Choosing the Road pt. 2- Dreams in Gold Knoxville

Welcome back to me writing again in an attempt to relive my most favorite memories…

On the roster this week is another installment in my “Choosing the Road” journey of Fall ’22. If you haven’t read part 1 about seeing Greta Van Fleet and Pearl Jam at the Bourbon and Beyond festival, you can read that right here. Now for Part 2…

This time, I want to tell the wild tale of our second Greta show of the Fall, the Dreams in Gold stop in beautiful Rocky Top Knoxville, TN. This was the second ticket I forced Haley to buy the week she came home from Orlando. This time, a pit ticket (the best kind).

The show was on a Wednesday, and prep started at my apartment the day before, as per usual. We had to pack snacks (because we had a 4-hour road trip and a full day of waiting ahead of us), and of course we had to make posters too.

At Greta shows, Josh always hands out white roses to fans. In the spirit of this tradition, I bought red roses to bring with in hopes of getting some onstage somehow.

Obviously, we flexed meeting Danny… but like, who wouldn’t?? Especially since we’d told him we’d be in Knoxville

We packed waters and energy drinks and our concert outfits. Because we had pit tickets for this show, we were determined to make the most of it and wait in line for a good spot. My brother was coming with us and since we had to wait for him to get off work, we aimed to get to Knox around 7 or 8 in the morning. That meant, you guessed it, a wake-up time of 2:45 am. I know we’re nuts; you don’t have to remind me. But I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

The timestamp speaks for itself…

We finished throwing the rest of our bags in the car and piled in ourselves. Weirdly, we were wide awake and immediately got stoked for the day ahead. We turned on a playlist to get us going and Haley and I cracked open some energy drinks. Poor Wilder just tried to catch up on a little more sleep in the backseat. (He was a real trooper through this whole thing).

The anthem of all our adventures

The drive was hectic and chaotic, brought on by our lack of sleep combined with the kind of insane excitement only Greta can conjure. The playlist consisted of… well, let’s just call it a healthy variety of genres. Billy Ray Cyrus’s Achey Breaky Heart, Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive, and Big & Rich’s Save a Horse are just a few that I can remember screaming along to at 3:30 am as we made our way east. We realized pretty soon that we were starving and dying for a McDonalds biscuit but couldn’t find any that didn’t take us 40 minutes out of our way (and were also most likely closed due to it being well before dawn). We tried a truck stop, but I guess all the truckers beat us to the hot breakfast section, so we ended up with Hostess donuts and questionable fruit cups. Dissatisfied, we were determined to find something else. About 30 minutes later, as if in answer to our prayers, we saw a Buccee’s billboard. (If you know Haley or I in real life, you know what this meant). Before we dared get our hopes up, we had to make sure it was on our way and wouldn’t add hours onto our trip. When we discovered it was only 3 minutes off our path, we celebrated. That’s not even an exaggeration, the thought of a Buccee’s breakfast was a real win in that moment.

The motherland

Finally satisfied, we were leaving the parking lot right as the first colors of the sunrise began to show themselves. We listened to “Something in the Orange” by Zach Bryan to commemorate the beautiful sight as it rose over the east Tennessee mountains. It was a sight that would make you say “Good ol’ Rocky Top”, that’s for sure. It was such a lovely morning, and the day was only going to get better from there.

Knoxville morning rush hour traffic was less fun and beautiful than the glorious sunrise, but we made it through. Nerves were building as we got closer to the arena and closer to making our way to the wristband line. This was our first time doing any kind of early lineup for Greta pit. Last year, you could show up about 2 hours before doors opened and basically get barricade, but a lot has changed since then.

We parked and hurried to find the line at the correct arena entrance. We said Hi to our friends Emily and Keely who had gotten there a little before us, and then dutifully took our place at the back of the line somewhere around 8 am. The venue would be giving out wristbands at 10, and then everyone would disperse until it was time to line up again later in the afternoon.

There’s something about concerts like this that really teaches you to let go of any shame. If you’re anything like us, you’ll sit, practically in your pajamas, in the parking lot of a crowded college campus, playing Uno without a second thought. No doubt, I’d do it all over again and am already looking forward to the next time I get to.

good morning, UTK!
passing the time

I’m really glad we showed up when we did, because the line grew exponentially after us. When we finally got wristbanded, we ended up with numbers 253, 254, and 255, out of the lucky 300 that would be the first to be let in to the pit that night. We figured that really wasn’t too bad for having only gotten to the venue at 8. (I know that may sound crazy, but you have no idea how early people start camping out for these things. 8 am the day of is NOTHING). As soon as the wristbands were secured, it was somewhere around 11 am, and we raced back to the car, because we had decided we just HAD to eat some Cracker Barrel. We mapped to the nearest one in the city and headed there for some fuel before we tried to rest up for that evening’s events.

Wristbands are my favorite concert souvenirs

After our brunch or lunch or whatever that was (my concept of time that day had already slipped) we found a nearby hotel parking lot to park the car and nap in. I know that sounds nutty, but, as I told you before, this concert life teaches you to let go of a lot of shame. I wish I could tell you we got some quality rest and woke up feeling refreshed. Sadly, we slept a fitful 30ish minutes before we were too hyped to rest anymore and were just ready to get dressed. We were way beyond regular excitement levels, and it really only got worse.

Next, in true crazy person fashion, we went to the big hotel next door to our designated nap hotel to use their bathrooms to get ready. (I don’t know why that feels so illegal, but it felt downright criminal). We didn’t want to have to change in the car, so we just did what we had to do, people. If it takes locking myself in a hotel bathroom to look cute for a concert, I’ll do it any day.

I also did in fact put my sweatpants and jacket back on over my concert outfit to walk past the front desk lady because I didn’t really want to look THAT crazy.

Getting ready in true nomad fashion

We finished up the getting ready process in the car, with our ritual of applying our gold glitter and face gems. It’s tradition at this point. Once we were all decked out and Dreams in Gold-ified, we decided to just make our way back to the venue, so we knew we’d be there on time. We don’t play around with running late at these things. Plus, this gave us the perfect amount of time to get our merch early and put it back in the car before we got stuck with it. I got a poster, since they’re unique to each show, and elected to save my t-shirt purchase for the next show in October.

Proud of our poster!
Greta & TN Vols = Haley’s fav things!
Beyond ready for some rock n roll!

Soon, venue security began lining up everyone with numbered wristbands, and escorted us around the back of the building to keep us in order until doors opened. This was probably the most grueling part of the day. Standing outside, shielded from the sun, blown around in the wind coming right off the Tennessee River while wearing thin, sequined short jumpsuits, for no less than 2 and a half hours, is not the most fun. It was COLD, friends. and of course, we were obviously nowhere near dressed for the weather. It was enough to make us swear off doing this whole pit thing again (a promise we immediately recounted before buying another set of pit tickets, obviously). Everyone out there was practically begging security to let us in early, but it was understandable that they weren’t ready yet. Finally, finally, finally, they started letting everyone in by groups of 50. This meant it was getting really real and we were about to see the pit for ourselves.

cold, guys. very cold
Our first glimpse… I miss it!

We ended up opting for a center spot, slightly to Jake’s side, since our previous time in the pit, we were on Sam’s side. We ended up with an amazing view, and even got to be right by Emily and Keely, luckily enough. Nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to the moment you are finally in the pit, staking out your spot surrounded by friends. Seeing that stage and knowing all the effort of the day was worth it is just indescribable. It’s my favorite moment.

our view for the night!
friends ❤
Picture time before the music, of course
brother’s first Greta show!

As always, the openers were absolutely INCREDIBLE. Greta just knows how to pick opening acts. Robert Finley was first, and he was a blues LEGEND. I loved it, he brought the best energy and everyone in the pit was grooving right along with him.

The second opener was actually a band I’ve loved for a few years now, and I was STOKED to see them be a part of the DIG Tour. Houndmouth is one of the most endearing bands to see play, and I was loving every minute of them. Haley and I actually have tickets to see them this Spring, and I’m already counting down the days. You can always tell they’re having the time of their lives onstage.

they’re just so much FUN

After Houndmouth, it was showtime. This is always the most nerve-wracking part, this time especially so, because it was our first experience with the elusive and enigmatic DIG curtain.

On this tour, they started putting this huge curtain down in front of and on the sides of the stage, so that you can’t see the band take the stage. It’s one of my favorite parts of the show now, even if it makes my young heart feel like it’s about to absolutely give out. It really ups the anticipation factor, and it literally had Haley and I clinging on to each other while we tried to keep our legs from buckling. When Jethro Tull’s Reasons for Waiting begins to fill the arena, staying upright becomes even more of a challenge. As all Greta fans know, this is the last song on the pre-show playlist before they come onstage, and I genuinely think we all have some form of PTSD from it. I can’t even listen to it now without my stomach dropping to my feet. I don’t know if you’ve ever felt like you were going to black out while listening to Jethro Tull, but I can now say that I have.

Curtain is down, folks…

So there we were. The huge curtain hanging over our heads. The song comes to a close. The lights go down, and Josh’s Dreams in Gold monologue begins to flood from the speakers: “All across the world we’ve travelled wayward for…”

omg, almost time

Just thinking about this speech gives me chills. It’s beautiful, and it’s the perfect welcoming call to everyone at a DIG show. I never get tired of hearing it.

As the last line of the monologue comes to an end, the stage lights begin to flash, as Josh’s unmistakable voice comes over the speakers with a few notes. Then, a few drumbeats from Danny. Then Sammy on the bass, then Jake on the guitar. Just a few moments at a time, just enough to draw you in and somehow build the anticipation even more. The stage lights cast larger than life shadows of the band on the huge curtain, and the crowd collectively loses their minds. It’s the best concert introduction I have ever seen, no contest. Finally, the familiar opening notes to “Built by Nations” are played, and all at once the curtain drops dramatically and everything is right in front of your eyes. It is incredible.

the first look!

I know I say this about every Greta show, and I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing it, but this had to be the best one so far. I don’t understand how, but they genuinely get better every single time. The energy was really just something else in Knoxville. We got an incredible setlist (which is hard to avoid with Greta, but this one was like extra good), and everyone, including the band, just seemed to be having tons of fun.

the best BeReal I’ve ever taken

My favorite moment in the setlist had to be when I saw the crew off to the side of the stage carrying a stool and an acoustic guitar.

This could only mean one thing: they were gracing us with the rare treat of their song “Broken Bells”. This is one of my favorites, and I have been manifesting it on the setlists ever since I first saw them live. As soon as I saw the crew, I knew exactly what was happening and I somehow managed to scream out “YOU’RE KIDDING ME!!!” right as everyone else in the pit was quiet. So sorry about that everyone, I was just really, REALLY excited.

It was even more beautiful live than I could have imagined. I was entranced the entire time and was so blown away that I was finally hearing a song I’d been waiting 4 shows to hear live. I treasure that memory so very much.

“And out of silence we will sing…”
“… and even broken bells will ring…”

I swear to this day that Knoxville had one of the best shows of the run. Maybe I’m biased, but every bit of it was turned up to notch 11. After “closing” the show with an extended rendition of “The Weight of Dreams”, and Jake’s solos that somehow just get more mind-blowing every time, they took a short offstage break before coming back for the encore.

Jake just shredding
this is always my favorite part!
Weight of Dreams means tambourine solo, too

Encore time felt like a fever dream in Knoxville. I’m still not sure if it was real or not. They surprised us all by opening with another treasured song that not everyone gets lucky enough to hear live: “Age of Man”. This truly is one of their most beautiful songs and it’s made even more beautiful shared with an arena.

Then, it was “Highway Tune” time, as is customary of every Greta Grand Finale. This is when it really turned into pure, amazing, chaos, and I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun in my entire life.

In accordance with Greta tradition, this is when dozens of feather boas and pairs of crazy sunglasses are thrown to the stage so the band can get decked out for the finale. I swear they love it as much as we do. Josh is often the first to the accessories, and then dedicates himself to distributing boas and glasses to each of his brothers (Danny included, obviously).

Even Jake got custom glasses this show

To this day, I think Knoxville’s true claim to fame is being the origin of the “Mullet Daddy” sunglasses, to which Josh’s response was “Well, these are creative!” before sporting them for a majority of the song.

Of course, the surprises weren’t over yet. Josh decided that Knoxville needed a little taste of the blues and launched us into his sought-after cover of Elvis’s “That’s Alight Mama.” Everybody hopes to witness this moment at their show, and I’m so glad we did.

rockin and rollin

Then, another surprise: Jake brought out a harmonica!!! This was absolutely insane; I didn’t expect for us to get this experience too but wow, I’m glad we did. It was amazing! It was like they were pulling out all the stops just for us. This is the best part of Greta shows; you can tell they’re having just as much fun there as you are.

Sometime during this wild party of a finale, my friends and I threw some of my red roses up on to the stage. In a moment I’ll never forget, Josh picked one of them up from the stage beside him and threw it right back to us! I have never freaked out more in my entire life. I still have the rose to remind me just how lucky I am to experience all of this.

Eventually, it was actually time for them to say goodbye for the night. It honestly felt like they would’ve stayed there playing for hours more. It was so sad to see them go, but we knew we’d be seeing them one more time before the year ended. As they finished up and began to toss a few last things in the crowd, we saw Danny come over, and he tossed a drumstick right in our direction (we swear it was because of our sign). Sadly, a man behind Haley wrestled it out of her hands, but she at least got to touch it!

Post-drumstick battle
The Aftermath
Maybe not our brightest idea, but worth it all

It was yet another unreal experience in a long line of adventures with Haley and I, and I wouldn’t trade any of it. I hope these posts can even describe half of the magic of Greta live, because it really is nothing short of incredible every single time. I live for these moments of live music magic, and I consider myself very lucky for them to play such a big part of my life.

I hope you all enjoyed following along with me, and I hope I didn’t ramble too much 🙂 Until next time!

Stay tuned, Sophia ❤

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