Choosing the Road pt. 1- Bourbon and Beyond Festival

Around this time last year, I was pretty fresh from seeing Greta Van Fleet live for the first time. I wrote all about that incredible experience here, and in short, it was life changing. Afterward, I promised myself I would buy tickets to as many shows this year as I could physically get myself to, and I’m happy to say I delivered on that promise. Louisville, Knoxville, and Birmingham all within two months. First on the docket was the Bourbon & Beyond Festival in Louisville, KY.

This is exactly how this fall has felt…

I bought tickets to this first show the day they announced the lineup. They put Greta and Pearl Jam on the same night of a festival, and I’m automatically sold. I quickly bought tickets for my dad and I (at that time Haley, my usual Greta buddy, wasn’t going to be home this fall).

Finally, September rolled around, and all the sudden it was the month of the festival. I was excited to have this experience with my dad, but also very sad Haley wouldn’t be here to see two of our favorite bands in the entire world. To make a very long story very short, Haley surprised me by coming home early and bought several concert tickets in her very first week back home. (I’m such a good influence).

B&B weekend came around quickly, and Haley and I scrambled to prepare. We had day passes for just Saturday, so on Friday night we stayed at my house and were absolutely insane. We were packing, and fixing our hair, and hysterically singing along to my From the Fires vinyl. We got almost no sleep at all that night; we were way too excited. It had been a full year since we’d seen Greta, and we’d never seen Pearl Jam before, so anticipation was at an all-time high.


We woke up early Saturday morning to finish getting ready for when dad came to pick us up at 8. We had a 4-hour drive to Louisville ahead of us, and the first item on our agenda was a nutritious Mcdonald’s breakfast for fuel. Then, we took like 3 separate wrong turns before we got on the Interstate (thanks to my phenomenal navigation skills). Finally, we were actually headed on our way. Dad, Haley, and I are all very nerdy about rock and roll so we had plenty to talk about on our road trip. We also took part in the classic road trip activities: stopping at gas stations for cokes and candy, poking fun at the names of tiny towns, and wondering aloud about the odd & obscure roadside attraction billboards. Around 2, we arrived in Louisville to our hotel, hoping for early check in, but were unsuccessful. Disappointed but not deterred, we sought out something to eat, absolutely starving from our road trip. We drove around a bit, trying to find anything that sounded appealing. I found a little fish shack that sounded good, or at least decent, and we entered it into the maps.

I don’t know how to describe how bad of an idea that was; we finally found it, after driving through a sketchy alleyway, and found it covered in trash and cardboard signs and looking very much closed. At that moment, I swore I was never picking where we ate again (that rule has since been changed, but more on that later). We then gave up trying to be exciting and settled on the Cracker Barrel conveniently located right beside our hotel. It wasn’t adventurous, but it was food, and we needed to eat.

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel to just wait it out until they let us check in. Poor dad, because I know Haley and I just continued to get antsier and antsier as we sat in the car. We were itching to get ready and get to the festival grounds. Finally, right before 4 pm, we were allowed to check in and we practically sprinted to our room with our luggage. We got dressed as quickly as we could, and my dad was wonderfully patient as Haley and I scrambled to put on our ritual of gold makeup for Greta. Once we were ready, we headed out so we could pick up Haley’s wristband at the box office and then it was really time to head to the show!

the classic Greta Gold makeup and my Jake Kiszka-inspired hat
wristbands SECURED

Back in our element, finally!

Greta was slated to come on at 7:40, and we got there a little bit early, so we had some time to walk around, check everything out, and obviously take pictures. We scoped out the merch tent, and found the giant album displays to take the cutest pictures ever.

I was so excited to introduce dad to Greta, and to see one of our joint-favorite bands: Pearl Jam!

Dad and his fav, Jack White! (sadly he performed on Friday so we didn’t get to see him, but we still had to pose for pics)

got to be a part of my fav album, no big deal (this picture actually means the world to me)
just warming up before the set
me & chris & our cowboy hats

While in line to get water, I heard a familiar voice coming from the stage and was confused, because I knew I wasn’t familiar with the band that was currently performing. I turned my head, and there was Eddie Vedder’s face on a 20-foot LED screen (he had come out to sing with them). I’m not sure what happened to me, but I actually shed a tear. I was not prepared to see him yet and it was an actual jump scare and I genuinely freaked out. My dad and Haley will testify; I think I stopped breathing for a second.

very real & honest reaction to one of my favorite people ever

After recovering, we drank our nice little Music Waters and scoped out the art tents, enjoying the shade. The atmosphere took me right back to Bonnaroo, making me miss the festival life. Soon after, we decided to go ahead and head up toward the stage to stake out a spot for Greta. While we stood up there, we got the best surprise: our lovely friend Autumn that we met at our very first Greta show, found us and we got to hug her again, a whole year later! We knew she was at the festival, but the crowds were so dense, and the service was really bad, so we’d kind of given up hope on finding her. The universe lined up just right, however, and we had the sweetest reunion! It’s amazing how Greta brings people together.

ready to rock!
Autumn!! ❤

The anticipation for the boys to take the stage is always so intense. Haley and I were counting down every minute on the minute and kept turning to my dad to make sure he was properly excited.

this was right before they came on… can you tell we were excited??

I have a video I took from when Sam and Danny first came onstage, and you can hear us screaming “I SEE THEM I SEE THEM!” In our defense, it’d been a whole year since we’d seen our favorite band in the entire world, so of course we were excited.

Josh, in a brand new jumpsuit! (something dedicated greta fans know is exciting)
The cameraman gave us all the Jake angles we could ever want
our bass king, Sammy
And the glorious Danny Wagner set against a beautiful sunset

They played an amazing set full of all of our favorite songs (which isn’t hard because we love of all of their songs). My dad said he was so entertained by Haley and I the entire time because we danced and sang to every single beat and every few minutes we would turn and make faces at each other like “Can you believe this?!” I’ll tell you, concerts with Haley and I is not for the weak.

Surprisingly we got to hear one of their songs we’d never heard live before; “Lover, Leaver (Taker, Believer)” was incredible and I nearly cried again when Josh changed up the notes at one point. I might be just a little bit dramatic, I know.

rock and roll, always
This is pure happiness for me

After their incredible set, my dad was very impressed and said that they were hands down one of the best live bands he’d ever seen (and he’s seen quite a few). Haley and I were full of adrenaline as usual, and then freaked out even more when we realized we now just had 5 minutes until Pearl Jam took to the stage. Let me tell you, 5 minutes between Greta and Pearl Jam is not nearly enough time to recover. I was jumping around like crazy, especially since this would be my first PJ show.

This is us in between sets, trying to gather our wits

The crowd that night was mind-blowing. We found out after that it was the largest crowd in Bourbon & Beyond history. We were lucky enough to have a pretty decent spot in it all. Not close, but a perfectly good view!

Pearl Jam was literally incredible. Everything I could’ve ever dreamed of. It’s unreal seeing such legends right in front of you.

They opened with “Daughter” and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I nearly started crying. It was such a beautiful opening. They kept up after that with a few more slow songs, then, after “Elderly Woman…” they kicked it up a notch or two. There were only a few songs that they didn’t play that I wish they had, but overall it was an incredible setlist. We heard “Corduroy”, “Garden”, “Jeremy”, “Alive” and like a million more, each one incredible. The best part was their grand finale cover of “Purple Rain” by Prince. I was in love.

It was such a special show and getting to experience it with Dad and Haley was even better. We were all completely worn out afterward, but we were absolutely ecstatic. After we tore ourselves away from the end of the PJ set, we fought against an insane river of people to get back over to the merch stand. Haley and I are die-hard concert t-shirt people so there’s no way we were leaving without one. We live by this philosophy: if you didn’t buy the t-shirt, did you really even go?

I bought my first official PJ shirt and Haley bought a Bourbon & Beyond festival shirt so it would have both PJ and Greta on it. Once we made it back to the car (which proved a little difficult in the giant parking lots) the absolutely painstaking process of picking which pictures and videos to post began. It’s always the hardest part.

We eventually made it back to the hotel, and dad basically went right to sleep (I think we wore him out a little bit). Haley and I had way too much adrenaline, so we got snacks from the hotel lobby and continued to watch more videos from the shows and laugh at ourselves screaming (which usually dominates most of our videos).

Eventually, we fell asleep, somehow.


When I tell you a don’t even know how to write about Sunday, I mean it was really a struggle. But hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Not a single one of the three of us stirred until about 8:30 the next morning. We were purely exhausted. We eventually began to wake up, if only to get some of the complimentary breakfast before it closed. There’s something about a hotel breakfast after a concert that I just love.

We ate and discussed our plans for the day. We didn’t really want to be stuck in Louisville for too long since we had a good 4-hour road trip back home still to go. Haley and I did, however, convince Dad to go back through Nashville and go to Grimey’s, our favorite record store ever. (It really didn’t take much convincing; Dad loves Grimey’s and hadn’t been there in several years.)

The three of us packed up the room, and Haley and I got dressed and did a least a little bit of makeup and hair so we didn’t look totally insane all day. I’ll admit, a lot of times we look pretty worse for wear the day after a concert, but I’m so glad we took the extra time that day. I wore my PJ shirt, and she wore her Bourbon & Beyond

This now stands as one of my favorite outfits I’ve ever worn.

Had to send this to mom to show off my new shirt

We loaded up into the car and headed on our way toward Music City. We had a wonderful morning trip consisting mostly of recapping our favorite moments from the shows and listening to all the songs from the setlists. At about 11:30, we got to Grimey’s, but they open at noon, so we had to sit for a bit. We people watched and listened to Greta. We eventually got out of the car to look at the different murals on the outside of the store, and of course to take a few more pictures.

Billy Strings is another of our favorites, so of course we love this mural.

We spent more than an hour just browsing and spending more money than we really needed to (but it’s worth it). Haley and I scored with Bon Jovi and Pearl Jam CDs, and my dad was thrilled just to look at their huge collection of records and music books. On our way out, I spotted a poster for the David Bowie Moonage Daydream film in the free bin, and of course I had to snag that too.

Funny now that this haul seemed like the highlight of my day.

After our Grimey’s adventure, we were STARVING. Dad told us to pick out a place to eat, because we figured since we were in East Nashville we might as well pick out a cool place to grab lunch. I complained that I did not want to be the one to pick where we ate (because of the previous fiasco) but then looked up places near us on Maps anyway. I read off the names of a few places, and my dad suggested the Mexican place I’d mentioned, but I remarked that I didn’t really feel like Mexican that day. (Which is weird, because I like Mexican). I then suggested a random deli and said, “They have sandwiches and stuff, and it’s only 4 minutes away, if that’s okay.” Dad and Haley agreed, and we put it into Maps and were on our way.

We’d never been to this restaurant, so we took our time ordering and looking around. I ordered my sandwich and talked to the checkout guy for a few minutes about Pearl Jam. Haley and I got our drinks, and she and my dad sat down first, with me following right behind. As I was approaching our table to sit down, I looked around the restaurant, like you do, and saw a very familiar face and curly hair just a few tables away from us. I had a moment of sheer confusion and I’m pretty sure I did a triple-take. I was convinced I was hallucinating.

I leaned down to dad and Haley sitting at our table and said, “Danny is over there!” as calmly and quietly as I could. (Danny being the drummer of Greta Van Fleet). My dad thought I was joking, but as soon as Haley saw my face, she knew I was dead serious. I had to sit down for a second, as Haley and I tried to calm down and gather our wits to go over and say hi. We were totally freaking out, and my dad was the one that encouraged us and said we’d always regret it if we didn’t at least say hi.

We walked over to his table, and said “uh, Hi” in probably the tiniest quietest voices ever. We were so nervous to bother him at lunch. He immediately smiled and was like “Hey, what’s up?” We got to talk to him for several minutes; about how awesome Pearl Jam is, how much we love Grimey’s, and the other Greta shows Haley and I had tickets for this year. He was such a genuine person, so sweet and kind, and it was so indescribably cool to get to tell your favorite drummer how awesome it was to see him play just the night before. We also got to meet his super cool friend David, the front man for The Thing With Feathers (another great band). We debated even asking for a picture, since we knew he was just trying to grab some lunch and we really didn’t want to bother him, but as soon as I mentioned a picture he practically jumped out of his chair and was like “Yes, absolutely!!”

most surreal moment of my entire life. Pic creds to David 🙂

It was literally such a magical moment. I appreciate him so much for being so genuine and for taking the time to talk to us. Haley and I headed back to our seats after the picture, but we were too starstruck to even touch our own lunch. We just sat their kind of staring at each other, still trying to play it cool while they were still in the restaurant with us. When Danny and David got their orders, they took them to go, and as they passed our table Danny told us bye and that it was very nice to meet us.

Haley and I somehow managed to sit there at least semi-calmly (I say that loosely) as we sent the picture to everyone. We know to let them know the life-changing event that had just occurred. I sent it to my mom, my brother, our friend Brooke, and Haley and I immediately sent it to Autumn as well. We had to let everyone know that we would never be shutting up about this (and we still haven’t). After my dad finished his lunch (because like I said, we couldn’t eat) we headed back to the car and that’s when Haley and I finally let ourselves fully freak out, once there was no chance of Danny being around to hear it. I feel so bad for my dad on that drive home because there wasn’t even a two-minute break where we weren’t screaming, squealing, hysterically laughing, or repeatedly rehashing the story of what had happened. We were seriously losing it, and my dad took it all in stride.

That was quite possible the best possible ending to one of the best weekends of my life. I am so thankful for how the stars aligned that day, because it literally made Haley and I’s entire lives. Every event that lined up to let that happen was magical. Seeing two of my favorite bands in the entire world, followed by meeting my favorite drummer in the entire world, was the best weekend I could have even imagined. I’m so grateful to have had dad and Haley along for such a wild ride!

Part one of Choosing the Road this year was a major success, and it only made me even more excited for the other adventures to come. Thanks for reading and following along with my love of rock and roll, and I hope you stay tuned because there are many more adventure stories to come!

Until next time, Sophia ❤

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