Last night and this morning I enjoyed a visit to Greenville, S.C.--as far as I can recall, my first.
I drove into Greenville around 5:30 pm, arriving right at the doorstep of the Bi-Lo Center, site of the Zac Brown concert I was going to attend. I wanted to scope the area, both to avoid paying $20 for parking (I found $5 parking pretty quickly), and to locate a convenient hotel and St. Mary Church, where I had planned to meet the pastor for 7 am (!) Mass the next day.
Well, traffic was congested so I didn't go round the block too much; and thus found neither a convenient hotel, nor the church. I opted for parking while it lasted. Then I set off on foot for some congenial place to get a beer and something to eat.
I hap'ed upon the City Tavern, which had a good selection of draft beer (always a good sign) and wasn't overly crowded--even though downtown was. I ordered a beer and some wings and set to it. Meanwhile, I'm watching the time; the concert started at 7 pm and it was a bit after six.
Not too long after that, a fellow sat down next to me and--as some people do, they just start talking to you as if they know you. His wife came in a moment later, and before long, we found out we were all headed to the concert. Noticing me watching the time, he laughed and said, don't worry, Zac won't start playing till nine.
Yep--they'll have two warm-up acts first.
Now I'm thinking about Mass at 7 am: "What time do you think the concert will wrap up?"
Oh, before midnight, he said--the neighbors complain otherwise.
As we talk, he tells me about his business, about how he and his wife rode an airport shuttle up from 45 minutes away--meaning he didn't have to worry about how much he drank tonight!--and we talked about the area.
When he asked what I did, I said, "you'll never guess." (I might add that several of his friends had wandered by and now there was a group of five or six gathered around me.) After a few guesses ("sales?" "Sort of..."), Jeff said, well this isn't fun anymore, you have to tell us. I said, "how about I show you?" His wife Cindy said, "oh, that sounds interesting!" And with that, I pulled out my driver's license--with me pictured in my clerical attire. (At the moment I was wearing the sort of bright-colored, pretend Hawaiian shirt old guys like me buy cheap at Old Navy.) "Oh, you're a priest!" "A Catholic priest?" his friend asked. "Of course," responded Jeff--as if to say, what other kind would he be?" My new friends all seemed to think this was outstanding; Jeff advised me, in a friendly way, that this was all Baptist territory, while Cindy said, "that means you can smoke and drink and gamble, right?" I said, well, I don't smoke--"but you can." I was content to smile genially and drink my beer.
I'd had two beers, and was going to go, but taking heed of Jeff's obvious point about the warm-ups--and enjoying these folks (did I mention they apologized for cussing? Then kept right on...), I ordered one more. About when I finished that, Jeff suggested I stay for one more, but I'd had plenty, and neither wanted to be sleepy nor have to make a pit-stop during the concert. And being of a "show up on time" sort of mindset, I was bothered by the time and decided I'd walk over to get my seat.
Well I should have listened to them! The place was dead; I arrived (I learned later) after the first warm-up had finished; and not wanting to sit in my seat doing nothing, I wandered around till I heard the next act begin. It was a fellow named Nic(k?) Cowan, who did some pieces fairly well, but nothing memorable nor anything I liked a whole lot. Meanwhile, where I was filled up a bit. I enjoyed watching other folks around me (including glancing periodically at the constant texting of the young lady next to me) but otherwise, a drag. Then that act wrapped up, cleared the stage, and more waiting. Of course, I could have had another beer--the fellow next to me said they cost $9 ("but they are big!"), which is what I'd spent on all the beers I'd had earlier--but I didn't want anything.
Sure enough, it was not till just before nine when folks really started filling the place and the noise level began to swell. A big build up till the curtain dropped and behold! Zac and his band! The crowd erupted; everyone's standing. (Did I mention my feet hurt from walking up and down Cocoa Beach the day before?) So we all stand.
After awhile, I saw my friends show up, but it wasn't easy getting to them, and besides, maybe they were just being polite to an obvious out-of-towner; and it was dark so I doubt they could see me, even with my bright old-guy shirt. (Aside: I wondered what the age profile of the event would be; I was relieved not to find myself the only old guy amidst a bunch of folks in their 20s. In fact, the ages ranged from fairly young children--not many--to folks in their 60s, some teens, but with most 20s-40s.) Everyone hooted and hollered and in my own squarish way, I did a little of that. The young lady next to me had stopped texting.
A few songs in, I get a tap on my arm--it's one of the guys from the bar! He says, come over and join us! So I climb out of my row and come with him; everyone remembers me and Cindy gives me a hug. This was helpful (being pulled over, not necessarily the hug), because now I got a running commentary on the songs. My new friends, in the meantime, had--to all appearances--done their best to sustain the local beer distributor.
A couple of the guys were sort of circling--each other and other folks--as they drank their beers, gave high-fives and shoulder-bumps to each other and anyone near. Once again, they seemed so happy I was there, and I have to admit, it was a lot of fun. Did I mention my feet hurt? No matter.
Well, if you've been to a concert like this, you will not be surprised to hear there were flashing lights, smoke effects, and at a couple of points the performers were hoisted over our heads by whatever you call the things that do that. There was a sort of runway that extended out from the stage, and the band members would periodically charge down the runway, furiously playing and singing. The violinist and one of the guitarist were especially impressive in that regard. How anyone can play an instrument and sing, let alone do both and jump around like that, utterly amazes me. As my seminary classmates well know, I found it impossible to step off a curb after a Reds game without breaking my foot.
The big finale was "Chicken Fry" which Cindy said was a special song for Jeff and her, and everyone seemed to know the words by heart. Then--sure enough--the show came to an end, about 11:30 pm.
I bade farewell to my new friends and invited them to look me up if they ever made their way to Cincinnati and as usually happens in a crowd like this, we got separated. I got back to my car, and now began my search for a motel. I'd called a downtown hotel while at the tavern--all booked up. I headed out a few miles to a La Quinta--all booked up; I drove a couple miles more and found a room. I still hadn't found the church, but I had an address, and figured I'd manage the rest. As I got to sleep around 12:30 am, I was tempted to sleep in and call Father later, but--no, I was going to see it through.
Continued in next post...