I had the great joy of going with several of my friends last night (girl’s night out) to a Bruce Hornsby concert at Mishawaka amphitheatre, north of Fort Collins in the Poudre River canyon. It’s a beautiful drive through open country, away from the city, and finally along the narrow, winding road that follows the Poudre River up into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
The road closes in suddenly, and the steep canyon walls are beautiful vertical expanses of rock, dirt and grass, and tenacious small evergreen trees. It’s the walls of the canyon itself that create this “amphitheatre” effect at a wide spot in the shoulder of the road and narrow spot in the river. Unfortunately due to recent fires and the devastation wrought by the pine bark beetles, a huge percentage of the trees and undergrowth that hold the dirt to the sides of the canyon have perished.
We’ve had torrential summer thunderstorms lately, always a hazard in “burn areas” because of the potential for rock and mud slides that slosh with little warning treacherously and unpredictably across the roadway, blocking travel into or out of the canyon, and leaving you stuck in place until earth movers can come along and scrape the debris off the road. On our drive up the canyon there were a couple of places where it was obvious that earthmovers had been busy scraping the road clear not that many days ago.
It’s been a long time since I’ve gone to an outdoor concert, and an even longer time since I’ve listened to Bruce Hornsby, but I’m old enough to have been a major fan in his heyday and I still love his music today. We got to sit on plastic lawn chairs on a gravel expanse in front of a raised stage framed by rough hewn pine logs. Lots of people jammed in and stood happily in front of the stage, waiting to dance. Liquid refreshment of all sorts and horsepower flowed freely. The smell of grilling hamburgers and other meats soon filled the air. We got there very early in order to find chairs and the space to put them in. It was fun sitting around and talking. When the rain started we put on our raincoats and ponchos and hoped to sit it out.
There was little wind, it wasn’t particularly chilly, and there was no lightning. There was still plenty of light so that we could see in the circle of sky above us tiny promising patches of blue among the rainclouds. Then it started to rain harder. Visions of trying to drive home as the mud slid down the side of the canyons filled our minds and our conversation. I began to think it was going to be a drag to sit in the rain even if Bruce Hornsby did stay and play.
Fortunately as it neared showtime and the sun began to set, the rain let up. A huge, perfectly formed, multi-colored rainbow arched across the canyon wall behind us. People craned their necks to see the spectacle against the purple rain clouds. It was a good omen, indeed. Bruce Hornsby had come from his big city venue in Denver the night before, and there he was singing away with his signature piano and band in front of, maybe, a couple of thousand people. The sky darkened and directly overhead the Big Dipper appeared, sparkling in the night.
There was drinking and there were clouds of marijuana smoke (legal here, now) but it was a very mellow crowd. A large majority of attendees were like me…decades past the college concert age. Bruce himself is no longer a spring chicken and his voice isn’t quite what it used to be. That didn’t mean the concert was any less wonderful. He played lots of stuff he hadn’t played in a while, he said. He played a couple of hits. I think he has more flexibility in little venues. Maybe the fans are less demanding and controlling. I got the feeling he has his following that chases after him when he’s on tour, always wanting something new.
The concert broke up and we drove down the canyon, sashaying left and right around the curves, headlights playing off the rock walls and the white line at the edge of the road. The big Chevy Tahoe carried six of us comfortably, and might even have been able to deal with mud and rocks, had there been any. The moon shone in the sky once the canyon walls lowered and we had enough view of the sky to see it. We told each other paranormal and Bigfoot tales as we drove along. Bigfoot has been seen in the Rockies, Colorado in particular.
It took a while to say goodbye as we went our separate ways at the meeting spot parking lot. I still had a half hour drive to go since I don’t live in Fort Collins like the others. I ended up picking up my son’s girlfriend at this late hour to bring down to town because my son’s car didn’t have gas and he had no money. Fortunate for him that I just happened to be tooling down the road when he called (probably to borrow either my car or money). Fortunate for me I was in a good mood and willing to assist.
“You look nice tonight, Mom,” he said when he saw me. “What’s up? Something different? Did your hair? New clothes? What?” he asked.
I thought about it for a minute. “No, I’m just happy,” I said. “I had a good time with my friends.”