Don’t Stop Believin’

Journey_MN State Fair

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!

Bill Stimpson & Michelle Stimpson_Journey Concert

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!

Journey Concert_MN State Fair

This lucky couple drove in from Iowa to see if they could get tickets!

Journey Concert_MN State Fair

The sweet woman here had just gotten off work and accidentally left her apron on from her booth at the Fair. Ha! She was a good sport, though, as I enjoyed giving her a hard time. :)

Bill Stimpson & Michelle Stimpson_Journey

Our friends returned the favor and captured our joy.

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.

Arnel Pineda_Journey

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?”

Arnel Pineda_Journey

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.

Arnel Pineda_Journey

Love this one Bill captured of Arnel reaching out to me. :)

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:

Arnel Pineda_Journey

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!”

Neal Schon_Journey

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:

Journey Concert_MN State Fair

Photo: Tony Nelson, City Pages

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!!!

Journey Concert_MN State Fair

Photo: Sherri LaRose-Chiglo, Pioneer Press

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.”

"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’.

Bill Stimpson & Michelle Stimpon_Journey

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!

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18 Responses to “Don’t Stop Believin’”

  • Bill says:

    You captured it perfectly! I’ve been lucky enough to see hundreds of rock concerts in the last 30 years, but this was definitely one of the best. A night I will NEVER forget!
    Can’t wait to see Journey again!! :)

  • Vicki says:

    Love the moving stories!!!

  • Curt says:

    As usual, great story and great reading. Keep em coming.

  • Deb says:

    You guys score again!!!! What a great story you wrote and priceless pictures.

  • Renee says:

    Loved reading this! Brought tears to my eyes (as your words always do)! Felt like I was there with you! What an awesome experience!

  • Nancy says:

    Thanks as always for sharing your great concert stories. The best part is how there is always a bigger picture and connection to humankind, which is why the stories are so special. :)

  • Jill says:

    LOVE this! My thoughts exactly (although I wasn’t in front row to experience it on your entirely different level). After that concert, I just remember you and Bill saying you were speechless. I could tell you were both on such a high, and words couldn’t describe the night. What a great night it was!

    I just watched the Oprah interview of Journey last night on YouTube. What a truly remarkable journey Arnel and Journey have had. Very cool! We all were so entertained that night and have been thinking of that night ever since.

  • Laura says:

    Love this!!! As usual, your blog brings tears of joy to my eyes. Wow, Girlfriend! Keep it comin’!!!

  • Kathie says:

    Michelle, your writing is amazing! I love reading your posts and experiencing a little of yours and Bill’s life through your notes.

  • Joshua Weber says:

    It is awesome to see the two of you so much in love and enjoying what you love!! You are an inspiration to the world!! Love you both. Joshua

  • Char says:

    WOW!! WOW!!and WOW!!!!

  • Melanie says:

    Totally amazing!!! Once again!!! Amazing what the power of intention & believing can do…despite having the “how” figured out. Awesome! So happy for you both and glad you are sharing your inspiring stories! Thank you!!!

  • Phil Bolsta says:

    Awesome post, Michelle! Great use of photos and text to convey powerful emotions. You are truly a gift to the world!

    Phil Bolsta
    Author of “Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World”

  • Phil Bolsta says:

    Oh, since you had found my post on Arnel, Michelle, I thought others would like to watch the video feature of his inspiring story. And there’s lots of concert footage too!

    Phil Bolsta
    Author of “Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World”

  • Michelle Ballard says:

    This was definitely an O.M.G experience!! My Husband, Eric and I decided to drive to Minneapolis for my Birthday. GB Leighton was playing Friday night and Journey Saturday. Without tickets and a glimmer of hope to get some scalped tickets. We traveled 4 ½ hours from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Minneapolis for a fun weekend. Fun is an understatement. We arrived at the fair about an hour before the show. The ticket booth had signs all over it saying SOLD OUT! There was a guy sitting behind the glass behind his laptop and I hear this woman talking to him about some grass tickets. So we circle around the ticket booth, we see no one scalping tickets. I ask a guy leaning against the ticket booth if there are any more tickets and he said no. So we are preparing to probably sit in the parking lot to hear the concert. My husband Eric, says go ask if they have any grass ticket left. So I lean into the glass and asked the guy behind his laptop, so do you have any more tickets to the concert? He replies, how many do you need? I’m a little shocked by his comment. I say 2, he says I have some tickets for you. I am psyched, probably nose bleed behind a pole tickets but oh well. So I hand him my Credit card and he hands me the tickets. I look at the tickets and they said, “Section C row 2 seat 13 and 14.” I turn around and see this beautiful young lady in line (Michelle), and she asks me did you get good seats? Not knowing this place I show her the ticket and she affirms they are good tickets. So my husband and I go immediately to the seating chart tape to the side of the building. It looks like we will be sitting in the middle of Section C right in front of the stage. At this point we just can’t believe what just happened. So we make our way through the fair grounds to find something to eat before the concert. We just still keep looking at these tickets in disbelief!! Now we are psyched!! We make our way into the concert and stop by the beer tent of course and make our way to our seats. As we come closer and closer to the stage, we are WOWed! The tickets say row 2 but as we slide to the center to our seats, there is no row 1, we are right in front of the stage!! And we turn around and see the lovely lady from the ticket like (Michelle) and Bill sitting right behind us. The guy that leaning against the ticket booth was sitting right next to us. OMG! We were giving high 5s and smiling from ear to ear, this was unbelievable. Loverboy and Pat Benatar were awesome but nothing compared to the show that Journey put on. We were standing there and I reached my hand out towards, Arnel, he took my hand and looked into my eyes and started singing to me!! No REALLY! He has extremely soft hands by the way. When he let go of my hand, I thought I was going to cry or pass out, I had to fan my eye to hold back the tears. The second time he held my hand I was more prepared and ready to bask in the moment. This was the best Birthday ever! After the concert the guy sitting next to us lean over to me and said, “ Ya know this is going to ruin every concert we go to from now on.” And he was RIGHT! This was such an incredible night, we were surrounded by incredible people and it will forever be in my heart forever. Don’t Stop Believin!

  • MarGil says:

    Love your story! I envy you and Bill for the experience you had on the concert, wish my husband & I were there too…
    We’ve seen them in a couple of concerts in Nevada and California and had almost the same experience you & Bill had.
    Thank God that Journey is still around. The “only” American band in this time that still rockin’ and rollin’ the 21st century way.
    Love it!

  • Hello Everyone!

    What a thrill to hear from all of you – thank you so much for sharing the JOURNEY with me! Loved bringing you all along. And Michelle – your write-up took me right back. I didn’t realize that you guys had just gotten there. Wow!

    Rock on and thanks for the support, my friends.


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Michelle Stimpson: Editor/Writer

Michelle Stimpson Hi and thanks for visiting - so glad you're here! This blog is especially for cool people who want to experience joy and live a life of purpose. Welcome!

Here you'll find great stories that will inspire you and remind you that life is good, and there's an abundance of joy all around us. Simply put: When you follow the things in life that make you come alive and bring you joy...the magic begins to unfold.

Start by checking out the "Best Of" page and be sure to consider subscribing above. Thank you and cheers to joy!

Michelle Joy Stimpson
Executive Editor & Writer
Life Coach, LifeShine

Bill Stimpson: Partner-In-Crime

Bill Stimpson Hi! Not only will you see me “show up” in many of Michelle’s stories and posts here, but I also serve as Michelle’s editor, helping her clarify intentions and make her posts shine.

One of the great joys in my life is being involved with this blog! It’s a constant reminder for me to focus on the things that bring me joy. It also feels great to be sharing so many of these joys with you - in hopes that you, too, will find ways to focus on your own joyful experiences.

Here's to an abundance of joy in your life!

Bill Stimpson
Hubby & Associate Editor

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