I’ve been to quite a few concerts in my day and they all offered a unique experience. No matter the genre, they have a divine affect on me. Before performing music on a professional level, I was like most concert goers. The lights, crowds, big sound, and famous musicians captivated me. I felt starstruck to see something so incredible take place before my eyes and it was exhilarating. Now, as a working musician/singer and seasoned performer, I absorb the experience differently. I always attempt to learn something new and take a piece with me. It’s almost like a workshop where I regain that joy and fine tune things for when I perform. Justin and I usually went to most shows together. I’d come away with my own perspective and he with his. We’d share our thoughts and feelings and found that we typically focused on very different things. I habitually noticed the vocals and he the guitar, but we both watched with a similar thought process. Having something you share a mutual love for is a powerful thing and we never took it for granted!
The first concert I attended in Justin’s absence was an outdoor festival. For PCB folks, it’s become a grand tradition. The top country acts come together every year for the Gulf Coast Jam. Before this year, I’d never attended. I had performed with my band all weekend in Pensacola Beach and returned to an empty house. Jax would be spending the night with his Grammy (Justin’s mom, Vicki) and my folks were out of town. Weighing my options of what to do with my free evening, I got a text from a pal. My girlfriend Keely was in town from Nashville and somehow managed to snag me a ticket. I immediately accepted! Keith Urban was the headliner and if nothing else I could enjoy the eye candy, right? I’ve never been a huge country music fan but can still appreciate the talent and experience. Before heading out to the show Keely turned to me and said, “Is this going to be emotional for you, because you know he’s a shredder?” (Non-guitar nerds, this is a term for an amazing lead guitar player) I thought about it and realized, yeah I’ve been told this before, but for whatever reason it had slipped my mind. My thought process was, “Keith Urban is more of a mellow musician, I won’t feel too overwhelmed witnessing crazy rock star moves or Eddie Van Halen level guitar skills.” I told her I’d be fine but might have a moment or two. Try a hundred moments!!! All I can say is, I’ve never been more wrong about something. This man is a hidden gem in the world of country music. I think he must have taken the wrong bus from Australia because he SCREAMS Rock ‘N’ Roll!!!
Watching an incredible musician like Keith was something I wasn’t quite ready for. I stood in amazement of his talent with my mind constantly on Justin. As I watched him swap his Telecaster for his Paul Reed Smith, for his Gibson Les Paul, Justin was all I could think of. Being married for 10 years to a magnificent guitarist, I had picked up his way of thinking. I was now watching the concert through his eyes, not mine.
With every single detail (even down to what gauge picks he was using) I was now thinking as Justin. Boy, did this hurt!!! It’s hard to understand how someone so incredibly talented could be gone. It wasn’t fair that I was enjoying this experience and not him. It wasn’t fair that Justin
wasn’t the one ripping the guitar for thousands and would never get that opportunity again. His guitar-shredding days were long gone and I was feeling lonely and angry. I wanted so badly to have that connection with him while this was taking place.
In that moment in the presence of ten thousand plus people, I felt all alone. Looking around I thought to myself, “The majority of these folks don’t know what kind of guitar he’s playing and I doubt it’s crossed their mind” (other musicians, obsessive fans, and guitar nerds excluded, of course). Before knowing Justin, I would have stood like most others blissfully enjoying the concert as a whole. Now everything is different, he’s changed my way of thinking. Maybe this once again goes back to that guilt I still carry around. I feel a certain level of responsibility to do things for him and think like him.
After the concert ended and the crowd parted ways I felt like I’d climbed my Mount Everest. What an accomplishment for me to make it through the entire concert. Sure I was on the verge of tears throughout, but still I had conquered it. And even though it wasn’t Fleetwood Mac or Aerosmith, it was a start. As I drove myself home I started thinking about my new found thought process. I began to wonder, was this new way of thinking a blessing or a curse? I suspect a curse because I feel the pain associated with the crater-sized hole in my life that was Justin. Being in his mecca is harder than most places. Every guitar “shredder” I witness from here on out will be him and it will always hurt. I can’t genuinely enjoy a sensational guitarist because of the pain it brings. On the other hand, maybe the blessing is I now see certain things in life through a magnifying lens. Instead of only noticing what I usually would, I now think in terms of what Justin would notice. I will wonder what guitar effects he/she is using, or how many times they restrung their guitar that week, or how many strings they broke at the previous show. Maybe it’s subconscious and maybe its default, but it’s now kind of cool!!! I actually get to see life through my eyes, Jax’s, and now Justin’s. What a perspective! And because of that, I feel like I’m living for three.