I fell in love with The Civil Wars the moment I heard John Paul White and Joy Williams accompanying Taylor Swift’s vocals during the Hunger Games-released Safe and Sound.
That was in 2011, and the band dissolved in 2014 (which broke my heart but… let’s not get caught up on past griefs).
Since their breakup, I have listened to every single one of their songs on repeat (try me. do it. you cannot name a Civil Wars song I have not heard) and repeatedly play through John Paul White’s song list on iTunes.
Last year, White came to a local festival for writers, creators, musicians, artists and the like called “Word of the South” and I, the fool I was, didn’t make his show. I was h e a r t b r o k e n.
So this year, when Word of the South announced White’s return to performing, I wrote the date and time and location on my calendar and circled it with the reddest ink I could find.
By golly, I was going to make it this time.
Last weekend, I saw John Paul White perform live.
It was outdoors, under a huge white tent that made everything feel a little bit like a revival. I got there 30 minutes early because seating was limited and I had no desire to stand in the ‘nosebleed’ section (outside of the tent, in the blazing Floridian sun). I got a seat in the second row, and I settled in, camera and bag clutched tight.
I saw him in the corner of the tent, talking with his band members and the tech guys running the equipment, and my heart went into my throat. For roughly seven years I have been in love with the Civil Wars, with Joy Williams’ voice and John Paul White’s voice. While my adoration for White is mostly due to my love for his Civil Wars days, I do enjoy White’s music for itself.
and i was in the same room (…tent…) as a member of The Civil Wars.
I have only ever been to one concert before this, a Toby Mac concert that I was drug along to. It was a fun experience, but I couldn’t hear very well for a day or two afterward and I don’t really care for Toby Mac’s music anyway.
White’s small, intimate concert under a white revival tent with nothing but grass under our folding chairs, was nothing like that. We were packed in tight, strangers were holding conversations before White took the stage. It was hot, stifling almost even, but there was such happiness there that I honestly don’t think anyone noticed how badly we all were sweating.
And the music.
Next time you listen to John Paul White sing and think “oh that can’t be truly and fully him” you can take those words right back. White COMMANDED that stage. He held us enraptured. It was pumping and pounding, and yet soothing enough to close your eyes and rock to.
I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want it to end. White was funny, down-to-earth and a true entertainer and performer. When they had some technical glitches, he joked it off and apologized with laughing awkwardness at the situation. He took special notice of the people clustered together outside of the tent, so intent and determined to be there that they were enduring the sun and the heat.
I loved every second.
There’s not many bands or artists I want to see live; Sleeping at Last, Gin Wigmore, Imagine Dragons, Ed Sheeran, Carrie Underwood….and John Paul White (I’d LOVE The Civil Wars….but I doubt that will ever happen…).
I don’t think it has fully set in yet, that I literally got to see one of my favorite of all favorite artists perform live…and I was only a row back from directly in front of him.
It’s not every day that I get to complete a bucket list item.