Garth Brooks is coming to Greenville.
I first heard the news about the country superstar's return from my wife. She told me he would be performing on November 19th, but we could not go because we had a family wedding to attend. I pretended to act like I cared about us having to miss the show because Clay wanted to go, but this suited me just fine for several reasons.
First of all, I did not need anything competing with my 1991 Roping the Wind Tour experience at the Greenville Memorial Auditorium. The memories of that show at the Big Brown Box were too good and too strong to become clouded by a 2016 Garth show. In my mind the memory of jamming in a station wagon, speeding through downtown residential areas, while Honey honked out Dixie on the car horn could not be topped.
Secondly, my musical tastes have changed over the years. There was a time when country music was all I listened to. I was an Indian Outlaw, half Cherokee and Choctaw, and my wife...she was a Chippewa. Now, most mainstream country makes my ears bleed, although I am not one to get worked up about old country vs. new country. Look, if lyrics like, "Girl you make my speakers go boom boom, Dancin' on the tailgate in the full moon," are your thing, then so be it.
So, a wedding in the fall would normally lead to me going into anaphylactic shock only cured by an epipen to the thigh and a shot of Buffalo Trace, but this wedding would now be a welcome surprise. We were safe. My Garth memories were protected.
You can imagine my surprise days later, when I returned to my office and saw 3 missed calls from Clay. A child is sick, the dog is lost, or will you grill chicken tonight? were all things I thought Clay might be trying to reach me for in such a panic. Then I saw the text, "Sorry, I tried to call and ask, but Garth opened two more shows. I got us tickets for Sunday. It will be fun." I fell to my knees, a single tear rolled down my face, as the sound of Dixie being played on the car horn was slowly being replaced by Taps.
It is now concert day. I have a nervous feeling. My Facebook feed is filled with pictures and comments about the first two shows. BEST. SHOW. EVER. is all I see. Yet I just can't picture myself getting all worked up for Friends in Low Places. Clay is ready to go. She appears in boots and denim, looking amazingly great and amazingly country at the same time. I know Toby Keith once told me "I should've been a cowboy," but at age 39 I am more comfortable posing as a skater than a cowboy. So when it came time to decide on my footwear, I asked myself, "What would Sturgill do?" Vans it was.
We arrive in our seats. They are perfect. On the aisle and next to us is a nice couple in their 50s and the man is wearing a Clemson hat. So of course I asked him if he watched the Clemson game Saturday night. Clay explained to him that we watched it on a phone at a family wedding. He then says he had the same kind of dilemma, Brothers Osborne was at the House of Blues and he was not sure what to do, watch the game or go to the show. I can only imagine what my face looked like to him as I tried to process what he just said. It had to be similar to how my dog looks when I try to talk to her. You know the slight head tilt to the side and eyes get real big. That was my cue, maybe we should just hold off on the football talk.
The lights dim, the crowd goes crazy, Garth is running around like my son after two packs of Skittles and I am pondering how the thought of two pina colandas, one in each hand, can make people so emotional. Then something happened. Something involuntarily. I am not sure if it was from the help of my friends from Golden, Colorado or the first fiddle chord of the George Strait classic Amarillo By Morning, but when Garth began his tribute to George, my arm began pumping in the air like I was trying to punch the sky and the next thing I know I am belting out, Amarillo by mornin', up from San Antone...." From that moment on I was taken back to a time when life was simpler. A time when wall ball was played at lunch. A time when love letters were written in the form of mixed tapes. A time when Reid wore a pager. A simpler time. By the time Garth got to his classic The Dance, I am swaying with Clay like we are at a high school Terpsi dance. That is what makes music so great. My musical tastes have changed, just as I have changed, but what will never change is how great a companion music can be for whatever stage of life you are going through. So while I did not wake up today and feel the need to listen to Garth, I do thank him for allowing Clay and me the chance to be high schoolers again for a couple hours on a Sunday in November.
Garth may have taken my mind back to high school, but he did not take back my body. When the alarm went off this morning and I checked the mirror for what I was certain was a mouth packed full of cotton balls, I thought....I'm much too young to feel this damn old.