There was no tailgating allowed in the parking lots near TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday. But that didn’t stop local businesses from throwing parking-lot parties before the big Luke Bryan/Florida Georgia Line country music concert.
“This is exactly what I need,” said Cody Schletty, 23, of Dodge Center, in the parking lot of ValU Liquors, a chip shot from the stadium. “I was banking on having some drinks and a good time.”
Schletty, a pipeline operator in a stars-and-stripes straw cowboy hat, was standing with his three buddies next to a win-this, orange Ram 1500 pickup truck, which was part of the parking lot party.
He was amped to see Florida Georgia Line, the duo that has made a splash with “Cruise,” “This Is How We Roll” and “Dirt.”
“I’m a big FGL fan,” Schletty said. “They get drunk on stage. They have fun. They’re a riot.”
But plenty of the 45,000 fans at the five-act marathon had Luke Bryan on their bucket list. He’s the king of bro-country music, the style that peppers its songs with lyrics about trucks, beer, babes, tailgating, dirt roads and any kind of partying. His hits include “Crash My Party,” “We Rode In Trucks” and “Drunk on You.”
“I’m excited to see Luke Bryan,” said Jacob Smith, 10, of Brainerd, Minn.
“I really like his music,” explained his sister, Emily, 13.
This is their first concert, noted their father, Jared Smith, 37.
“They’re Luke Bryan fans. I’m spending time with my kids,” said Smith, a health care supervisor, as they waited to enter the stadium.
He’s had experience in going to concerts because of loved ones; he mentioned going to New Kids on the Block with his then-wife. His own tastes have taken him to shows by Neil Diamond, Dixie Chicks, Martina McBride and Nickelback.
Bryan has a special meaning to Stephanie Lesniak and E.J. Wirtz — it was their first date. Saturday was their fourth time seeing the country superstar together.
They’re wondering if Bryan might be available to be their wedding band on Aug. 8 at the Grand View Lodge near Nisswa. “I wish,” said Wirtz, 27, a survey technician from Oak Grove.
Lesniak, 26, a 2011 University of Minnesota graduate, is used to going to TCF Bank Stadium for football games.
“I love the stadium,” she said.
But she was excited to be seeing the first country concert in the venue that has been the site of huge rock concerts by the Rolling Stones, U2 and Imagine Dragons.
She figured Stub & Herb’s, the long-standing U bar near the stadium, was the place for a little pregame, um, preconcert lubrication.
“We came here ’cause I know they have a variety of beers,” said Lesniak, a distribution coordinator.
But she ended up in a parking-lot party, getting her fair skin scorched in the sun. Like many of the young women going to the concert, she was sporting cowgirl boots, short shorts and a tank top. Cowgirl hats were plentiful but guys were definitely favoring ball caps — just like Luke Bryan.
At the parking-lot parties and outside the stadium, whether wearing a ball cap, Twins T-shirt or sundress, fans were singing a common refrain: “Where’s the beer at?”
Gee, it sounds like it should be the punchline of a Bryan song.