Last Sunday I did something I hadn't done in a long time. I went to a gig.
It'd been just shy of a year since I'd heard live music, by far my longest drought in decades. True, gigs started up again late last year but I haven't been in town - which is a story for another day - and there's been no notable shows near where I have been.
This one wasn't particularly nearby either. To go to the concert on Sunday I had to pack up the car on Saturday and drive two and a half hours. And because I also had to pack my two young children I had to listen to the Wonky Donkey CD for each and every minute of those two and half hours.
It was a long and painful drive. But, one that was ultimately worth it. Even if that payoff was not immediate. The long and winding road took us up, down and round the endless hairpin turns that make up the mountainous Coromandel coastline to lead us to the tranquillity of Flaxmill Bay.
We were fortunate to be staying with extended family at their beach house and even more fortunate that they'd agreed to look after the kids while we bunked off to the concert, a five-minute ferry ride away in Whitianga, the next day.
It was my second time going to the Summer Tour. This annual event has a laser focus on what are politely termed "legacy acts", and as such is immensely popular with what I'll politely call a "legacy crowd".
Living up to the name, each year it takes five acts of varying legendary status to Queenstown and Taupo before wrapping up in Whitianga.
These shows traditionally sell out. With good reason. The music's exceptionally good and the atmosphere is chilled and relaxed. Also quite boozy, although that could just be the experience of two parents enjoying a rare day off...
Where the Summer Tour deviates from most other music festivals is that it kicks off early and finishes early. Really early. Like, just after 6pm early.
I know, I know. That sounds lame with a capital L, A, M and E. I get it. But as you inch closer to "legacy" status, the idea of staying out late increasingly loses appeal.
At these outdoor shows you roll up at midday, rock out to some classic bands in the brilliant summer sun while *ahem* drinking responsibly, stumble out hours later and still get home in time for dinner. Really, it doesn't get much better than that.
This year the organisers had been thrown a curve ball with Covid-19 before being thrown another one when three of the legacy bands they'd locked in from Australia got locked out by Oz's lockdown.
But it's fair to say they knocked those curve balls out of the park by adding 70s pop rockers Hello Sailor, 90s gloss rockers *Stellar and quintessential pub rockers The Jordan Luck Band at the last minute to join crowd favourites Dragon and blues rocker Gin Wigmore on the line-up.
What was lost in the overseas star power of previous years was more than made up for with a gloriously sunny day filled with countless Kiwi classics. I'm talkin' Rain, Black Sheep, Victoria, Violent, Blue Lady, April Sun in Cuba, Why Does Love Do This To Me, What You Do (Bastard), Hey Ho and Who Loves Who the Most to name just a mere few of the classic jams that got the crowd up off their deck chairs or lawn blankets and partying like it was a lot later than mid-afternoon.
I posted a photo on social media of *Stellar performing and was instantly reminded of how lucky we, as a country, are when a couple of overseas pals commented.
"It must be so nice to have a competent government," one sighed from lockdown in Los Angeles.
Another, burrowed away in London, said, "I'm weeping ... will just have to listen to the greatest pop album in Aotearoa music history alone in my room".
Standing in a field, surrounded by people singing along to this wealth of Kiwi classics made for an incredibly fun day but those comments really hammered home how exceptional it was to be able to do so. It's easy to forget that in a global sense this isn't normal.
For a split second there covid, the anxiety-inducing lockdowns and all the terrible fallout that has affected everyone on the planet - whether through illness, economics or stress or, heavens forbid, the trifecta - pushed its way into my head to cloud out the sunshine.
But then Jordan Luck finished a rambling story, the band kicked into the jangly stomp of Whatever Happened to Tracey and all those grey thoughts were quickly bounced right back out again, flattened by the life-affirming revelry and drowned out by the thousands of voices merrily singing along.