Some form of normalcy has returned. After a year of hidden smiles and distanced interactions, live music and community and ringing eardrums have returned. The proof? Justin Moore headlined an outdoor concert at Hop Springs Beer Park in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (about 35 miles southeast of Nashville), on June 5.
When my sister Louisa and I were little, we’d run around the backyard at the first sight of lightning bugs in late May or June. The first bug caught signified the beginning of summer: freedom for us school-children personified in the entrapment of a glowing bug. I don’t remember seeing my first firefly last summer. Heck, I don’t remember that moment for a few years now. But Saturday, as I listened to Justin Moore belt “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away,” I looked out into the field behind the stage of bright lights and saw a quick glimmer among the weeds: my first lightning bug of 2021.
My dad is a huge concert geek. He is also an obsessive list-maker. Reach into the pocket of any pair of his khaki shorts and you’ll find a small, folded square of paper with his scribbles covering it in the form of numerous lists. A grocery list, a to-do list, a list of Carolina-Duke basketball game scores dating back to 1990, a list of books he has—or would like to—read. You get the point. His favorite list to jot is a setlist. Dad’s concert setlists are typically those from 1980 and 90s Grateful Dead shows, see. I didn’t expect him to commit to writing down each of Justin Moore’s songs. But as I walked over to join my parents in the crowd, I saw the proud smile I know so well spread across his face.
“Killer setlist so far, huh?” he said.
And there it was. Not on a crinkled piece of paper, but an iPhone note with similar remarks. “New!” marking Moore’s recent releases and “[Dale Earnhardt on bass drum]” to note his favorite part of the stage setup. Maybe he forgot a pen and paper, but maybe, after a year of forced lifestyle changes, Gordon Bynum has decided to tidy up his setlist tactics: iPhone app notes that will stand the test of time, rather than paper that melts at the sight of a washing machine.
My mom is one of the most outgoing people I know. This year of separation has been tough. Amy Bynum is a teacher who struggled to connect with her students hidden behind masks and screens. She is the life of any party she attends, but parties were few and far between this past year. But Saturday, being surrounded by people who were eager to celebrate a refreshed, renewed, reawakened celebration of community, I saw my mom light up again. Just like that first firefly of summer.
At one point, she returned from grabbing us another round with suppressed tears of joy. She explained a man beside her in line nudged her elbow—something that may have been a moment of fear less than 365 days ago.
“Looks like a damn picture over there, doesn’t it?” the unknown concert-goer said to her, as he pointed to the views on their left. A cotton candy sky, a glowing stage, a sea of cowboy hats, American flags, and dancing couples. And smiles you could actually see. A damn picture.
Justin Moore reminded that sea of people in Murfeesboro, Tennessee, a few important things the night of June 5.
He reminded us that while we wish “Heaven Wasn’t so Far Away,” we can see it in the moments of unity brought to us through country music. That ‘damn picture’ was no doubt heavenly to my mom and that man in line Saturday night.
And Justin Moore reminded us that those old moments we so cherished are not gone. Summer’s first lightning bugs and crinkled concert set-lists are here; they have returned. They may look a bit different, but their importance feels greater than ever. We’ve made it through. And man, that’s why we drink.