreed that it would be better if we just sat with our friends rather than right next to people we didn’t know. So that night, we chose to sit with them and leave our seats unoccupied. I’m sure they didn’t stay that way for very long!
Even as packed as we were on the lawn, there was still more room than sharing an armrest in a small seat with someone else. I can even admit that as the venue filled up, I imagined a photo being posted on social media with a familiar thumbs up at the bottom saying “Coronavirus Likes This”. I leaned over and shared this little anecdote with my friend Lisa, who is a nurse that is the head of Human Resources for a small hospital network. Needless to say, she laughed, and then announced that I am a terrible person for “dragging” her to this concert.
She is the one who bought tickets first, and then convinced Walt and I, I might add.
(I have a slightly warped sense of humor at times. It is who I am, and how I manage my stress.)
Listen, I won’t write here that everyone should be going to concerts, or that no one should be worried, or not wear a mask, or not get vaccinated. That’s not at all where I’m coming from. This summer caused me to change plans more than once, because I knew at the time it was the right decision. I’ve also witnessed people utilize far greater caution, requesting far more of their friends and family than I felt was reasonable. That too, was the decision that was right for them. Mutual respect is important. I don’t think that always happens. In fact, I know for sure it does not.
It isn’t up to me to say what is right for you, the reader. I don’t know know your personal situation. Anxiety, fear, and personal health issues all play their part, as well. Whether you believe we should remain at home until the pandemic is completely over, or otherwise, I wouldn’t dream of trying to convince anyone of anything. I’ve found that it has become far too easy to assume the worst of people right now, and too many of us have made an armchair hobby out of sitting in judgment without even beginning to know the full story. Welcome to social media, right?
Sunday night was a couple of hours of not thinking about Covid, or the future. It was about music, sitting with my husband, and enjoying wine with friends. My heart was happy. I was grateful for being able to be there. Given the band, no one was moshing, or even standing up dancing in the lawn. People were pretty mellow. Sure, someone might have had Covid in that crowd. I know the chance of becoming sick is there. It always is. Yes, I am aware the risk may be higher right now. It is a risk that I was willing to accept at that point in time. That may change depending upon how Covid is in the community, the band who will be playing, or even the weather.
My point is, I have no control over what other people do or don’t do. I can only control myself, and my reaction or risk mitigation. So I did what worked for me. I know what my doctors have told me regarding my own private health issues, and I know the heartfelt conversations I’ve had with them regarding the importance of continuing to live and enjoy my life. I saw what my dad went through, and I’m not going to waste a single second. I’m doing the best I can, and I hope you will, too.
On Thursday, I am seeing Pat Benatar. Same place, same people. I can’t describe how happy I am, and how excited I will be to see her – one of my true heroes – on stage.
Shout out to you lucky people getting ready to see the band – OUR band – in Birmingham. I hope each of you do the best you can to have an amazing time. It is up to you to make it happen, and then tell the rest of us all about it. I can’t wait to read about it all. -R