My fiancé, Matt, and I went to the Alaska Airlines Center for Sam Hunt’s July concert, the first concert to take place at the venue in three years. Matt and I got dressed up in our country best (jeans and flannel), and drove over to the venue.
The Alaska Airlines Center had a somewhat slow start recovering from the pandemic; Anchorage Performing Arts Center successfully hosted a full concert season in 2021/2022. I personally slept through David Sedaris’ essay reading there in May.
I’m not saying David Sedaris wasn’t entertaining (he was).
I’m saying he has a soothing sonorous voice that lulled me into a deep dreamless slumber for 45 minutes.
And I’d say much the same thing, if this was an official review of David Sedaris’ performance, as opposed to Sam Hunt’s.
The Alaska Airlines Center, on the other hand, has hosted no events, save the Donald Trump rally in June. This event was pulled off by hook or by crook; the University of Alaska Anchorage Student Union eagerly attempted to cancel it. They failed, licked their wounds, and redoubled their efforts to cancel Sam Hunt, which also failed.
For its post-COVID grand concert debut, the Alaska Airlines Center pulled out all the stops. Early arrivals were ushered into the basketball gym, where they could purchase beer, popcorn, and pulled pork sandwiches.
Surveying the crowd, Matt began ticking off the number of people he knew. Matt has lived in Anchorage for more than a decade longer than I have, and grew up in a large church community; he invariably recognizes people when we go out to community events.
I too surveyed the crowd, recognized no one, and instead began ticking off the number of people wearing Matt’s shirt.
“There’s a guy over there wearing the same shirt as you,” I nodded. “Oh, and there’s another who just walked in… wait, no, there’s a woman over there. Also wearing your shirt!”
Something about this seemingly nondescript red and grey Duluth Trading Company print was very popular.
Two more men surfaced in the same shirt when the doors to the stadium opened, and we walked inside.
Passing through the impressively orderly ticket check, Matt busily explained how he knew an entire family sitting against the wall.
Finding our seats, we sat down as the opening band started up.
The crowd, thirsty and eager for live entertainment, went wild.
“You know, I’m so honored to open for Sam Hunt,” the lead singer introduced himself. “But…”
“…I also get so mad. Sam Hunt is so handsome. And I’m not as handsome.”
It was a bold choice for the unknown singer to begin his entire set by talking himself down.
Matt elbowed me as he pointed out seven more people he knew.
Finally, I spotted someone I knew.
“There, I know someone.”
I pointed out a man across the way. We’d gone out on one date six years ago, and he would text me periodically for years afterwards asking me what color my panties were. He only stopped when I found myself seated next to him at a bar and loudly told my friend the story.
“This guy, check out this guy next to me!” I bellowed over the music.
I hadn’t thought he’d heard me at the time, but I could be wrong.
“So, that story itself warrants me knowing twenty people,” I concluded with finality.
Matt’s expression darkened.
“That’s true. None of my stories are that good.”
Matt is a very competitive person. He is no longer allowed to play games with his immediate family because someone inevitably starts to cry. Now, they only play cooperative boardgames where they work together to build imaginary farms, or fight imaginary dragons.
I could see I had infuriated him by having a juicier story about a random person in the crowd than he had.
He frantically searched the audience.
“There! I’ve got one!”
Matt pointed to one of the forward rows, where a slender, pretty brunette was leading her nine year old son by the hand to their seats.
“Her! I have one! We went out on a date nine years ago. Eharmony. She asked me if I wanted kids. I said, ‘I don’t know, I’m only twenty-three!’”
“What happened after that?”
“Never heard from her again.”
“Well, it looks like she found someone very soon after that,” I nodded to the woman’s son.
Sam Hunt jumped on the stage and proceeded to give a very energetic performance for the next hour and twenty minutes.
Normally, his performance would warrant at least a 9 out of 10. Sadly, I have to dock him two points.
He was not wearing Matt’s shirt.
Sarah Brown is a music critic. Send her requests for reviews on Twitter @BrownsClose1, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.