By KATIE MYRICK
Times Staff Writer
I have seen Rascal Flatts in concert 14 times.
The first was in Wabash, Ind., in an auditorium that seated about 1,500 people. The stage had little more than band equipment and a big banner.
At just 12 years old, I'd never felt the sting of lost love, so their first single, Prayin' for Daylight, didn't exactly resonate with my preteen heart. But I was instantly attracted to the upbeat country rhythm and the smooth voices of Gary, Jay and Joe Don.
I was hooked.
That was 10 years ago. So why do I pay good money to see the same band over and over again? Because they were there for me as I grew up.
The catchy Mayberry takes me back to dancing with my friends in a kitchen when I was a sophomore in high school. Here's to You, the trio's salute to their fans, reminds me of standing in line for two hours with my best friend to get the best lawn seats at a concert. With I'm Movin' On, I'm a senior in high school again, with conflicting emotions about going to college. No Reins is the song that plays each time my cell phone rings, reminding me to live my life without fear.
But the most influential Rascal Flatts song has to be Stand. When I was in seventh grade, a freak basketball accident put me in a wheelchair off and on for part of my high school years. My whole life had been about sports, and suddenly, I was unable to even stand on my own two feet. I lost my self-esteem, a lot of my friends and the ability to do what I loved.
It may sound sappy, but Stand became my anthem to, well, stand again. Any time I felt frustrated with my physical therapy sessions, Stand kept me going forward. Any time I felt like my future was empty, Stand told me to have hope.
A lot has changed since that first Rascal Flatts concert. The country superstars I saw in February at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill., rocked with pyrotechnics, moving platforms and a huge video screen. The guys even looked different, with their stylized wardrobes and salon-coiffed hair.
But they're still Rascal Flatts, the band that has been there for some of the biggest moments in my life, with lots more to come — including at least 14 more concerts.
Katie Myrick, a student at Indiana University, is a Times design intern this summer. She would go to Saturday's concert, but her brother, who is marrying her best friend, would not appreciate it. She is in the wedding this weekend.