Sharing thoughts about Taylor Hicks and concert travels and other musical musings!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Traveling Circus Fairs Well at the Big E

I’ve found the biggest advantage to traveling alone is that I have no timetable to stick to while the biggest disadvantage, aside from being alone, is that I have no one to keep me on track! But this week-end, in addition to catching two Taylor Hicks concerts, was to be a time to just drive, think, ponder and see the scenery. And let me tell you, the scenery was beautiful!

As I drove from Bloomsburg, PA to Springfield, MA, the miles I covered were through some of the most beautiful mountain ranges I have ever had the privilege of traveling in and around. And I’ve been through a lot! The trees were just starting to change so there wasn’t a lot of fall color to be seen yet. Give it a week or two, and the mountains will be alive in all its brilliance and glory.

Speaking of glory, I couldn’t help but spend some time in prayerful communication with God (or whoever or whatever your higher power and creator may be). I don’t know what He used for His design plan, but when it came to the mountains, His imagination was peaked, no pun intended. From the tree covered ranges to the barren rock mounds, the entire scene left me feeling quite small and insignificant compared to the majesty of earth’s creation. The beauty was, well, beautiful. When you have a day with nothing planned, take a drive through the mountains or even around a lake and drink in the solitude. It leaves one with a sense of awe and peace.

And when I wasn’t in amazement with the mountains, there were the streams with the still waters and sand and rock bars in the center. These streams added to the beauty I was seeing as I drove along the interstate. Somewhere on I-84 on the New York side, there was a pull-off where you could stop and take pictures. Believe me, I stopped and just stared in amazement at what I could see.

So you can imagine what should take about four to five hours of driving time took more like six to seven for me! Between potty breaks and photo breaks, I finally made it to Springfield. And yes, I even managed to get a couple of pictures while I was driving, but it wasn’t too easy, but since I was stuck in traffic at the time, it helped make the time more enjoyable!

Because I took my time getting to Springfield, by the time I finally arrived it was 5:30 and I needed to get to the Big E so I could get to the Comcast Stage to get a reasonably decent seat. I checked into my hotel, freshened up and headed back out for the quick drive to the fairgrounds. Quick drive, about 5 minutes according to the front desk at the hotel. Right!

The quick drive of 5 minutes was more like an hour! Once I got close to the fairground, traffic was bumper to bumper and moving at a snail’s pace. Two cars maybe made the light before traffic stopped again. And then there was the rotary (like a circle with spokes leading off to other streets) that had three or four lanes of traffic trying to get around to the other side or the street leading to fair parking.

I opted for fair parking myself. Once I was able to get into the fair parking area, I paid my fee and drove down the strip to the parking areas. One road led to the back lot while the other led to handicapped parking. I tried the handicapped route to see what else might be closer. Good choice! I found parking about 100 feet from the entrance, not in the handicapped area either. It may have been the exhibiters’ parking lot. Anyway, I parked and headed into the fair.

With verbal directions I headed for the staging area. Once there, I was shocked to see how few people were already sitting down waiting for Taylor Hicks to perform! I found a seat and began chatting with a few others who were waiting for the concert. But I didn’t see any familiar faces which was strange. Needing a visit to the ladies’ room, I decided to try that first and then maybe I’d find more Soul Patrollers lurking about.

No merchandise table was visible, but I figured since the show was still over an hour away, there was no need to worry. I hiked through the exhibit hall behind the stage, watched the Royal Canadian Mounties and found the facilities. Once back at the seat, no more seats had been taken than when I left. Something was definitely wrong with the picture.

Finally I realized that the drum set on stage was some sort of pea green, nothing like what I’d seen Felix play in the past. The stage crew was working so I walked up to find out who was going to be playing. Some band I’d never heard of, so then I understood. I was at the wrong stage! I announced to the kind ladies who saved my seat while I went to the ladies’ room that this was not the right stage and headed off in the direction the stage hand told me. Ok, it was the Comcast stage I wanted – the BIG stage, not the LITTLE stage. Both stages said Comcast so you can hopefully understand the confusion!

Finally about fifteen minutes later I saw the right stage entrance. Oh my word! The area was huge! With seating for about 5,000 I wasn’t sure where I’d wind up! I started toward the chairs, but they were either taken or being held for late-comers or those off to take the last potty trip before the concert. No where was there a close seat for me!

I chatted with a couple of Soul Patrollers that I frequently see at shows, and had a couple of fans stop me that I’d met earlier in the summer. Since nothing in the chair area appeared available, I moved further back to the bleacher area. There off to the left of the stage I found a front row seat and took it. I wasn’t about to climb the bleachers and fall and break my neck. And I don’t do steps very well anyway.

With a planned cellcert for The Official Soul Patrol (TOSP) fan site, I made my phone call to make sure everything was set up and ready. I was lamenting where I had to sit, but it would be fine for what I was going to do. So what if I was too far back to get any pictures. I WAS going to be helping others listen to the show. A lady behind me quizzed me about the cellcert so I explained what I would be doing.

As I finished explaining the concept of a cellcert, someone I had spoken to earlier came running up to me and said she had an extra seat and to come join them. Not one to turn down such a wonderful offer, I left my bleacher seat and followed her. Thank you so much for thinking of me and coming to look for me! I hope you read this blog and will know just how grateful to you I am that you thought of me! If we meet up again, I owe you big time, and I hope I can return the favor for you. After all, that’s what Tay-ing It Forward is all about.

And what a great seat I was given! Fourth row, almost center of the stage! Mama was going to get some pictures with her big boy! Be sure to check out the PhotoBucket link for some great shots from the concert!

We sat and chatted while we waited for the concert to start. Behind the stage were the Midway rides including the usual Ferris wheels and some sort of ride that leaves you upside down on a circular roller coaster. It was fun to watch but not where you’d find me in this life time! No sir! I value my life, and my dinner, thank you very much! What went down was supposed to stay down!

Finally “Soul Finger” starts and the band takes the stage. They do their opening montage before Taylor Hicks takes the stage. Out comes Taylor at first walking in the dark off to the side and then he runs and leaps over a speaker and lands in a position reminiscent of a surf board rider. Hope Taylor has good insurance because he almost crashed landed. He had to catch his balance, but the grin on his face let us quickly know he was just fine! Like a cat that falls and ends up landing on his feet, Taylor had that look of “I planned it that way!”

With shouts of “Big E” and “how’s everyone this evening” amid a screaming myriad of fans, “Give Me Tonight” was the official opening song. Signature moves and clapping himself, the audience was up moving and grooving. Every where I looked people were standing and moving to the beat. Yes, old Rags, herself, was standing up! And tonight would have me sitting very little! That was a change even for this old bird!

“How’s everyone at the Big E! Soul Patrol!” Time for Taylor Hicks’ own original “Heart and Soul”. We are standing up and clapping to the beat. Taylor was looking great in a navy velour or corduroy jacket, white button down shirt and light blue jeans. Before tagging “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man” we were hearing more “Soul Patrol” shout outs! During the tag the band decided to play a trick on Taylor. The second time Taylor hit the imaginary ball, the band stopped, Taylor looked at Josh and then the band picked back up! Taylor’s expression was so funny!

Now keep in mind that I’m doing a cellcert for TOSP and attempting to take pictures. But how could I do both at the same time with only two hands, in spite of offers of help! For a while I try holding the phone and using the camera at the same time, but it wasn’t too comfortable. So what else could I do? Just to give you a visual of what I had to do to juggle my camera & cell phone. Picture a cat holding a mouse by its tail where the tail is in the cat's mouth and mouse is hanging down. Now I'm the cat and my cell phone is the mouse. You get the picture! Sorry, but there is no photo to prove the pose! Thank goodness!

Now I can watch, snap pictures and everyone can listen at the same time! What I note is that Taylor is smiling the entire time, stopping only to sing phrases that don’t lend themselves to smiling or to play the harmonica. It certainly wasn’t at the sight of me, contrary to what I might wish to think otherwise! Taylor was feeling the energy of the crowd and giving us everything he had and then some!

Lots of shout outs to the Big E and the Soul Patrol and acknowledgements of the individual band members. And lots of harp! Oh that sweet harp! Time for the first single off of his post-Idol “Taylor Hicks” album, “Just to Feel That Way”. And we were still up and going strong! We were certainly feeling the song and energy ourselves and giving it back to feed Taylor so he would have more energy to give us! What a trade we were doing!

One of my favorite covers, Traffic’s “Medicated Goo” was next. It’s hard to stand still, even for me, when Taylor tries to cure our ills with this number! And for those of us with crazy friends, even if our crazy friend is ourselves, “My Friend” is a jazzy little calypso number. It’s all about sharing that smile, and we sure were tonight! And so was Taylor – he was so happy that his face was glowing with joy! Or was that perspiration? Who cares – it was obvious the man was very happy and enjoying entertaining us!

Another favorite of mine is Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks”. Those young hearts beating free were what we were feeling and doing! When I surveyed the audience, the breakdown between male and female was fairly even, and all ages were well represented. There were even a few people standing behind that hadn’t seen Taylor Hicks since his American Idol days. And they were being Taylorized as the night wore on! WHOOO! Soul Patrol! Join us other crazy friends!

It’s always nice to hear Taylor Hicks do his own pre-Idol original music, so “The Deal” was a nice addition. I don’t remember if he played harp during it like he did at Newport News, but either way the song was great! “Gonna Move” followed and it had some different phrasing or way to handle the melody. I really liked the changes that I could hear!

With a Felix drum solo, “Soul Thing” led us into Jerry Reid’s, “Eastbound and Down” as Taylor shouted he was going to take us to church. Yes, we went alright, and it wasn’t even Sunday yet! Man, what Felix can do on a set of drums is pure magical! The bad thing about the Big E was this was Felix last night of the tour. We’re going to miss Felix, because no one plays the drums like him when it comes to “The Runaround”. No one!

Back to the album for “Heaven Knows” and “The Maze”. I think someone behind me shouted he wanted to be in the maze as well! Taylor tagged in some “Warm Love”, “Want Ads”, and the ever popular “Let’s Get It On”. Now you can only guess the audience response to that bit of tagging. And yes, Taylor was giving us lots of his booty dance, for lack of a better way to describe it! So much fun, so little time to enjoy and watch! Just a short bit, just enough to make us want a heck of a lot more!

With just a mike stand to hold on to, “The Right Place” tonight would be the Big E in West Springfield, MA. As Taylor begins the song, the audience sings along to Taylor’s amazement and he stops to laugh and then starts again. Yes, this was the right place alright. And the harp! Oh my! The chills just made the cool night cooler! The audience was still standing but much quieter as we savored the moment and song. Too bad it was never released as a single – I think it just might have been a winner. My opinion, that’s all I’m stating, my opinion.

Nearly an hour later the final song of the set, “The Runaround” starts with those drums giving full sound as only Felix can. Even Taylor does several of his spins and as he does his coat tail and shirt tail spins and rises to the point I’m sure we are about to see skin! But the shirt and jacket are a little too long and Taylor’s dignity is safe and protected.

Taylor thanks us for coming and the Big E for having him. We watch as he leaves the stage, shouting Taylor, Taylor, Taylor and knowing he will be back. We don’t have to wait long! He was closing the show with the Doobie Brothers, “Long Train Running”. Taylor wanted to know if we could hear the wail of the train whistle coming down the track. Yes, Taylor, we can!

“Without love where would you be now?” Without having heard Taylor Hicks what would we all be doing now? With that, Taylor said he’d see us later and bade us good night. When the song ended, Taylor asked us to applaud the band, gave us his famous ‘Ray Charles’ pose of head slung to the back and side and then he left the stage. When the band finished the song, the good-bye music started and the show was over.

Several of us turned around to see how the Taylor Hicks’ newbies were doing and they were definitely ready to see another show! Curiosity got the female as to why Taylor didn’t do “Do I Make You Proud”. A brief explanation followed and she was satisfied.

We made our way back to the merchandise stand to visit Stephen and then make our way out into the fair itself. I had a long walk back to my car so I started the hike out of the fair. Once in my car, getting out of the parking lot was not going to be so easy. Thirty minutes of no movement and I decided to cut across the parking lot. That proved a good move and soon I was on my way back to the hotel. Thank goodness Madge was with me – she got me back to the hotel safely.

Once back at the hotel, I thought I’d give the lounge a try for a late night snack. After waiting ten minutes or so without acknowledgement, other guests let me know I had to go to the bar for service. It was easier just to leave. I went by the front desk to get a delivery menu and returned to my room to place my order. Even though it was rather late, I was hungry. I went through my photographs as I waited. This was going to be a ‘nap’ night so it was fine.

As I reviewed my pictures I relived the concert and enjoyed it all over again. Too bad it had to end, because I had had a terrific week-end! But will it be enough to tide me over until Millersville in two weeks? We’ll just have to wait and see! Until then…..

Pictures from the Big E


Carlene said...

Geez I feel stupid! It never occured to me to warn any of you guys about the Big E traffic. Its always horrific even in the middle of the week and on the last Saturday...of course, now you already know that.
Glad you had a great time!

AgingHippie said...

Great recap and loved your drive time comments also.
I was right in front of you and laughed out loud when I read your cat with a mouse description because that was Exactly what I was thinking when I asked if you wanted some help. Wish I'd thought to snap a picture! :)
Wonderful pictures as always.

Anonymous said...

Considering your love of cats, I can completely imagine the cat/mouse look of you with the phone cord in your mouth as you take pictures. After seeing the mountains recently in all their splendor, I can tell you that what you saw had to be as georgous as what I saw. Sounds like you had a great time and I'm sad to hear that Felix has left the tour. Makes me glad that I have a picture of him with my girls. He's as awesome with the drums as Taylor is with his singing.

B :)

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