I will begin this post by saying that this might just be the greatest of all my concert stories so far, and will be tough to top. As such, it is a fairly long post, but I promise you, it is worth the read.
So you may have noticed that the ticket stub has a date of May 31, 2019, which was not the date of the actual concert. If you’ve kept up with current events, you probably know that the entire No Filter tour was postponed because Mick Jagger needed heart surgery. (Who knew he had a heart?) I had bought three tickets for this show, with the intention of going with my wife and daughter. Going to this concert was actually a gift for my daughter’s birthday/graduation, since she had told me that of all the bands that were still touring, the Stones was the one she would most want to see. I suppose I’ve done my job as a rock and roll parent.
Anyway, the Stones rescheduled, and lo and behold, my wife and I had already relocated to California, a long way from Landover, Maryland, where the concert was being held. And since my wife had just started her new job, she could no longer go. So it was decided that I would fly back to North Carolina by myself, pick up my daughter, drive to Virginia, and then give the extra ticket to my nephew, at whose house we would stay. A bit of a logistical challenge, but worth it. I really wanted to make sure my daughter got to see the Stones.
Now is where the story gets really interesting.
About a week before the concert, I woke to an excited text from my daughter. She told me that she was letting people at her job know that she would be out the following week because she was going with her dad to see the Rolling Stones. One of her coworkers replied, “Oh, you’re going to see the Stones? My cousin works for the Rolling Stones. Do you want me to see about getting you backstage passes?” A quick email later, and we had three backstage passes waiting for us at will call. BACKSTAGE PASSES TO THE ROLLING STONES!! I really was having a hard time believing it. But I reread the forwarded text, which had the name of the contact should there be any issue picking up the passes or getting backstage, and was giddy with excitement.
So on July 1 I flew to NC and met my daughter. July 2, the two of us drove 8 hours to VA and connected with my nephew (who is the same age as my daughter and they get along great). Then it was July 3, the day of the show.
FedEx Field, the stadium which is home to the Washington Redskins, was about 30 miles from where we were in VA. The concert was scheduled to start at 7:30, so we left the house at 3:30 to give us plenty of time. I was unprepared for the traffic we encountered. It literally took us 2 ½ hours to get to the stadium. I was trying hard to be cool.
We paid the exorbitant $60 to park, and inquired about where the will call window was located. I was told there were two, one on each side of the stadium. Not knowing where the passes would be, I picked the one that was closest and we got in line. And we stood there. And stood there. The line was not moving and people were freaking out. I later discovered it was because the computers were not working and no one who had tickets at will call could get the tickets they paid for. Now I was feeling worried, because if I got to the window and the passes were on the other side of the stadium, we might have a problem. As I was discussing this with my daughter and nephew, someone near us in line, who was more observant than myself, pointed out that there was another will call window off to the side with a sign that said “Band/Tour Will Call” and suggested I go there. So I did. I walked right up and told the person there that I was supposed to be picking up backstage passes and gave him my name. “I have nothing for that name,” he informed me.
I responded, “C**** was the person who was supposed to give us those.”
“I just spoke with C**** and he didn’t say anything. But I can call him.”
So the guy made a call from his cellphone, I watched as he spoke and nodded, then he took two passes from the drawer and slid them under the window to me. I felt a twinge of panic and meekly mentioned that there was supposed to be three, and he casually got the third and passed it to me. And in my hand I held three backstage passes to the Rolling Stones.
I met back up with my daughter and nephew, and we each affixed our passes.
Right next to the window where I got the passes was the special VIP entrance. We walked up, they looked at our credentials, and we breezed in. Then they scanned our tickets (yes, we still needed the tickets we bought), and were escorted to an elevator that brought us up to the fifth floor. From there, we were led to the VIP lounge that looked down on the back of the stage. Free food and beverages were provided, so we ate and rehydrated, while milling around and chatting with people there.
Now I had never been backstage before, so prior to heading out there, I consulted with a friend of mine, Bill, who is a music journalist, just to know what to expect. He said for show like this, we probably would not meet Keith or Mick. They provide catering, and then usually one of the lesser band members comes out for a quick meet and greet before the show. So in this case, that band member was Chuck Leavell, long-time keyboardist for the Stones, who was also a member of the Allman Brothers in the 70’s. We got to meet him, and he was really nice and accommodating, graciously posing for a picture with the three of us.
At this point, the opening act, Ghost Hounds, had already been playing for a while, so we decided to leave the air conditioned comfort and go take our seats. By the time we got to section 431 in the upper deck, the opening band was playing their last song.
Although we were in the upper deck, the seats were not bad, and we had a decent view of the stage. We chatted with the folks around us as we waited for the Stones to take the stage.
Finally, the lights went down, and they exploded onto the stage, opening with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Great choice! For a group of guys who have survived over 70 years of hard living, and Mick just having heart surgery, they sounded damn good and had a lot of energy.
About halfway through the show, the band moved to a smaller satellite stage in the center and played a couple acoustic tunes, which was great, because then we had an even better view of the band.
All the while, I was noticing how much fun my daughter and nephew were having, and I felt really happy. I was glad that they were enjoying the show, and after going backstage and meeting one of the band members, I knew that this would be a special memory for them both.
But wait… things were about to get infinitely better.
About 2/3 through the show, the band was playing “Miss You” and my daughter was standing up and dancing. She was the only person standing in our section, and I was glad that people around us were not being jerks about it. But then some official looking dude with a lanyard and badge came up to us and waved my daughter closer. The two of them leaned across me so I heard the conversation.
Dude: “How many are in your group?”
Daughter: “Three…” (tentatively, like she was in trouble)
Dude: “Well I only have two passes to go up front. I’m with the band and am looking for someone in the upper decks who is dancing and enjoying the show so I can bring them up front, but I only have two wristbands. Do you want to go up front?”
I looked at my daughter and nephew, not wanting to split them up, or send them off alone, and asked the guy, “You don’t have three?”
“Nope,” he said, “Only two. Do you want them? I can take you up front right now.”
At this point, my nephew spoke up. “Go! Go! This is your chance. I’ll stay here.”
So we promised to come back up and get him afterwards, and went off with the dude who handed each of us a very official looking wristband.
The dude told us we would go up front on Keith’s side of the stage, that this was the best spot to be for the rest of the show. While we were going down, we could hear “Paint It Black” being played, the one song we missed, but a worthwhile sacrifice. We told the dude that C**** had also given us backstage passes, and he was like, “Oh cool, I know C**** really well.” And as we quickly made our way down to the front, my daughter kept looking at me, eyes wide, commenting, “What the fuck? How is this happening? I feel like I’m dreaming.”
We finally got down by the pit right in front, and the security did not want to let my daughter and me through. The dude started yelling at the security guy, flashing his badge, and then he waved someone else over, who said something to the security person, and just like that, we were right in front of the stage. The dude said his farewell, went off, and my daughter and I danced and basked in the glory of seeing the world’s greatest rock and roll band from a vantage point that few have experienced. Of course, I had to snap a few pictures on the phone.
We were up front for the last five songs, which was basically the last quarter of the 20-song show. I’ve been to many concerts in my life, but none of them compared to this experience, of being backstage and then essentially front row, for the Rolling Stones. And the fact that I shared the experience with my daughter, and the look of sheer ecstatic joy on her face, made the whole night seem like nothing less than a rock and roll fantasy come true. Miracles really do happen.
After the last note of “Satisfaction,” my daughter and I made it back upstairs and had no problem reconnecting with my nephew. Then we made our way to the car, sat in the traffic getting out of the stadium parking area, and made the drive back to Virginia with no problems, basically basking in the afterglow of the most epic concert experience ever.
I still have a drawer full of old stubs with stories associated to them, and more concerts on the horizon, but I doubt that I will ever be able to top this one. I suppose the only thing I can add at this point is the setlist. And yes, I know, it’s only rock and roll, but I like it, like it, yes I do!
- Jumpin’ Jack Flash
- It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)
- Tumbling Dice
- You Got Me Rocking
- Mercy, Mercy (Don Covay & The Goodtimers cover, first time performed since July 5, 1969 at Hyde Park)
- Rocks Off (by request)
- You Can’t Always Get What You Want
- Angie (B-Stage / Acoustic)
- Let It Bleed (B-Stage / Acoustic)
- Sympathy for the Devil
- Honky Tonk Women
- Slipping Away (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
- Before They Make Me Run (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
- Miss You
- Paint It Black
- Midnight Rambler
- Start Me Up
- Brown Sugar
- Gimme Shelter
- (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction