Well, I guess I must be living right or something, because I actually made it to a second show this year! The story of how and why it all happened is just a wee bit complicated, so settle yourselves comfortably, folks--this is going to take a while. (And while certain details might sound a bit like boasting, or others as an appeal for pity of some sort, I assure you that neither was my intent. I just figured that if I was going to go to the bother of writing all this down in the first place, it was better to tell the complete story and hopefully keep it interesting to read, rather than editing a bunch of stuff out and having it all sound a lot more boring than it actually was!)
So: I first heard about this show on MySpace in early July, and at the start, I didn't know anything except the date and the city. So I thought, Well, Fargo's closer than most, but still not within driving distance; I'll wait until I know more of the details before I decide whether to go. A few weeks passed, and nothing more came up, but then, just after a string of shows on the east coast later that same month (one of which I had actually considered going to myself, but had to forego when my husband got a new job earlier this summer and lost all his vacation time) a friend sent me an e-flyer for the Fargo show. And as I looked it over, a tiny little detail toward the bottom caught my eye:
Approximately one tenth of a second later, the decision was made--I would be there no matter what it took! I had initially hoped I could find someone to go to the show with me, the way I did with my friend Irene back in June for Franklin Park, but unfortunately as I checked in with all my potential travelling partners, no one thought they would be able to make it. I wasn't thrilled about going alone, but I also wasn't about to pass up that meet-and-greet, so finally I just gritted my teeth and started making reservations for myself. At the same time, I emailed Sally (webmaster of Jimi's official site and a longtime friend of mine from the fandom) about buying tickets, since her email was listed on the e-flyer, however she told me that the one I actually needed to get in contact with was Chris Weivoda, a gentleman in Fargo itself who was helping her coordinate the show. Okay, no problem--I sent him a message and he was quite pleasant and helpful about the whole thing, and got a concert ticket and a meet-and-greet pass in the mail to me that very same day.
This was still a month or so before the show date, so I had a few more weeks to get ready--and to start worrying about how exactly I was going to manage this trip by myself. I get nervous enough about travelling even in the best of circumstances, and the thought of not having anyone around to lend a hand if something really went wrong didn't help matters at all. So I decided that I'd best plan the whole thing out in as much detail as I possibly could beforehand, which would hopefully allow me to be at least semi-prepared to solve or adapt to any problems that might come up. And one of the first things I did was hit Google Maps to figure out where exactly the show location was in relation to the hotel I would be staying at. Well, I found the place with no problem, but when I really got to looking at this "Morty's Bar & Grill" which was listed on the e-flyer, I started thinking, Wait, now--that building doesn't look big enough to hold even a stage, let alone an audience of any size, unless they're planning on packing us in there like a bunch of sardines. Moreover, Morty's was not actually in Fargo, or even in Moorhead, the smaller sister-city just across the state line (Fargo sits right on the very eastern edge of North Dakota). It was instead in Glyndon, a tiny little town a few miles east of Moorhead, and there was practically nothing around it except crop fields. So then I started thinking, Oh dear. The show isn't supposed to even start until 9 PM, so I'm going to be there alone, in the dark, in practically the middle of nowhere, driving an unfamiliar rental car--and if the setting is a bar, goodness only knows what kind of people will be there, or how much alcohol they're going to consume over the course of the night. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.
To be honest, if I hadn't already bought my plane tickets, at that point I might well have considered just calling the whole thing off, much as I would have hated to lose the opportunity to see and speak to Jimi again. But since cancelling would be expensive and probably just as much of a hassle as going, that didn't seem like the best option, either. So at last I resigned myself to the fact that I would just have to go and hope for the best--if nothing else, Sally was supposed to be there, so I'd have one friendly face around during the show, and since the meet-and-greet was scheduled to start at 7:30 according to the pass Chris has sent me, it would still be at least partly light out when I arrived. It was getting back out after the show was over that would be the trick, and I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that the more I thought about that one thing, the more frightened I got, to the point that one night I had a really awful nightmare about it. Which was when I finally said to myself, All right, this is getting out of hand. I may still have to do the trip alone, but that's no reason not to ask for a little moral support beforehand--I need to talk to someone about all this and see if I can get out of panic-mode about it.
So, over supper the next day, my hubby and I hashed the whole thing out between us, figuring out which parts of my fears were really valid and what was just paranoia, and brainstorming ways to minimize those risks I couldn't avoid. That in itself helped a LOT--Peter is really MUCH more of a down-to-earth sort of person than I am, and better about keeping things in a realistic perspective. And in the process of talking it all out, I had the thought that if Sally was going to be there, and this Chris Weivoda with whom I had already spoken via email, then surely there would be other people at the show that THEY knew and could vouch for, and if I was still really bothered by trying to get back to my car at the end of the evening, perhaps I could ask one of them to walk me outside. Peter agreed that this was an excellent idea--but then he grinned and suggested that maybe I should ask Jimi himself to be my escort! Now, I will admit that the notion had already crossed my mind, as well (what can I say? I'm a writer, and crazy stuff like that is pretty much my stock-in-trade ) but I just shook my head and told him it was a complete fantasy. And he said no, he was serious--Jimi sounded like a pretty good guy from everything I'd had to say about him, and you never knew, he might be willing to help me out if I asked nicely enough. Whereupon I gave him a look from under a lifted brow and said, "Yeah, and he and I out wandering around in the dark together isn't YOUR worst nightmare?" And Peter just laughed and said that if it was a choice between me getting mugged and having Himself make a pass at me, he'd take the latter. (Not, I hasten to add, that I'm anything like Jimi's type--I daresay the age difference alone is enough to guarantee disinterest on his part on THAT particular score, even leaving aside the fact that I happen to be quite happily wed to my Geek. But the conversation WAS pretty funny, and it's nice to know that Peter can still surprise me even after 12 years of marriage! )
So, that broke the tension enough that I could start thinking more practically and less emotionally about the whole venture, and after a day or two more had passed, I sent Chris another email. Peter had suggested that if Morty's itself looked too small to hold a concert, but the parking lot was fairly good-sized (it was) then maybe they were going to hold it outdoors instead. Which was certainly a possibility, and given the usual night-time temperatures that far north at that time of year, I figured I had best know for certain so I could pack clothing appropriate to the weather. I was curious about how many people they expected to be at the meet-and-greet, too, and the only way to find this stuff out was to ask--I might not get an actual answer to the second question, but it certainly couldn't hurt just to make the inquiry. Well, yes and no. Chris was actually very nice about the whole thing and answered my questions about the show itself easily enough: It was indeed being held outside, under a big tent in case of rain. Which made me breathe a sigh of relief on several counts--I wouldn't have to go inside the bar after all if I didn't want to, and if the show was outdoors, then surely there would be some sort of lighting set up around it so I wouldn't be walking around in complete darkness to get to and from my car. But at the end of his message back, he also told me that the meet-and-greet had been CANCELLED! Oh, good Gods, the whole reason I'd signed up to go to this show in the first place, jerked out from underneath me??? (If you heard a scream from the direction of Colorado that day, that was probably me. ) All was not lost, though--he also said that he had mentioned me to Sally, where I was coming in from so far out of town and all, and she remembered me (well, I would HOPE so! ) and had already said that she would make sure I still got a bit of time with Jimi while I was there. And I confirmed that with her directly the next day, which I'm sure you can imagine was a huge relief, particularly where I'd already had photos and things printed up in anticipation of being able to get them autographed. (Bless you, Sally--I owe you big time for that one! ) So that was sorted out, and now all that remained was to finish getting ready for the trip.
I'll admit I was still very nervous when I left on Friday, just because there were so many "firsts" for me this trip--I'd never flown on a regional jet before, only the big ones they use on the major routes, and I'd never gate-checked luggage either. (Had to do that--my main carryon is too big for the bins on the smaller plane.) This was my first experience with renting a car, too, and with shipping something to the hotel where I was staying ahead of time--I really wanted my camera tripod for the show, or rather the pieces of it that become a monopod, and I'm always afraid airport security will take it away from me because it looks like something that could be used as a weapon. And I really hated to have to check a bag on such a short trip for just one item, so it seemed more efficient to just pack it in a box and FedEx it to the Country Inn, although I did worry about it getting lost or stolen or something anyway. Well, for all my nerves, the trip out was practically as smooth as silk; the security guys didn't hassle me about anything, I gate-checked my bag without issue, and the flight itself was fine apart from being a little rough on take-off and landing. (The weather was unsettled that day--windy in Denver and raining in Fargo--but as long as we were at cruising altitude, up above the clouds, it was pretty much smooth sailing.) I even got the car rented without a hitch, and the hotel indeed had the box with my tripod waiting at the front desk when I checked in. So I was able to go up to my room, call Peter to let him know I was there and safe, shoot off an email to my mom to tell her the same thing, and then eat some supper and relax with the book I'd started on the plane for the rest of the evening.
Okay, one more small bit of back-story and then we'll get to the details about the show itself, I swear. When I had packed for this trip, I had been very careful to make sure I included my ticket to the concert, but I didn't want it to get creased by just tossing it in my suitcase loose, so I tucked it away inside a notebook I was planning to bring with me instead. I had originally packed two notebooks, however, and just before we left the house to head to the airport, I decided that my backpack was a little overstuffed and I really didn't need to carry two separate notebooks with me after all. So I took one out and left it in the living room, and--yes, you guessed it--it was the one with my ticket inside. ARRGH! Fortunately, Chris had sent me an MP3 of the advertisement for the show which was being played on the radio stations in Fargo before I left, and it had said that tickets would be sold at the door as well as in advance, and since everything was general admission anyway, I figured that if worst really came to worst, I could just re-purchase it when I got there. Where I realized that I'd left the existing one at home after I'd gotten to the hotel on Friday evening, though, I decided that, just to be on the safe side, I'd give Sally a call the next day to warn her that I'd had an "oops" moment and to be sure that someone saved out another ticket for me, even if I had to pay for it again. I got her voicemail when I called, but I left a message and figured she'd get back to me if there was really a problem.
So, Saturday wore on--I'd had breakfast and a snack for lunch in my hotel room, and about 4:30 that afternoon, I went to a restaurant near the hotel and had a more substantial meal. Afterward, I went back to my room and changed clothes (I can't wear just any old t-shirt to a show, y'know--gotta have the official JJ website one! ) and got all my gear together and ready. Finally, about 7:45, I took my stuff out to the rental car and headed for Morty's. Along with the car, I had rented a Garmin GPS system, so I wasn't worried about getting lost, at least--and, indeed, I found the bar with no trouble, and snagged the first parking space I saw that I figured would be easy to find again on my way out.
Now, here's where things start to get interesting. I had figured I'd better try to find Sally as soon as I got to the show, so we could hopefully get something done about my accidentally left-behind ticket. And just as I got out of my car and started toward the tent where the show would be held, I spotted her ahead of me in the parking lot, no more than maybe 50 feet away. What luck! I thought to myself and jogged over to catch her--and it was only when I got within a couple of yards that I realized who she was WITH. In my own defense, it was already pretty dark out by then, and he was kind of "camouflaged" because he was dressed all in black as usual (and looked DAMN good in that leather jacket he had on, I might add). But yeah--Jimi Jamison, standing right there, and me totally unprepared for it. Apparently he and Fergie had come from their hotel with Sally and her daughter-in-law Summer all in one car, and while I might have shied away a bit if the circumstances had been different, I really did need to talk to Sally about my ticket, so I swallowed my nerves and called out to her.
She immediately came over and greeted me with a big hug, and I asked her if she'd gotten my message. She said yes, and she would have called me back, except that the cellular service for whatever carrier she has apparently really stinks in and around Fargo. (Which I would readily believe; I had some issues with my own cell while I was there, too.) But Summer had some extra tickets with her, so she just replaced my forgotten one right then and there (and now I get to keep the one I left home as a souvenir ). Okay, problem solved--but before I could do more than give another sigh of relief, Sally turned to Jimi, who was still standing right there, and said, "This is Lisa--you remember Lisa, right?" To which he responded, "Sure I remember Lisa," and gave me the first of what turned out to be quite a number of hugs that evening! I managed to keep my wits about me enough to actually hug him back this time (I was too startled to even think about it at Franklin Park!) and I told him he was very sweet to always remember me even though I don't come to shows all that often. And then we all headed up towards the tent entrance and the actual building at Morty's together, where they had some kind of a hospitality room set up for all the performers--so I guess my little fantasy came true in a way. I really DID get an escort from Da Man himself, it just happened going into the show instead of coming out!
I'm sure you can imagine that this put me in a VERY good mood, and I quite enjoyed myself even just waiting for the show to start--the "background music" they always play pre-show at venues wasn't tremendously loud in this case, so I was able to chat with Sally for a bit, hand out some calling cards for C&S to a few people who were also wearing official JJ website t-shirts (I was definitely not the only one this time around!) and pop my new earplugs in at my leisure. And those things are worth every penny I paid for them, by the way--I'd been using just ordinary foam plugs at all the shows I've been to up until now, and they did work, but almost too well. I remember thinking that things were annoyingly muffled at Franklin Park, so when I found these Alpine MusicSafe plugs which are designed especially for musicians and dedicated concert-goers, I decided it was worth giving them a try. And they work PERFECTLY--I could hear everything just as clear as crystal, but at a much reduced volume.
Anyway, the show started just about on time, and it was seriously awesome. I could have done without the smoke generators going off every so often from the back of the stage (it's hard enough to get good pics without having to contend with that!) but I had gone in expecting two hours of music at most, and they went from 9 PM straight through until 1 AM with only one brief unplanned "intermission" because of technical issues with the sound--I mean, it was incredible! I'd even go so far as to say we got two concerts for the price of one, actually; with two lead singers, plus the supporting band Heartbreaker (whom I'm led to understand do lots of shows all on their own, as well as lending a hand to many of the headliners who come through the area) there was no shortage of great tunes, that was for sure! We heard everything 80's that night, from the expected selections by Survivor and Toto through to Bryan Adams, The Eagles, Bad Company, Night Ranger, and even AC/DC! (And I'll say right now that having Jimi singing on an AC/DC song is perhaps the only way in all of creation that I'd ever actually enjoy listening to one! ) Here is the setlist, as near as I can figure--I wasn't familiar with absolutely every song that was played and had to look some of them up afterward:
"Sing Me Away" by Night Ranger (Heartbreaker alone)
"What's Your Name" by Lynyrd Skynyrd (Heartbreaker alone)
"Gimme Three Steps" by Lynyrd Skynyrd (Heartbreaker alone)
"Hold On Loosely" by .38 Special (this was SUPPOSED to be Heartbreaker alone, I think, but Jimi couldn't resist coming out to give them a hand )
"High On You" by Survivor (Jimi, natch)
"I Can't Hold Back" by Survivor
"Is This Love" by Survivor (Yee-hah! )
"Burning Heart" by Survivor
"Hold The Line" by Toto (Fergie was introduced at this point)
"I'll Supply The Love" by Toto
"Summer Of '69" by Bryan Adams (Fergie)
"Hotel California" by the Eagles (Fergie--he did a wonderful job!)
"Africa" by Toto
"I'm Always Here" by Jimi Jamison (the Baywatch theme song--he made a comment afterward about envisioning Pamela Anderson's, um, "assets" whenever he sings this song that just had me in stitches )
"Crossroads Moment" by Jimi Jamison (from the new CD! I thought that was fantastic, although I do wish he'd play some of the other tracks off CM at shows more often, too...)
"Caught In The Game" by Survivor
"Isolation" by Toto
"Separate Ways" by Journey (Fergie)
"Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake (I thought I could never like this done by anyone except David Coverdale himself, but again, Fergie did a VERY respectable job!)
"Love Is Alive" by Jimi Jamison (off his Empires CD)
"The Search Is Over" by Survivor
"Working For The Weekend" by Loverboy (Fergie)
"Hot Girls In Love" by Loverboy (Fergie)
"Good Lovin' Gone Bad" by Bad Company (Fergie)
"All Right Now" by Bad Company (Fergie)
"Gone Gone Gone" by Bad Company (Jimi)
"Feel Like Makin' Love" by Bad Company (Jimi, and can I just say that I was amazed every female in the audience didn't rush the stage at this point? I mean, I daresay y'all are well aware by now of how I feel about Himself pretty much all the time, but man alive--was he ever smokin' during this! )
"Roadhouse Blues" by the Doors (Jimi)
"Rosanna" by Toto
"Highway To Hell" by AC/DC (Heartbreaker alone, although Jimi sang backup on all three AC/DC tunes they played)
"Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" by AC/DC (Heartbreaker)
"TNT" by AC/DC (Heartbreaker)
"Eye Of The Tiger" by Survivor
Encore - "Riding The Storm Out" by REO Speedwagon (Heartbreaker)
They did one more song for the encore, but it was one I didn't know and to be honest, by that point my feet were hurting so much from having been on them for 4 hours straight that I'd left the front row and found somewhere to sit down, and I was tired enough that I wasn't paying a great deal of attention to the music. I THINK the title was "A Long Time Coming" or something along those lines, but that's all I remember.
So, the band finally left the stage for good and the house lights came up, and I headed for the merchandise table. Sally had said earlier on that Jimi would be coming out to sign autographs for a while once the performance was over, and since the crowd was not terribly large (it was Oneida all over again--MAYBE 100-120 people, tops) I figured this was my chance. And especially since the sound guy actually turned OFF the background music at that point; I suspect this was more for the benefit of the people living in the apartment building that bordered Morty's parking lot on one side than mine, but hey, I was willing to take what I could get. I already had things with me to get signed--prior to the show, I had picked out three of my best/most favorite photos from each of the live shows I've been to since 2005 (well, except Franklin Park; no offense, Jimi, but I really think you look better without a mustache!) and photoshopped them into a collage, which I then uploaded to an online service and had printed at 16x24, twice. (You can see the collage at a reduced size here, if you like.) One copy was for me, and the other I intended to give to Jimi himself if he would accept it--like most people, he's picky about his own photos, so I tried to prepare myself for the possibility that he might decline the gift. I had also figured I'd just have to hang out and wait for a while, since I'd already seen that the T-shirts and whatnot which were for sale were all things I'd long since ordered for myself off the official site, but there was one interesting moment when Sally pulled out a bunch of 8x10 photos to sell as well, and one of them was a manip I'd done on one of her concert photos! (You can also view both the original photo and my altered version in my Photo Manips Gallery.) Very much a surprise, although a pretty cool one.
Anyway--Jimi had kind of gotten "ambushed" on his way to the table by a group of people, but eventually Sally went over and collected him, and he started working through the line of people who either had things to be signed already or were intent on buying something and getting it signed. (He invited me over quite early on, actually, but I just smiled and said I'd wait.) Finally, though, everyone else had been taken care of, and the moment of truth was at hand--with my heart a little bit in my throat, I extracted the print from the mailing tube and tissue paper I'd packed it in for safekeeping and spread it out on the table, explaining to him that these were all photos I'd taken, etc. And he not only didn't wince a bit, but he immediately singled out this particular pic and asked me, sounding slightly incredulous, "You took this? I've been using that!" I laughed and said yes, I had taken it, and I had seen it in the albums on his MySpace, too, and been pleased to do so even though my taken-by tag had been clipped off it somehow. And he then proceeded to tell me quite seriously that if there was anything else of mine that he'd been using without knowing it, I was to contact him and he would see me properly credited. (Gods above and below, is it any wonder I adore him? Sigh... ) To which I replied that I hadn't seen anything else floating around, but I would certainly let him know if I did.
So he signed the first collage for me and graciously accepted the second one as a gift, then signed a couple of other, smaller pictures I'd brought and I rolled everything up together and put it away once the ink had dried. Then I asked him if he would mind getting a picture with me, and he just got up and came around the table right then. I had hoped to get the shot with my own camera, but even with the house lights on, it was still so dark in the tent by then that the focusing mechanism was really struggling. A fellow fan had offered to take the picture for me, and she tried a couple of times (I hope no one will think too badly of me if I say I didn't really mind the delay, given that it meant several successive instances of full-body contact with Himself as we tried to pose ) and then Sally tried once as well, but finally we all agreed that it was a lost cause and she went to get her camera instead. (Mine might have worked better if I'd thought to turn the flash on, but I confess my mind was rather elsewhere at that point. ) Anyway, she got the shot finally and promised to email it to me later on, and, indeed, here it is:
Afterward, Jimi gave me one more big hug, and this was the nicest one of the whole evening, let me tell you! I'd been hoping for a long time to get (and give!) another hug like I did when I first met him in the summer of 2005 right here in Denver, and this one outstripped even that; it was a bear (or is that Lion?) hug and no mistake. And then he went inside Morty's to join Fergie and the rest of the band, and I packed up my camera and monopod and drove back to my hotel--though I think I probably could have bypassed my rental car altogether and just floated the entire way on the cloud of sheer bliss I was feeling! (Who needs liquor when you've got hugs from Jimi? )
So, that's pretty much the story... the trip home was a lot crazier than the one out, just because I was up so late Saturday night and my flight left fairly early the next morning, so I really had to run to get packed up and ready to go. (In fact, I even left the box with my tripod at the hotel desk again and asked them to mail it for me, rather than trying to take it to the post office myself--I still had to stop and put gas in my rental car, and I was afraid that one more errand would make me late for my flight.) And while I did get the car returned and through security with a few minutes to spare before they started boarding, I think I only managed it because Hector International is such a small airport, and there was no one ahead of me when I got to the security checkpoint; if it had been DIA here in Denver, I WOULD have been late. Still, all's well that ends well, and the flight back was even smoother than the one going, although the crying baby across the aisle was a bit of a trial when I already had the beginnings of a headache from too little sleep. Such small difficulties and annoyances aside, though, I am just TREMENDOUSLY glad I faced down all my fears and went--I would not have missed this show for the world. (Now if only I could get a reward like that for every difficulty in life! ) And before anyone asks, yes, I got PLENTY of pics; in fact, I got two galleries' worth. You can find these in the Glyndon Live Gallery 1 (Jimi) and Glyndon Live Gallery 2 (Fergie and Heartbreaker), and the complete set of my concert pics is of course available in its usual location. Enjoy!
(Edited 19 October, 2016 to add: Please note that there is a much-expanded version of this Concert Tale now available in the Memorial Gardens section of the Wing, however there is also some background information that I STRONGLY recommend you read first. You may find the first part of that on this page, then follow the appropriate links at the bottom to reach the expanded Tale itself.)