Music and Magic On the Road

Michelle Stimpson & Bill Stimpson_Concert Road Trip

This is the 11th year now that we’ve made our Annual Midwest Summer Concert Road Trip a priority. What a FUN tradition it’s been! When we’re doing the things that bring us joy, the feedback we get from others is that it inspires them to do what brings them joy. How cool is that?!

This year we flew from our home in Minneapolis to Kansas City and put 1,300 miles on a rental car. All around us, wherever we went, we paid attention to “life”…

We breathed in the fresh (and hot!) summer air. We loved calling out the various noisy insects that made themselves known at rest stops along the interstate. We marveled at the rows and rows of corn. We acknowledged the license plates we saw from all around the country. We cherished the driving and the scenery. We relished in Subway picnics under a tree in between destinations.

Bill Stimpson & Michelle Stimpson_Road Trip

In the car, we’d blast tunes to get fired-up for whichever show we were preparing to see. And other times we’d turn the music off and have deep discussions about our lives and what’s next for us. Sometimes we embraced hours of silence as we each got lost in our own thoughts. We love this aspect of road trips where the car and the drive forces you to just “be”.

Our first item on the agenda was two back-to-back shows featuring Journey, the Steve Miller Band, and Tower of Power on one bill. Destination: St. Louis and Chicago! We’ve had magical experiences with the first two bands before – just go here and here to see what I’m talkin’ about. And we’ve got lots of great stories from our past road trips (this one with Neil Diamond is my favorite and has gotten rave reviews!). But I really do think what happened on this road trip at our first concert in St. Louis is the winner of all-time. At least…so far!

I’ll tell the story and let you be the judge…

Arriving in St. Louis, Missouri

We could barely wait for a joyful night with Journey and the Steve Miller Band. We LOVE both bands. And we were excited to see Tower of Power, who we had never seen before. We had fourth row seats for the show, which were phenomenal! You know us, though, we love front row, so we checked tickets several times, just in case front row opened up. And if that happened, we’d sell our fourth row seats, no problem.

We made our way to the outdoor amphitheater on this wonderfully HOT summer night, so excited to check out a new venue in a new city. Lucky us, we are friends with some of the guys in the Steve Miller Band and had backstage passes waiting for us at will-call. Exciting! When it was time to enter the front gate, we did one final check at the ticket window. No front row seats, so it wasn’t meant to be this time. We went through the gates and into the venue, grateful for the awesome tickets we already had.

Bill Stimpson & Michelle Stimpson_Journey & Steve Miller Band Concert

The first thing I did was text our friend and Steve Miller Band member, Kenny, to let him know we were there. He texted me back and told me where to meet to get backstage. We had our plan and everything was all set.

But then, my cell phone rang.

I rarely use my cell phone and it rarely rings. Plus, only a few people have my number! I saw it was my dear friend, Jill, but I wasn’t going to answer it because we had just made plans to meet Kenny, and I was concerned he might be waiting for us outside in the intense heat. There was no time to talk!

But when Bill heard me say it was Jill, he said: “Wait a second. It’s Jill? You HAVE to get it!”

Introducing Jill

Not only is Jill a very special friend, but she’s also a fellow concert enthusiast. Several years ago, Jill and her mom attended a presentation I gave at a conference. The presentation focused on the importance of embracing the things in life that bring you joy, and then making those things a priority. During the session, I talked about how concerts – and the front row – brought me tremendous joy. And I encouraged participants to identify what it was in their own life that brought them joy – whether that was gardening, golfing, writing, whatever.

That day, my personal life stories and concert examples touched something deep inside Jill, and I seriously don’t think she’s been the same ever since.

It was as though the presentation gave Jill ‘permission’ to connect with something core to her being. Since then, she, along with her husband and other family members have made their favorite concerts a priority. They’ve traveled out of town and once even brought their five year-old daughter along.

No coincidence, but the pictures I received from the professional photographer after the conference presentation, included several group shots of the audience…and then one lone picture of sweet Jill soaking it all in:

Jill_Illumination Conference

Copyright: Joe Brandmeier

What shifted within Jill must have been pretty big. Back when I barely knew her, her mom asked if I would be a surprise guest at Jill’s birthday dinner with her girlfriends and talk to them about the importance of embracing “joy” in their lives. She made up cool tickets for the dinner that mirrored concert tickets…except that I was the rockstar and they had my picture on them. What an honor for me! We ended up having a very special and meaningful night. :)

The beginning of my relationship with Jill was as though I was her mentor and she was my protégé – for all things concerts. She wanted to learn all the ropes from me about how to buy tickets, how to get the seats you want, and how to make the joyful things in her life a priority. She knows now that getting front row tickets like we do, over and over, boils down to: 1) Passion, 2) Persistence, and 3) Positive Attitude. Really, that’s the crux of it right there. Contrary to what you might think, it’s not about special “connections” or knowing a guy who knows a guy. Jill quickly caught on to it all and has mastered what Bill and I have been doing for years.

I’ll never forget the morning after Bon Jovi (Jill’s fave) was here in the Twin Cities – Bill logged on to our local news site before leaving for work and yelled out from the room, “Holy sh*t, they’re on the front page!!!”

Jill & Family_Bon Jovi Concert

The four of them perfectly cropped – Jill in the front row with her husband, mom, and niece! (Copyright: St. Paul Pioneer Press)

And we smiled about how Jill was certainly a kindred spirit. She became astute as heck with ticket buying, and she’s got the drill down.

Back to present day

So, like Bill said, when Jill is calling, you pick up the phone. Especially because she knew we had a concert that night!

In all transparency, when she called, I had JUST stepped into a port-a-potty. Ugh, I didn’t want to admit that here on the blog, but I guess it’s a funny detail in the scheme of it all. I have never (ever) talked in the bathroom, let alone an outhouse! And I don’t ever plan to again.

Normally, I would have let it go to voice mail and dealt with it after the concert. Nothing is ever that urgent. But then again, it was an hour before show time and Jill knew where we were. Later her husband told the story of how Jill shot up from the couch to call me. He said, “Baby, don’t bother them – they’re at a concert!”

I bit the bullet and answered the phone in the 120-degree sweltering port-a-potty.

“Hi Jill, I can’t talk right now, can I call you back later?”

Jill talked really fast and said, “I normally don’t do this, but do you have tickets you want for the concert – the really good seats?” She said she had just been thinking of us and was so excited for us (and later said the next best thing to her being at the concert herself…was knowing that Bill and I would be there) and she decided to do a quick ticket check – out of curiosity – for us.

“I was compelled to look and just found that second row seats are now available!” she said.

My first thought was how lucky we are to know someone so caring – thinking of us and watching out for us. That was sweet of her to even give it a second thought! I thanked her so much and quickly ended the call saying that we were good.

I told Bill about the conversation and basically had a “That was so nice, but we gotta get going!” attitude. After all, we were already inside the venue and already had our seats. This was not the time to alter the plan. Plus, Kenny was waiting for us and time was running out!

Bill had another idea

Bill wasn’t sharing my sentiments. He felt so strongly moved that we should get those tickets and then make someone else’s day by giving our original tickets away. That was such a great idea, but I didn’t want to get involved in that this time. We’ve done it many times before, and while we get the biggest high from it (Did you see what happened at the Ringo Starr concert a few weeks prior? Or at the Barry Gibb concert a few weeks before that?!)…in this moment, though, it felt like too much work.

Bill pulled up the Ticketmaster app on his phone and saw the tickets Jill referenced: “They’re right here and I think we should get them!” he said. But I didn’t think so. Until he sheepishly said, “Uh, whoops, I think I accidentally just bought them.” Great.

I do understand how easy it is on the small phone screen to click “Purchase” vs. “Try again”, especially with big fingers. So…it was time to switch gears and develop a new plan.

Rearranging our plans

Bill said, “You go meet Kenny and I’ll go back out to the box office to get the tickets, and then I’ll meet you backstage and we can figure it out from there.” Then I reminded him that there was a big sign at the gate that said in all caps: “NO RE-ENTRY!” Nice. Well, I just hoped he would be able to get back in. He was on his own for this one. There was no time to discuss!

Before separating, we quickly went to go check out our new seats, to verify that they were cool (after all, my heart would sink if we ended up giving away our fourth row seats only to find that our new ones were less desirable!).

The first thing we noticed on our way up front is that our original fourth row seats were actually third row. Nice!

But then we found the new seats.

For those of you who are frequent and loyal readers of this blog, I really should make you guess where these seats were…

Yep, you’re right.

They turned out to be FRONT ROW!!! Good job, Jill!

Now things were starting to get interesting. What a thrill to know that we had front row (once again for like the hundredth time!) and we’d also get to do our favorite thing and find some unsuspecting fans to give our original seats to. Woohoo!

Bill raced back to the ticket booth and I went to meet Kenny, who of course immediately asked, “Where’s Bill?” I didn’t even know what to say.

It was fun being backstage and seeing some of our guys. Kenny Lee Lewis and Joseph Wooten have always felt like kindred spirits to us and we love being in their presence:

Kenny Lee Lewis & Michelle Stimpson

Joseph Wooten & Michelle Stimpson

Bill finally made his way back, a sweaty mess from racing around in the intense sun and heat, and got to enjoy some time backstage with a little air conditioning. We met some great people and it was fun to see some of the Journey band members before the show as well!

Then a few of the Tower of Power guys peeked their heads into the room and said they were ready to go onstage. Wait, that meant the Steve Miller Band would be next and we still had tickets to give away! So, we gave our hugs and good-byes and shot out of there so we could make our move.

Time to make someone’s day

First things first. We both got a cold beer and walked around, people-watching and getting the lay of the land. We talked about going way to the back of the general admission lawn area to find two fans for the ticket giveaway. But before we did, I’d see a couple walk by us and say “What about them?!” And then I’d see a father and son together and say, “Or how about them? They look nice!”

Regardless, I wasn’t really feeling it and neither was Bill. This was frustrating because I didn’t know how we would find the right people. It was overwhelming, as there were so many people milling around.

How would we know who the right ones were?

I know. You might say: Who cares? But I do. I really do care. I wanted to find two people who would fully appreciate the experience and be able to fully receive the joy of the evening and embrace this gift of music and joy, up-close, that these three bands were there to share.

We walked to the back of the amphitheater to find our targets. On the way, as I often do, I got trapped in my head trying to figure out how we were going to make this work.

All of a sudden as we were walking, I said: “Stop!”

I continued by saying something I’ve never said before:

“I’d like to ask the universe to bring the two people to us.”

There, I said it…even though I didn’t really know what it meant. I just knew I didn’t want this to be “work.” I didn’t want it to be stressful. I didn’t want it to be hard. This night was supposed to be fun!

We walked all the way up to the lawn area in the back and stood way up at the top, overlooking the big amphitheater, as far away from the stage as we could get. Everyone we saw there was pretty set-up for the night, though. They had chairs, blankets, and a lot of “stuff” with them. Hmmm. That wasn’t going to work for the third row seats down by the stage.

The surprise

Just then, an adorable couple with huge warm and friendly smiles boldly stepped into the personal space we had created around ourselves. The woman enthusiastically said:

“Hi! We’re going to be your best friends tonight! Is that okay, because we’d love to hang out with you!”

And then she raised her plastic cup of beer and tapped mine as a ‘toast’, while her guy did the same to Bill.

Wait, what?

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

Before we even had a chance to acknowledge their presence that literally came out of nowhere, the bubbly and bright woman continued:

“We’ve been trying to make friends with people all afternoon and everyone was being all rude and didn’t seem to want to talk to us. We saw you guys and had to come right over!”

I couldn’t even talk. My eyes got super wide. My jaw dropped. I turned to Bill and looked at him in disbelief.

Throughout our lives we’ve seen the universe respond millions of times and deliver in myriads of different ways…but didn’t know it could be this quick and this direct.

Was this really happening, anyway?

It was just minutes prior that I had asked the universe to bring the right two people to us. And holy cow, here they were. This sweet unsuspecting couple, Brooke and Nick, had no idea that they were part of a larger plan.

Even though I figured they had to be “the ones”, I still wanted to make sure. After welcoming them into our space and thanking them for coming up to us, I asked if they were excited about the concert…knowing their answer would help seal the deal. Brooke immediately replied: “OMG, this is a double bucket-list thing for me to see the Steve Miller Band and Journey!” Okay, that was the only bit of info I needed from this couple who was planning to hang out up there on the lawn for the night.

Bill and I gave each other the nod as he reached inside the pocket in his cargo shorts, and then we asked if they would like to sit up close.

Brooke gave me a deer-in-the-headlights look, and as though she was almost afraid to ask, said point-blank, “What do you mean?” I could even see tears coming to her eyes.

We told them about our extra tickets and how we wanted to find just the right couple and that we were clearly meant to cross paths with them.

What followed was such a beautiful and touching interaction.

Hugs, tears, and sniffles all around. And of course, more toasts!

We were elated and so were they.

Bill & Michelle Stimpson_brooke & nick

In all of the hubbub that ensued, we missed Tower of Power’s set from our seats. However…their songs were even more magical for us because it was their tunes that served as the backdrop for this wonderful experience with our new friends. It was almost like background music perfectly placed in a poignant movie scene.

Thanks, Tower of Power! Betchya had no idea!

As we were preparing to leave the lawn area and go down to our seats, Bill said to me, “Alright, I gotta get outta here or I’m gonna lose it.”

Really, it was that moving.

Loving the front row!

We got to our front-row seats and before the Steve Miller Band started, we looked back at our new friends in the third row and could see them emphatically and emotionally telling the ticket story to the people around them. Their faces were animated and they were waving their arms as they were talking, and the people around them were riveted with wide eyes and big smiles. It was so fun to witness “the story” being re-told!

Later, when I connected with Brooke on Facebook, she said: “Nick and I were really overwhelmed with how our day was going prior to meeting you two. We really thought it was odd that no one wanted to laugh and smile with us. Surprisingly, there you guys were ‘looking for us’. It felt like a big ‘thank you’ from the universe! Like we were being recognized for our good spirits.”

Wow, pretty dang cool.

The show started and we enjoyed every single moment with the Steve Miller Band. They always put on a GREAT show, and it was fun to get the smiles and nods from our buddies onstage. The show was packed with energy, passion, aliveness…and a never-ending list of hits!

Steve Miller

Steve Miller

Jacob Petersen & Kenny Lee Lewis_Steve Miller Band

Jacob Petersen & Kenny Lee Lewis

Joseph Wooten_Steve Miller Band

Joseph Wooten

Several times I looked back at Brooke and Nick and would always catch Brooke’s eye. That’s when she’d raise her beer to me with tears. I mirrored the exact same thing back to her, both of us knowing that something bigger than both of us was at play.

Then another break and it was time for Journey! And what a thrill that was! These guys excel at creating a joyful experience for the audience, and their music is packed with positive, feel-good vibes.

Neal Schon_Journey

Neal Schon

Jonathan Cain & Ross Valory_Journey

Jonathan Cain & Ross Valory

Deen Castronovo_Journey

Deen Castronovo

Arnel Pineda_Journey

Arnel Pineda

At the end of the show, I got a hug from Arnel, Journey’s lead singer! And then back in the hotel room, I had confetti falling out of my shirt…two signs of a great night. :)

Journey concert

Paying it forward in style

During Journey’s set, I recall looking back several times and not seeing Brooke or Nick. It was getting dark, so I thought maybe I was just having trouble seeing clearly. But the next day, Brooke’s message to me said:

“Well, it was really quite simple – we decided there wasn’t a reason not to pay it forward immediately, and after the Steve Miller Band show, we went back up into the lawn seating. The couple we saw dancing and high-fiving were the ones we approached to give our tickets to. They didn’t believe us until we told them the story of how the tickets were given to us and now we were paying it forward!

We had told the people around our third row seats to expect new seat-mates and to welcome them when they got there. And we told this new couple that people were expecting them down in front! I love daydreaming about the reception they were given in our place. They took off running…but not before we got a picture! Wish we had gotten their names…”

Paying it forward

Wow, we were so choked up when we heard that Brooke and Nick had paid it forward the way they did.

But wait! That’s not all!

Just as I was finishing up writing this blog post, here’s the email that came in from Brooke:

“Michelle, Michelle, Michelle…have I got a story for you!!! I’m a bit embarrassed but thrilled to share with you!!! Today my son asked if he could have a play date with a kid from his swim lessons at the YMCA. So I got out my phone to text the dad – or so I thought – and instead I ‘accidentally’ ended up texting THE COUPLE FROM THE CONCERT!!!! NO WAY!!! I had totally forgotten that I got the guy’s number at the concert so I could text him the picture we all took together, and I inadvertently sent a text to him about a play date with my son – ha!

Guess what I found out? The best surprise is that I learned THEY PAID IT FORWARD, TOO!!!!”

Wow, so the story continues! I had to know more and contacted the guy myself. His name is Josh and here’s what he said about his experience:

“Brooke and Nick came up to us and asked if we wanted to be friends. My girlfriend, Mindy, was skeptical at first, wondering who they were, but right away I gave them both high-fives and introduced myself. They asked if we were having fun and where we were from and then they asked us about wanting to sit up almost in the front row. At first, we both thought it sounded a little far fetched or like it was a joke or something, but then they went on to explain that someone gave them the tickets, and that they were paying it forward. At this point, Mindy and I were both very excited and headed to the seats. We were greeted by the people around the seats who knew we would be coming.

We sat up front and enjoyed three to four songs. And then we decided it was time that we went and passed the tickets on to another two people. We started walking back to the lawn, talking to each other about how the heck we were going to pick someone. Shortly after that, we noticed a couple dancing and twirling in the walkway as everyone was walking by. So I politely and carefully interrupted their dancing to introduce myself. And at first, the weird look they gave us was probably somewhat along the lines of the look we gave Brooke and Nick. So then I told them the story of how someone passed the tickets on to someone who passed them on to us. And that we were doing the same.”

So cool. I thought the story ended there, but Josh’s final line said:

“The couple was super excited, thanking us, and promising that they, too, would do the same…”

Wait, so that couple paid it forward, too? Woah, I guess this shows that what they say is true: Giving is just as much fun as receiving.

Life is good

Life is such a dynamic web of interactions and love, and we’re really all connected. When I think back about all the amazing connections that led to this experience, it goes something like this:

I do what I love to do (concerts)…which inspired someone else (Jill) to do what she loves to do…which came back to me in the way of a phone call that night…and started the ripple effect of spreading joy to another couple (Brooke and Nick)…and then to another couple (Josh and Mindy)…and then to another couple (names unknown!)…and who knows where after that. My guess is that the ripple effect continues on…

So, there ya go. Moral of the story? Whew, there’s a lot to absorb. Here are some thoughts:

Stay open to the magic and wonder of life. Expect the best. Trust that everything unfolds the way it is meant to and someone always has your back. Believe and know that life is good. Live in appreciation. And know that any small positive impact you can make in someone’s day could have a butterfly effect, with a potentially limitless wave of positivity.

Thank you, Jill, for thinking of us, doing what you love, and of course for that divinely timed phone call. Thank you, Brooke and Nick, for coming into our lives – right on cue – and gracefully receiving our gift and taking it to another level by spreading the joy. Thank you, Josh and Mindy, for being an important part of this night and for your role in paying it forward as well.

Thank you Journey, Steve Miller Band, and Tower of Power for the most wonderful blend of joy and celebration.

Thank you, Universe, for magically orchestrating all of it.

At the end of the night, it took an hour and a half to be able to leave the parking lot with the gridlock of cars. So, even though it was frustrating to not be able to leave and get back to our hotel (after all, we had to drive to Chicago for the next night’s show), I think the message there was:

“Stay longer. Relish in what just happened. Be.”

Amphitheater parking lot

Not yet knowing how our concert experience would surprisingly unfold the following night, we couldn’t have possibly known how fitting this message really was.

Yep, there’s more! Stay tuned for…

Music and Magic On the Road: Part Two


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16 Responses to “Music and Magic On the Road”

  • Angela says:

    What a great story! I love the “uh whoops, I think I just bought them” line – I laughed out loud. Obiviousy that was a meant to be “mistake.” And how cool and bizarre about meeting that couple right after asking the universe to bring them to you. Wonderful words of wisdom at the end, I love the paragraph about the moral of the story :)

  • Nancy says:

    Holy sh*t this is awesome. I love every word. I love the universe. I love Jill. I love you & Bill. I LOVE IT.

  • Cindy says:

    Fantastic Michelle!! WOW it truly is amazing what happens when we open up our hearts and listen. The universe does answer!! So cool also that when we look for, and do, good we see it all around us.

    Way to play in life Michelle and Bill!

  • Jim says:

    Excellent recap…soon people will be hunting for you and Bill at concerts.

  • Kim says:

    You know what He says…Ask and you shall receive. LOVE this story cousin!

  • Char says:


  • Marilyn says:

    Very moving story Michelle. Even though concerts are not my passion I am inspired by you. And I do wish I had tickets for Paul McCartney tomorrow night!

  • Stephanie says:

    Love, love, love! Thank you for sharing this amazing story!

  • Jill says:

    What an awesome story!! What a great world we live in if we open our eyes to the opportunities and possibilities. So cool!!!

  • Matt says:

    Loving every minute of it. Your stories are the best!

  • Esther says:

    Thank you Michelle for taking the time to share all of the beauty in each monent. Thank you for reminding me to keep my faith in the magical moments that fate will unfold. Even more so, reminding me how very blessed I am, especially over the last 4 months which could have been so difficult, you helped me remember my grandfather’s favorite quote, my cup is overflowing, not just half full. I am so lucky to have my 4 amazing children, incredible family & friends; ones I should save my love & energy for. With my 3rd chance I have been given, I’m re-examining my life’s path, choices, & making certain to give back to others just as all of the blessings that been have given to me. I always love reading about yours & Bill’s life journeys. I’m so grateful that you have a true life partner who loves you with all of his heart & soul to travel this incredible journey with! Seeing it gives others so much hope that it’s not just a Disney Princess Fairytale, it really can happen. Love you Two Bunches!!

  • Zane Madsen says:

    What a beautiful story, Michelle! We’ve been attending some local concerts this summer and are considering the Journey concert at the MN State Fair. I think it would be awesome to hear them in person.

  • Amy says:

    True joy!!! Love that this kind of attitude and action are so purposefully apart of your lives!!!

  • Jodi says:

    OMG!!! I just read this and I agree – it’s the best so far (well…a tie with the kiss from Neil Diamond!) but I love how I literally lost count of how many people you guys blessed in such an amazing way! I adore you and LOVE that you share your stories on the blog!!! XOOOXOXO

  • Curt says:

    Well, once again your “magic story” makes my day. You and Bill are an inspiration to us all!!

  • Joni says:

    Michelle and Bill, I think this story tops them all — that is…so far. Because how can you possibly imagine how many more surprises and joys are awaiting you! We are so blessed that you continue to share your stories so that we, in turn, can be inspired to make things happen in our own lives. Thanks for including Jill — I know she is amazing because she’s my daughter! :-)

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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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