I don’t think any of us planned to wind up there together last Saturday evening. We all had tickets to see Ben Rector’s Nashville stop on his “Biggest Tour I have Ever Done” – me and Jess, Kathryn and Lexie, and Minta, and we all decided it would be much more efficient to carpool than to try to drive and park in downtown Nashville separately. Once we got there, we all had seats for the lawn, so what was the sense in splitting up? Even though a few of us had just met each other as we were loading the trunk and piling into my car that afternoon, when we walked into Ascend Amphitheater, giddy with anticipation and the fact that we were able to bring food into the venue – we were a band of five.
The grass was soaked from an afternoon thunderstorm, the kind I could swear is native only to Nashville, and we threw together all the blankets, towels, and rain gear we’d brought in an effort to claim a spot and keep ourselves dry. We were in line early enough to have first dibs at the lawn, and wound up right at the front – for once in my life, I wasn’t going to have to strategically shift my weight around to be able to see at a general admission concert. We got ourselves set up, then made a beeline for the merch stand and all came back with guilty-pleasure concert t-shirts, justifying each others’ choices, planning what we would wear them with and how often. Steve Moakler performed as we snacked on the picnic dinners we’d brought, then Colony House took the stage, and I hummed along as we tried to wait patiently for the main event.
The other thing about that night – it wasn’t the easiest day of our lives. We all had things weighing heavy on our hearts when we got there, or that cropped up somewhere in the middle, or that were already pulling at us in the days to come. We shared some bits and pieces, but not everyone knew everyone else’s story. But we all wanted to be there, and we all choose to be there with each other – so it wasn’t the thing that mattered.
We waited to stand up til the first notes of “Fear” echoed through the energy of the crowd as Ben took the stage. The lights, the cheers, the melody reverberated off the river and into the core of each of the towering downtown buildings around us. Something about an outdoor concert in the twilight of summer made me feel like the city was singing with us. Maybe it was because Ben’s music is so honest, or maybe because it’s so easy to dance to, but every song struck a chord in each of us, in different ways. Some we just listened, some we danced like fools, and to all of them, we sang every word together.
I’ve been to concerts where my head was somewhere else. And I’ve been to concerts that were more about the person I was watching than the people I was with. Every second of this night, I was all in, and so were the friends alongside me. We didn’t just listen, we lived and breathed that moment in together. And that’s what makes a night unforgettable – the fact that it’s tangible, it was real and it was electric and it was exhilarating.
When I saw Taylor live last year, she talked about how each night of her tour was one of those moments of pure joy she would pull out of a drawer in the back of her mind when the world wasn’t going the way she had planned, she would let herself go back to that moment and let herself feel what she felt then. This was that night for me. Senior year is crazy, and transitions are challenging, but there is so much wonder to be found in the in-between if you keep your eyes open for it.
And if you haven’t heard White Dress live on Spotify? Or watched Ben take six fans to Six Flags instead of making a music video? If you made it reading this far, you’ve got to be curious now. Go find your own wonder, whatever that looks like – but give Ben a whirl while you’re at it.