Shinedown with Will Hoge – Atlantic City NJ 2010-11-20
Again, this review will run a bit long, but if you read the first, you understand why.
Still riding the rush of the previous night’s Shinedown – wait for it – WOW experience, Saturday has arrived, I’ve uploaded Friday’s pics to Facebook, collected my tickets and printed some key pictures for the guys to sign. I depart the cold air of North Jersey for the just as cold air of Atlantic City. Despite having over 20 tickets to this show, I was meeting friends there and traveling solo. Loaded with Shinedown tunes for the 2hr trip, the Garden State Parkway cooperated for a smooth ride (this is scientifically an impossibility in the summer). This night I’m meeting my wonderful friends Kristal (with husband Chris) and Bonny (with husband Gordon). So if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed I have over 20 tickets and 5 people going. For the rest of you, apparently like me, math isn’t our best subject. More on that later. Our dear friend Angela, the last of our group, couldn’t be with us this wondrous day – but we still love her!
So Kristal, Bonny and I are texting all day, growing more excited with each passing minute. Kristal, being the closest, has arrived at Showboat in AC and located the House of Blues where the show is. I’m 30 minutes behind, arrive, take a walk not unlike the travels of the Von Trapp family at the end of “Sound of Music.” I spotted Kristal (and very logically assumed the man she was with was her husband Chris – thankfully I was write or this review would have been written quite differently). I approached, shared an excited hug with Kristal and handshake with Chris who commented he thought it was me, but the hair threw him off – All of my concert pics have short hair, but if you’ve seen the Shinedown concert pics, you’ve seen my hair has grown considerably). We ordered some food as Bonny and Gordon were another hour away. And away the story telling began, with a complete review of Friday’s adventure. Kristal knows whats in store for the night, but we’ve kept Bonny in the dark – she only thinks we have concert tickets, she doesn’t know about the VIP package. So I pull out my pile of pictures I’m getting signed, including ones of Meghan and I with the band from Friday. Then I pull out a bigger pile of tickets and go through the story of why I have so many, which I won’t try to retell here.
I’m fairly certain planets were created, thrived life and died in the time it took for Bonny and Gordon to find us. Their version is they went upstairs to the concert hall instead of downstairs where we were waiting at the restaurant. Hugs and stories exchanged, some drinks and many laughs, and off we go to the show. So we get upstairs and there are lines on either side of the entrance. One is a regular line, the other a fast pass line for those are get in ahead of the others. Since this is a general admission show, each line is well formed by the time we arrive an hour before the doors open. With our VIP package we aren’t on either line, so we just congregate in the middle near a support column and begin the festive task of distributing all the extra tickets.
So this task, which I’ve now experienced enough this year, represents 3 special challenges tonight. First, one my ticket is Diamond, so I have to find one person who I want to sit with, who I think will be fun and really rock out to the show, and still be appreciative of the opportunity (believe it or not, some people I’ve given tickets to feel entitled and don’t express gratitude for the special gift). Challenge 2 is to find a threesome for the 3 unused Silver VIP tickets, which is still a meet and greet with the band including the poster and laminate. The third is to hand out as many as possible floor tickets. None of these are very easy to do. The floor was large and the people online undoubtedly had floor because they were here very early to be the first to line up at the stage. But I did manage to find several VIPs with balcony seats who welcomed the floor tix. If they got through M&G quickly enough, they could’ve gotten to the stage before the lines since we were permitted in before the general public. Next, I found a threesome, two teenagers (couldn’t tell if they were siblings or boyfriend/girlfriend) with a parent. I approached as they seemed a bit lost. I asked if they were here for the show which they confirmed, then I asked if they had regular tix or meet and greet. They, fortunately for them and for my challenge, also confirmed regular tickets. I smiled and said “Not anymore. You’re meeting the band tonight. Enjoy the show.” I handed them the VIP tickets, they were stunned. The boy finally stammered and asked if I was serious and I laughed and said very much. He said they’d been to 4 shows and never met the band, I smiled and said they would shortly. I thought all 3 were going to break down and cry right there. They thanked me, I smiled again and headed back to my group. By this time, I think a few people were starting to notice the commotion I was making with the handouts and a few who turned down floor tix before re-approached, apologized and said they thought I was scalping. I laughed, said, not at all and re-offered the tix which they gladly accepted. Next, the most critical challenge – to find one person who would join our group, meet the band with us, get a guitar, autographs and ultimately sit next to me on stage for the show. I spot a women walking in by herself. She seems a bit questioning, but I notice she’s carrying paperwork like what I have, so I walk over. I ask if she’s here for the meet and greet. She says yes, but she’s not sure where to go since the emailed instructions were to meet at the box office which is actually downstairs, not by the entrance to the concert hall. I said I know, but I’m certain we’re in the right place. I ask what VIP package she has, she says she’s unsure. I laughed and asked for her ticket and joked she would know if it was Diamond or Gold. She laughed and agreed and we confirmed on her ticket she was Silver. I walked her over to Kristal (the rest of our group had found their way to the restrooms) and we introduced ourselves, then she followed – her name is Kristin. So for those of you keeping track, we now have Bonny, Gordon, Chris, Chris, Kristal and Krisin. Oy. Well, if someone calls “Chris” we have 75% of our group covered. Would you believe it Kristal’s Chris actually forgot Kristin’s name? We had a laugh about that. So Kristal and I are talking with Kristin and I looked at Kristal who smiled (she’s used to this by now and knows what’s coming) and I smile at Kristin and say I think you should stay with us. She asks why. I said, you won’t need your ticket, you’re coming in with us. She looks a little unsure of what’s going on, I turn to Kristal who laughs and suggests she stick with me tonight. She sees me handing out some more floor tix and asks “Who are you?” I always get that question. I’m no one. Seriously. Just a guy. Someone made a crack about being Santa and I laughed and said last year, when I was much rounder than today, yes perhaps that picture fits, but today I’m just a guy with some extra tix making people happy. Pay it forward. So off we get acquainted. Turns out she was at the Montclair show the previous night, in the audience, and had attended the PNC show over the summer that Bonny, Gordon and I were at (again, none of us knew each other then – great minds…….rock to the same music!).
Krisin is worried we’re in the wrong place and I say relax, they time on the instructions was more important than the place in my mind. Tonight was a 7pm m&g and it was only 645. I assure her, “Jake knows I’m coming, I think I made an impression last night, so he’ll be looking for me.” Jake is the road manager who keeps things moving, takes care of the band and oversees the VIPs. Sure enough a few minutes later, Jake walks out spots me, shines this big smile and heads over. We exchange hellos, handshakes and a few comments about the previous night in Montclair. He immediately asks how my date was with Meghan. Jake you are really awesome, I can’t say it enough, I hope you’re with the band when they tour again. He’s happy to hear things went well. I have to say, I feel like we’re buds at this point. He’s checking his paperwork and gets a quizzical look on his face. I anticipate the coming question, smile and head him off at the pass, “Yes, your paperwork is right, I have 9 meet and greet tickets tonight. And I have someone for every single one of them.” He laughs and comments “You are something else.” No I tell him, you are and we all appreciate it. He needs me to walk each group over as he calls my name for each package so he knows who’s using the ticket under my name. I do for the Silvers who go in first, everyone else is going in with me. There’s about 40 VIPs this time so he takes the Silvers in first which is the majority of the group.
We all wait outside, take some goofy pictures, share stories, get to know Kristin. Then Jake comes back out, hands out our laminates and posters and in we go. We get the instructions once inside and Jake starts handing out guitars. Then he gets to me, “And Chris, tonight you get 4 guitars!” Every head turns. Ok, to hear it out loud is impactful. “So who gets the guitars?” he asks, a big smile plastered across his face. He stands well over 6 feet. I give one to Kristal and Chris, the other to Bonny and Gordon. I thought they would cry. No seriously, what am I going to do with all those guitars? Really? And if I only wanted them to have an entrance ticket, I would have given them one. I gave them a VIP ticket, so they get all it comes with. Bonny was speechless. We were all smiles. And here’s Kristin, newcomer to our band of merry rockers, staring in awe. Now you don’t really expect me to leave her out do you? Bam, another guitar! Jake comes with 2 more, I keep mine, and I give the other to a shocked Kristin. She starts stammering about it being too much and she can’t accept it. I’m not having any of that, so she’s keeping the guitar.
Jake steps out, then comes back band in tow, “And here they are, the shortest band in rock.” Yeah, there was some laughter there. Now I’ve met Nickelback – they are TALL dudes. Shinedown, not so much, but they make up for it in personality! They walk the line, signing away. Bonny gets her leather jacket signed, the guitar, the laminate, poster. She exchanges hugs with all of them and Gordon wants in on the action so Brent (lead singer) gives him a hug too. It was a great moment. Kristal and Chris are getting their gear signed as well. Kristin has a personal thank you note for Brent and gets her guitar and collectibles signed. They get to me and immediately remember me. They ask how the date went, will there be another, how Meghan is, did we enjoy the show. Of course! Awesome to all! These guys, I just can’t tell you, how humble, personal, genuine they are. Just really good people. I’d love to know them personally as friends in life, but I’ll take these precious moments as I can get them. So I apologize as I’ve brought quite a bit for them to sign. There’s the guitar, the laminate and poster we all have. I also have the individual pics of Meghan and I with the band holding our guitars from Friday night. They remembered her and were all to happy to sign our pics. I also selected the best individual shots I had of the band from the summer concert. These are really clear, detailed, close-ups. And I ask they sign their individual photo (I’m going to make a plaque of sorts with each individual in the corners with the shots with my guitar in the middle). They comment on how good these photos are (all the credit to my trusty Canon and first row seats!). And as they are all in front of me, they remember I’m on stage again tonight and I introduce our new friend Kristin and tell them she’ll be with me. She’s floored. Can’t believe it. Bam! That’s how magic works!
Meet and greet over, all memorabilia signed, handshakes and pictures finished, we’re inside. Now I have to admit, I’m not a fan of this particular venue. Wasn’t really feeling it. It was floor so if you don’t get to the stage, it’s horrible. I will say though, the balcony seating was very close. Montclair’s balcony was set for back behind the open floor where this one came right up close. So balcony seats here are good (not that I was there, but the rest of our group did go to the balcony for Shinedown). We all stood on the floor for Bear (opener who is a member of Shinedown’s crew) and Will Hoge, about 10 feet from the stage. Bear was great and Eric (Shinedown bassist) joined him for a song. Will and band were amazing again. Great music, very interactive with the audience. He can rock some country music! Zach (Shinedown lead guitarist) joined him on stage for a song again. Then Kristin and I say goodbye to our group and fight the crowd to make it to the stage door. Jake meets us a few minutes later and brings us on stage with another couple who were Diamond VIPs. And bam, right behind Barry (drummer) again. And it’s the same, Jake is awesome, such an attentive and giving host. Checking on us, if we need drinks, water, if we’re enjoying the show. The band comes out, again, looks over to us and acknowledges us during the show, waving, thumbs up. For those few seconds, they are giving us directly their undivided personal attention. It’s amazing. And again, each walked off stage to us during the show, shook our hands again, asked if we needed drinks or anything and if we were having a good time. Such a tremendously personal experience I will definite remember for life and experience again if given the opportunity by such a gracious and fan-loving band. Seriously big thanks to Brent, Eric, Zach, Barry and Jake for hosting an incredible weekend, making it so personal, enjoyable and fun. And a special thanks to Bonny, Gordon, Kristal, Chris and Kristin for sharing in this wonderful adventure and of course again to Meghan for braving the unknown on our first meeting, dinner and date Friday night. Many more adventures for all of us ahead!