The last official weekend of summer may have included one of the most joyful experiences of my life. I know I say that a lot, but this one was really special! I’d like to thank the popular feel-good band, Journey, and their awesome new lead singer, Arnel Pineda, for hosting the party.
They were playing on a beautiful summer night at our beloved “Great Minnesota Get-Together,” the Minnesota State Fair. Bill and I hopped on the express bus to the Fair without concert tickets in-hand (but you know us – we trusted it would all work out!) to enjoy a night of fun with the band. The show had been sold out for quite a while, and ticket brokers told us this was the “toughest ticket of the summer” to get. Really? That explains why there hadn’t been any good tickets available, which is pretty unusual.
That morning I went for my daily walk in the hot sun, and I listened to a bunch of Journey tunes to get me fired up and excited. Afterwards, Bill and I separately visualized ourselves up front with Journey, rockin’ out and enjoying every moment.
As soon as we got to the Fair, we high-tailed it to the grandstand ticket booth to see what was available. After about an hour of drama in the hot sun, including a run to the nearest ATM for cash, we were the proud owners of second row center tickets. Sa-weet! We were SO excited!
We thought it would be interesting, just for fun, to see if we could score any other great seats at the last minute at face-value and give them away to unsuspecting fans. Just like we guessed, about an hour before the show at the ticket booth, a few excellent seats opened up. In fact, they were in the front row – right in front of us!
Everything works out as it’s meant to
But when it was our turn in line, the show was once again sold out – no tickets available. Obviously, we were not meant to have those seats. We talked to the groups of people who did end up getting those tickets. The new ticket-holders were elated, and we were really excited to share the night with them. It was fun to watch them get their tickets through the window and see their jaws drop with the surprise of front row just before show-time!
Quite often, Bill and I have our special spots in the front row. WE LOVE IT THERE!!! However, when you’re in the front, you don’t get to be a part of the crowd as much. It’s just you and the band. Which is amazing and SO cool! But you miss out on some of the crowd vibe and joyful exuberance.
When I’m in the front for various shows, there are so many times throughout the evening when I turn around and slowly breathe it all in – from the tiny specks of people up in the rafters waving their arms, to the thousands of people behind us dancing and smiling. I smile right along with them, too. I love seeing people have a good time!
Our turn to enjoy the crowd
So, this time – we got to watch our new friends in the front row live it up. And I’m tellin’ ya, it moved us both to tears. Throughout the night, they kept turning around and high-fiving us, with smiles that barely fit their faces. We got to enjoy watching them – a family, a group of friends, and a married couple – have the time of their lives.
It’s always others who tell us how much fun they have watching us in the front row. And it’s super fun to get that feedback! But this time, we loved being able to witness that magic in others. We so appreciated the fun they were having because we know exactly what it feels like!
We didn’t know these cool people beforehand, but the universe magically put us all together in the most wonderful way, for one fun night together.
Before the show, I asked one of the little school-age cuties in the front row what his favorite Journey song was. With a gigantic smile peeking out above his brand-new oversized concert t-shirt, he said, “Um, well I love #4, and #11 is also my favorite!” So cute.
An inspirational story
I gotta tell you what really made our night so memorable, though. It was Arnel Pineda. He’s the relatively new frontman for the band. Have you heard his story? A few years ago, Journey was looking for a new lead singer and found this guy on YouTube…all the way from the Philippines! He had been homeless at one point and was singing in exchange for food. Last year, Bill and I emotionally watched his interview on “Oprah.” It’s a truly inspirational story.
You know how it’s so easy to get caught up in the “how’s” of life? As in, “I could never do that; I don’t know how it would ever happen” or “There’s no way I could ever meet this person or go to that country or play that sport; how on earth would that work?” Well, imagine one of Arnel’s angels telling him that someday he will be the lead singer for the legendary band, Journey. What if he, while he was homeless in Manila, said, “Yeah, right. How will THAT ever happen?”
The “how” isn’t up to us. But what is up to us is to be our absolute best and do the things that bring us joy. Let the rest unfold and let the universe take over. Anything is possible.
Arnel made the show
It’s hard to explain why we were so taken with Arnel that night. While his story is amazing, we weren’t even thinking about that at the concert. We just simply had never, ever, seen anyone perform like that. Not only does he do a fantastic job of singing (if you close your eyes, you would think former lead singer, Steve Perry, was in the house), but he connects with the audience in a way that’s totally unmatched. I bet everyone around us felt like they made a new friend in him by the end of the night.
One of the gifts I think I bring the world is to help others feel seen, heard, acknowledged, and affirmed. And believe it or not, in a crowd of 13,000+, that’s what Arnel did for me. Of course I was blessed to be right up close and personal with him, so I had that going for me (!), but he spent so much time with our group around the stage that it was surreal. The way he connected with each of us on a deep level was crazy.
For us concertgoers up front, he would sing full lines to each of us individually, reach the microphone out to us, give our hands a squeeze, and flash his million-dollar smile with deep and lingering eye contact. This guy knows how to reach people in the most authentic, loving way. And he did it as he belted out each song. You wouldn’t believe the larger-than-life, powerful, soulful voice that filled the grandstand and came out of his small body (he’s smaller than me!).
Arnel is as genuine as they come. He’s the true definition of someone following their joy. Here’s a quick clip I found from the night on YouTube:
He leaps around the stage with boundless energy. Bill guessed he was in his 20’s, and when we got home and looked him up – found out that he just turned 45 this week! Which makes perfect sense. To move through the world in the way he does and to connect with hearts the way he does – definitely takes someone who’s “lived life” a while.
Here’s my favorite picture of Arnel, with our new friend, Lynn, right in front of me:
This past week, I received an email from Lynn that said: “It was a very special night…once in a lifetime for sure. So many things fell into place to make it so magical, and you and Bill were a big part of that. So glad we all got to experience it together, and somehow I feel we will always have a bond and friendship because of one crazy concert night at the Minnesota State Fair! There was an energy in everyone around us that is hard to put into words, and Arnel had us so engaged in every song.”
The day after the concert, Bill and I went back to the Fair to visit Lynn at the booth she runs. She said she told everyone at work that the concert was a “life-changing experience” for her, and all her employees laughed and gave her a hard time (yeah, I know – it does sound pretty funny!). But Bill and I totally get it.
We concur: It was a life-changing experience.
This band rocks
While Arnel is a phenomenal lead singer, the entire band – Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, Ross Valory, and Deen Castronovo – is full of positivity and loves their audience. You see it in their smiles, you feel it their enthusiasm, you observe it in the way they interact. Drummer Deen came over after the show and personally handed out drumsticks to each of the kids around us. A night they will never forget!
The band brought tremendous joy to all those thousands of us who showed up to cheer them on and to have a good time.
One of my (many) favorite moments was when Neal, the band’s founder and guitarist, came over near us onstage. He played his full guitar solo from “Who’s Crying Now” just a few feet from us. For years, that has been Bill’s favorite guitar solo. In fact, whenever it comes on the radio and I might accidentally be talking through it (which is generally the case), Bill will turn to me with an emphatic: “SHHHH!!!!!”
The next morning I posted on Facebook: “Concert tickets: $200. Beer: $30. The look on Bill’s face while Neal Schon played his ‘Who’s Crying Now’ guitar solo just a few feet from us: PRICELESS!”
Speaking of Facebook, Bill had just updated the “About Me” section on his profile the morning of the concert. An excerpt of it says: “For me, life is all about FUN! When I was an impressionable teenager, someone I respected told me I shouldn’t always be having so much fun. It took me 30 years to realize they were WRONG.”
Then, later that day, here is one of the professional photos taken:
See my guy in the middle having fun? That one brought tears to my eyes. I love my guy and I love that he embraces fun. He’s a good teacher for me.
And then here’s me and my smile (in the lower left) whooping it up in another photo from our local newspaper. Woohoo!!!
The power of the present moment
The day before the concert, I had gone to visit my grandma at her memory care residence. We went downstairs to watch a musical performance together, and the group on stage began with Louis Armstrong’s beautiful “What a Wonderful World.”
I quietly looked over at my dear grandma, knowing that as soon as I left, she wouldn’t remember our date together. And the other residents in the room probably wouldn’t remember the performance. So, as the song played on and the music filled the community room, I felt an overwhelming reminder of the power and the importance of the present moment. Really, nothing else mattered for these sweet elders – except for that single moment in time.
There was a lesson here for the rest of us, too.
So at the concert, I was ultra conscious and extra mindful about how much I was enjoying each and every moment. Right toward the end of the show, streamers and confetti were powerfully blasted out of cannons after “Don’t Stop Believin.'”
No, I won’t stop believin’.
Simultaneous with the last note of the last song of the night – and without skipping a beat – thunderous fireworks erupted high into the sky from behind the stage, signaling the end of another truly amazing Minnesota summer night. Bill and I turned to each other with a tight lingering bear hug, and I could feel the bass of the fireworks “boom” in his chest as the sky lit up above us. If there wasn’t so much mayhem and excitement going on around us, I would have probably given in and lost it.
In this present moment, I was full.
Thank you, Journey. Thank you, Arnel. Thank you, new friends in the front row. See you all again soon…
Author’s note: Be sure to read “Don’t Stop Believin’, Part Two” – see what happened six months later!