There have been a lot of things I’ve missed since COVID-19 impacted our lives, but as things started to get back to normal I’ve been eagerly anticipating getting back to concerts.

It seems only fitting that my first post-pandemic concert experience was the grand re-opening of the American Family Insurance Amphitheater, where the Foo Fighters were going to play. I hadn’t expected to get back to a show until October for a concert that had been postponed due to COVID-19, so going in August was a treat. Plus, it was free.

When it comes to getting concert tickets, I’ve been very fortunate to win a good number through online auctions or pure luck. This time was the latter – just putting my name in a drawing at MadCity Music Exchange on the July Record Store Day. I’d actually forgotten I entered until I received an email informing me I’d won.

Obviously, I needed to find a concert companion. At first I considered having a friend who has been my regular plus one to shows and then I thought of another friend who doesn’t get to a lot of concerts but liked being able to hit up a few each year. Both of them would be familiar with driving to the venue so in the event I started to stress out about the Milwaukee grid system or my eyes started to really act up due to allergies, they’d be able to navigate the drive.

Instead, I asked my brother to come along. We’d seen the Foo Fighters when they played the Kohl Center a few years ago. I remember we had seats that felt nearly perpendicular to the floor and were high enough to make me feel just a tad uncomfortable (I’m not a fan of heights). I figured it would be fun way to spend some time together.

The drive to the lakeshore was relatively painless; thankfully there wasn’t a Brewers game in Milwaukee that day, though there was the typical I-94 stretches of construction and accidents holding up the Milwaukee streets. My phone helped navigate the way and traffic control directed us to the parking lot I’d bought a pass for.

The line to get into the Summerfest grounds wasn’t terrible and you could tell that for many people, this was their first concert in more than a year, too. I saw older people and parents with children. Some people opted to wear masks even though at the time of the concert the mandate for face coverings at the venue had not been put in place.

Since I’d never been to the amphitheater before, I can’t compare it to what it had been like before the renovations. I know the lines for concessions and the bathrooms were long, but what else is new at performance venues?

My tickets were for lawn seats, which I actually thought was pretty good. Further away from the stage, but we weren’t packed in sitting next to people. I still wanted to social distance just a bit even though my brother and I have both gotten our COVID vaccines.

The lawn area reminded me of going to the Fourth of July fireworks or a festival parade where people had laid out their blankets in an attempt to save the perfect spot. There was a nice breeze off the lake. I was a bit surprised at how empty the venue was. This show was supposed to have been sold out. Apparently, people were too busy standing in lines or didn’t care to see the opening band because as it became closer to 9 p.m. other fans began to arrive in waves.

The show was fantastic. Thousands of people there to enjoy a live performance; we were strangers who had at least one thing in common with each other if only for those few hours. I couldn’t stop grinning from this familiar feeling that I hadn’t been able to find a replacement for during the past 18-plus months.

I know there are going to be changes to concerts in the coming months, with venues already announcing some new COVID-19 protocols. And I’ll adapt to those, because if it means concerts can be back; a bit of inconvenience isn’t going to keep me from the music.

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