Monday, July 21, 2014

"You Wanted The Best...You Got The Best!"

I went on quite the adventure this weekend!

It all started with a call from my friend, who I will call The Divine Lady K, or just K for short.

K was the younger sister of my very best high school chum. She tagged along on many of our adventures. We shared many a  triumph and tragedy over the years and I consider her like a sister.  

"So whatcha doin"?" She asked

I don't really recall what I was doing, but I do know that it probably had something to do with my stupid foot. Doesn't matter. What she said next was the important part.

"Wanna go with me to Atlanta to see Def Leppard and KISS? You don't have to do anything, just go with me" A trip to "Hotlanta" with good company and a free concert to see one of the most legendary rock bands of all time on their 40th anniversary tour to boot? How could I say no?

I said a little prayer that I could get Friday off (which I did...Thanks Boss) and set about trying to decide what I should wear.

In the 80's,dressing for concert going was skirt, a cut-up tee shirt, huge belt,  high topped Reeboks  and video vixen hair.  Some concert looks over the years....

Now that I am "over 40" trying to look "hot" but not look like the ridiculous "biker granny" was much more of a challenge. 
I am a firm believer in the old adage, "just because it comes in your size, doesn't mean you should wear it,"

 I settled on a black halter style top and white shorts. July in Atlanta, right? I had to have something casual enough to wear flip flops with, because there was no way I was getting my foot, still swollen from the accident, into anything else. I still looked pretty hot (or at least I thought that I did) and age appropriate. My children would be so proud. 

I often joke about how surprised I am to have made it out of the 80's with hearing and hair intact. I was a big fan of the heavy metal hair bands and would attend every chance I got. My ears would ring for days after. With this in mind, I purchased a small container of foam earplugs from Wallyworld, The concert would still be loud enough to hear through them, and I would save my hearing. 

Friday finally came, and it was the longest half day of my life. It was at that point that the text came. We were on "the list."  Thanks to a connection that K has, we were "on the list" to be back stage.

I could not breathe.
 Another Bucket List Item: Meet Legendary Rock Band

When my half day was finally over, I dashed home, threw a bunch of crap in a bag, and then paced in my living room, until K called to tell me she was on the way. 

We stopped off for some lunch and were soon on our way.  The drive when quickly, as we caught up on the things going on in our lives.

We knew the moment we crossed the Georgia state line because suddenly, all of the drivers with Georgia tags lost their minds.

No blinkers for lane changes
No looking back to see if anyone was there
No changing one lane at a time.
Speeding, then slamming on the brakes.
Not exactly what one would want to face without anxiety meds

Being the navigator on this adventure, it was hard to read directions and watch for idiots cutting us off left and right.

There are only a few things in Atlanta that I can get to from memory....Our office in Lithia, Six Flags and Turner Stadium. I'm kinda bummed that the Braves are moving to Cobb County, because I just got used to getting to Turner. Oh Well.

As we exited the interstate to head to our hotel. we had a lovely detour through a rather colorful side of Atlanta. Graffiti and abandoned buildings on both sides.  Not exactly the place we needed to get lost.

The MapQuest directions took us several blocks around the way to get to our hotel, The Glenn Hotel.
Built in 1923 the Glenn started it's existence as an office building. It features a rooftop bar called the SkyLounge with breath taking views of downtown Atlanta, including the adjacent Centennial Olympic Park and Ferris wheel.

Just be warned, if you stay at this hotel, they ONLY VALET PARK. There is a public lot across the street but I didn't see what the cost was.

Our 8th floor room ( gulp....8th floor!!) was cozy and overlooked the park and the Ferris wheel.  We took several pictures before starting to get ready for the concert.

We really didn't have time to do more than change clothes and fluff up our hair.
K was nervous about walking through the lobby in her concert outfit. I am not sure why. She looked amazing!

I told her that 1) I doubt we would ever see any of these people again and 2) we are going to a rock concert!!  It was starting to rain as the little valet guy brought the car around. but we were on our way.  According to the MapQuest direction from the hotel to the Aarons Ampitheatre we were only 2 exits away. A total of 10 minutes.

MapQuest DID NOT factor into account crazy Atlanta drivers, 6:00 p.m. weekend traffice, an Atlanta Braves game, or the 22,000 other fans going to the same event.  The closer we got to the event, the crazier the drivers became. No one used blinkers. They would just pull along side you and then start edging over until you stopped and they got in front of you!  K turned to me and said "This is why I no longer carry a gun."  It took almost an hour to get off the interstate on to the road to the ampitheatre.

An Escalade limo came along side of us. Loud, very possibly drunk, rednecks hung out of every window. They hooted and yelled at every car around.

We followed a line of cars to a neighborhood where a group of residence were parking cars. For $20 we were given a spot on the grassy area of curb, within  a few dozen yards of an off-duty APD officer sitting under an unbrella.  K handed me a disposable rain poncho she had picked up from Wallyworld for 99 cents. We made sure we had our tickets and then we were on our way.

We had to walk an eighth of a mile, which is not bad and not that far on flat ground. But the hills and uneven sidewalks had me longing for sneakers. My foot throbbed. K recieved many whistles and cat calls as we made our way to the venue. It was drizzling just enough to have to wear the poncho. I was getting hot underneath it. Closer to the venue, we passed a man on the sidewalk, selling the exact same poncho we had, out of a Wallyworld bag. He was standing on the corner, shouting, "Rain Ponchos, Five Dollars"  and holding one over his head. Nice profit.

Our first stop, after getting through the gate was the Will Call window. We had gone in through the front gate and located it easily. The helpful gentleman inside took K's license and disappeared into the office. When he came back, he did not have our passes. "You are on the wrong side" he said, shaking his head. "You have to go to the window at the back gate."  He explained how to get there and we made our way through the crowd.

When we finally made it to the OTHER Will Call window, I was sweaty and my hair was droopy.  But we got our wristbands and our passes.

After obtaining some refreshments, we made our way to our seats. I can honestly say these were almost the best seats I had ever had in all of my concert-going life.  We were six rows from the front! The only ones better were the front row Bon Jovi seats I got in college in 1987 for the "Slippery When Wet" Tour. Seats 5 and 6 put us almost in the middle, just off house right.

The roughest part of this was that everyone, coming or going, would  have only a few inches to squeeze by on the way to their seats. I raised my foot like a stork to keep others from stomping on my broken, and very swollen toes. Directly in front of us were two tall gentlemen, flanked by two short women. A short, portly lady to my left, who took up most of my standing space too. But we were under the pavillion, so it was no longer necessary to be wearing the poncho. I was glad to get it off.

As I did, I turned to see the crowd assembled on the lawn behind me. It was drizzling just enough to be icky and wet. I remembered the Bangles concert, where we had lawn seats. It had rained and I we could not sit down because the ground was so muddy. Thankfully, Oak Mountain remodeled and did away with the "lawn seating" not long after that.

Def Leppard took the stage. The crowd sang along to "Let It Go." It was very loud. For a moment I thought to myself, "Wow, this is loud." For the first time I thought of the earplugs that I had bought, still in my weekend bag, back at the hotel.

I found myself standing there staring, mouth agape. Def Leppard had been my favorite band back in the day. I had gotten to see them in concert,  both immediately before, and close after, Rick Allen's accident. I never noticed any difference in the music.  Lead singer, Joe Elliot, hung the moon and stars as far as I was concerned.  Time had definitely taken it's toll on his signature falsettto and several familiar songs were now an octave lower.

I got to see "Love Bites," arguably one of my favorite DL songs.

Betore their set was done, it was time to meet for the back stage tour.  K and I made our way to the gate. I hated to miss any more of the show, but the music was still loud enough to hear, at a comfortable level I might add, by the gate to the back stage area.  We chatted with the security guard, who took this picture.

Now it was becoming very real. We were just moments away from meeting one of the most famous, legendary rock bands of all time.  Through the gate we could see the back stage area. We were told that we could not take photos with our own devices, but that they would take a souvenier photo for us. That did not stop K from snapping a few shots as we waiting to take our photo.

I mean, why pay attention to the guys (who we were told was the opening act) in front of you when a hot girl in a black corset and boots is taking your picture?
They were freakishly tall in their platform boots. I was really conscious of my injured foot. They were lined up for fan pictures in front of a back drop with the "Decades of Decibels" anniversary logo.
I was so starstruck, all I could do was giggle. I think that I managed a "hello" but really not sure.  They smelled really nice. I heard Paul Stanley tell K that he was "gonna wrap my arms around you" and the next thing I know, Gene Simmons grabs me around the throat, my head caught in the crook of his elbow! I screamed!  I am sure the shock registered on my face. SNAP! Captured for all posterity.

He chuckled. I am sure that he surprised many folks that way, and I could tell by his laugh that he enjoyed catching people off guard.

They were very friendly and down to earth. Not what one would expect from rock legends, 40 years in the business. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley were both very "fan friendly," recognizing that the fans put them where they are. Gene Simmons is a perv. All I could think about was the fact that he shares his birthday with my mother. Dirty old man. Drummer Eric Singer was visibly shorted than the lot, but only after I realized that he was not wearing platform boots. "No one sees my feet" he laughed. We were technically the guests of Tommy Thayer, through K's connection, but he was the one person I didn't get a chance to speak to.

As we mingled with the others back stage, I ran into Angie Ward.  She is a DJ in Atlanta.  I grew up with Angie, and was around her often over the years, mainly because we share a cousin. Though she is not really my blood-relative, we still call each other "cousin".  She was surprised to see me, and later posted our pic on her facebook page.


While there was still time between sets, we bought our souvenir tee-shirts. The road crew was still working feverishly to change out the sets.  The lights were up, so we took the opportunity to snap a few pictures.

Soon the house lights dimmed and we heard the intro

"You wanted the best, You got the best! The hottest band in the world...KISS!"

With that the curtain fell, streamers fell from the sky, and the pyros went off. I was surprised at how hot they were, standing six rows back. I could not imagine standing directly in front of them.  My face tingled like it was sunburned, everytime something went off. Again, I thought of the earplugs back at the hotel.

KISS did not disappoint. This was  the 4th time I have seen them myself, but K's first time to see them in person. She was very excited, her camera phone, snapping pictures constantly. 

They started things off with "Psycho Circus" followed by "Duece" and one of my favorites, "Shout It Out Loud."

I wasn't sure if it was the steady beat of the precussion, or if I had fallen in sync with the music. I could feel every drumbeat in my chest. K and I sang along with every tune. Newer tunes "War Machine"  and "Love it Loud" followed classics "Cold Gin" and "Hide Your Heart."


About midway through the set, Paul Stanley comes to center stage. He kneeled down on his knees and openly thanked God for the blessings He has bestowed on him and the band. The other members all nodded in agreement.  K turned to me, "Wow! How awesome was that?!"  I just smiled, "He is giving credit where credit is due. Why do you think they have been so successful?"  I think that "Lick It Up" came next.

There were fire breathing. blood spewing, a "mechanical spider", some flying, some sing-alongs,  and of course, lots and lots of pyro.  "Hotter Than Hell" featured a little fire breathing.  Gene played my favorite absolute favorite KISS song, "God of Thunder" from high a top the mechancal spider rigging, but not until after his blood-drenched bass solo. Pau did a little flying of his own and flew over the crowd to a platform during "Love Gun" and flew back after he initiated a audience sing-along during the intro to "Black Diamond."

Crowd favorite "Detroit Rock City"  was next and nearly brought the house down.

Now usually, there is a true encore, where they stop playing and then the crowd cheers and they come back out and play "Rock and Roll All Night"  but Paul explained that because Atlanta had a curfew, they were not going to waste any time and launched right into the song.  The crowd went wild!

K and I sang along,  her phone in the air, recording everything around us.

Cannons sprayed confetti over the crowd. It was so heavy in our section that it was hard to see.  At the end, as we were leaving, it looked like snowfall.

(Comically enough K even had confetti in her underwear when we got back to the hotel)

The pyrotechnic finale left us both blinking and seeing spots. The evening ended with this sign, and the recorded version of "God Gave Rock and Roll To You"

We had someone sitting nearby get this closing shot.

The walk back to the car was worse than the walk to the venue. It was up hill. My foot was throbbing and the wet tape was unraveling from my uber-tender toes.  The car was just as we had left it and it's placement made leaving super easy. We were on the interstate in no time.
Driving back to the hotel was not as simple as following our directions in reverse. Though we were successful in getting on the interstate, there was not a corresponding exit on the opposite side of the interstate. The exit we did decide to use took us several blocks out of our way.  We knew that we were across from Olympic Park and followed every sign we saw that listed it. At 11:00 p.m/ in downtown Atlanta. Great.
It started to be comical. We thought about stopping for directions but each person we approached seemed a little skeevy. "Oh, look, let's ask this fellow walking his two pit bulls who is holding up his pants with the other hand!"
 We found ourselves on one of many streets named Peachtree in the city. We knew that a round, high rise was just to right of our hotel. We spotted the Westin, a round building and tried to maneuver around it but there were one way streets and dead ends all around.  We still had not spotted the Ferris wheel, our main landmark, or  our secondary landmark, the CNN building across the street.
I'm not sure how we finally found them, but we both cheered once we saw them.
We had less than an hour to check out the Skylounge before it closed at 1:00 a.m. The view of the city was breath taking, despite the rain and increasing fog.  We took a few pictures.

Red wine for K and a vodka cranberry for me. It was a little too cold to sit on the open patio, but too crowded to sit in the bar.  We did find a seat on one of the couches in the dry part of the patio. The fog rolled in and the tops of the buildings were no longer visible.  We shared a glass of rum punch at last call. both wishing that we had not gotten lost.

Exhausted, we both practically fell into bed, but not before I got a pic of my swollen feet.
Saturday morning we decide to leave for Alabama not long after we got up. A stop off at Shoney's  in Oxford for an all you can eat brunch rounded out our adventure.
Sunday was spent catching up on my Saturday chores and sitting around with my still swollen foot propped up on pillows.
Whew!! What a weekend!
~En JOY!

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