Mother of all Encores

Tara and I have been to a lot of concerts over the past year, but I am convinced that few moments can rival that which we experienced Friday evening. There we were, on the lawn of the horribly-named Sleep Country Amphitheater (I know corporate sponsorship is all the rage, but really?!), a nearly full moon cresting the eastern sky as a gentle wind blew. The crowd of thousands was pumped up and energetic, singing along to a slew of classic rock hits 40 years old.

And then the lighters came out.

Hundreds of them, tiny flames flickering in the breeze, a true throwback to the good ol’ days before cell phones. The crowd swayed in a uniform sea of revelry as the singer belted out, “Mama told me, when I was young; sit beside me, my only son…”

Lynyrd Skynyrd, man. Rock ‘n roll legends. And while it’s true that this incarnation includes only one original band member – the group disbanded in 1977 after a plane crash killed lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and two other members of the band, only to regroup in 1987 with Ronnie’s younger brother Johnny taking over vocal duties – the crowd didn’t care. This was classic rock at its loudest and finest. “What’s Your Name.” “Gimme Three Steps.” “That Smell.” “Sweet Home Alabama.” And then, the mother of all encores, “Freebird.” It went on for at least ten minutes…and I never wanted it to end. You know how, as a joke, people at rock concerts always shout out, “Freebird!”? We shouted it out, too…and were rewarded with “Freebird,” by the band that wrote and recorded “Freebird,” no less. That gave me goosebumps.

“You’re beaming,” Tara said, as we were walking to the car afterwards. And she’s right – I was. I had just experienced one of those quintessential concert moments. Before Lynyrd Skynyrd took the stage Bad Company was there, another group of rock legends. They were performing together for their joint XL Tour – a celebration marking the 40th anniversary of Bad Company’s formation and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first album release. If it had only been a Bad Company show, I’d have been satisfied. “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” “Shooting Star,” “Cant’ Get Enough” – those are all great songs, too. But adding Lynyrd Skynyrd to the mix, complete with Confederate flags and rah-rah patriotism, just added to the whole once-in-a-lifetime feel of the experience.

But. I’ve got to complain a little bit about the concert. Not the music or the venue itself; both were great. But rather, the concessions. Draft beer cost $9 a cup, $8 for a can of Bud Light. Hot dogs were $8. Nachos were $8. Soft pretzels cost $5. The prices bordered on ridiculous, but what choice do you have? It was dinnertime. You’re hungry and thirsty. Can’t bring in your own food or drinks. Let’s just say they really know how to dig in their claws, don’t they? At least the tickets themselves were a bargain. $18 each, thanks to a Groupon. For Bad Company and Lynyrd freakin’ Skynyrd. Well worth the price.

So help me though, next time I’m sneaking in a flask.

The rest of the weekend did not disappoint, either. We’d been planning on attending a potluck at a blogging friend’s house on Saturday, but with Tara’s busy schedule, a bunch of events all lined up in a row, and an emergency root canal (for her) last week, we decided we needed a day to relax and recuperate instead, so on Saturday we pretty much did nothing…and it felt wonderful. We relaxed around the house, watched movies, and ordered pizza. It feels like we’re forever on the go, so taking an occasional Lazy Day is a rare and welcome treat.

Sunday was busier;  after a trip to the farmer’s market, Tara went into the office for a few hours while I tackled cleaning Rusty’s old room. It’s been surprisingly difficult going through the kids’ rooms, from an emotional standpoint. There are so many signs of years gone by in buried toys, too-small clothes, and elementary school homework. Maybe that’s been my motivation to plow through this, to get it done as quickly as possible. Afterwards, we had a friend from Seattle – and her dog – stop by for cocktails and a barbecue. (The dog didn’t drink, though she did scarf down some of the applewood-rubbed, hickory-smoked pork loin roast Tara grilled). We sat on the patio with the lights on, listening to records and enjoying the gentle, steady summer rainfall as we shared stories running the gamut from past loves to music, ghosts, and food. The hour grew late and yet we lingered, aware in the moment that evenings like those are meant to be savored.


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

12 thoughts on “Mother of all Encores

  1. “Hundreds of them, tiny flames flickering in the breeze, a true throwback to the good ol’ days before cell phones.”

    Yes, I clearly remember that at my ONE and ONLY rock concert (The Moody Blues). The LIGHTERS!!!! That, and the smell of GRASS – HA!

    Faaaaaaaaaabulous photo collage, Mark! And yes, I see the ‘glow’ in your face that Tara spoke of.

    “Sweet Home Alabama.”

    LOVE that song!!!

    And yes, don’t you just love the high price of concession food at a concert or like a theme park? Disney’s prices are horrendous. And considering how much they charge to get in, they should just GIVE the drink and food away.

    Thanks for sharing for sharing your weekend, buddy! Enjoyed!


    1. I forgot to mention the smell of grass! It was everywhere. In fact, the couple next to us was toking up in plain view. Then again, here in Washington, it’s legal now.

      But smoking is banned in the venue. Bunch of scofflaws!


  2. My adrenaline rushed and I could feel the anticipation and excitement while reading this! To see Skynyrd in concert is an all time dream of mine(Bad Co would just be icing on the cake)…and leave it to me to live in Nebraska where they aren’t playing anywhere in this state for this tour 😦 So glad you and Tara got to go to this concert and had such an amazing time and thanks for sharing it with us 🙂


  3. Haha!! I am in luck! I just checked their tour dates again and September 1st they are playing 40mins away from me at our state fair! Granted it will be hot as hell and Im pregnant…but it will be well worth it 🙂


  4. hickory-smoked pork ? This is how they get high at these things nowadays ? We used those little orange things you could get from the nice man at the park with the wild hair and big smile. The highest I get now is a 4 ft ladder.


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