Blog | September 9, 2007

Ryan Continues a Farm Aid Tradition – The Audience Upgrade

Our mission: To make them cry – or jump – at least hug me in glee.

Our goal: To upgrade a set of four concert goers who seem content with their “nose bleed” seats.

So we set aside four very special tickets to the 4th row center seats for the concert. Then I find a photographer, a video crew and a Farm Aid artist and we head out for the farthest point from the stage.

For our adventure this year I was able to befriend and bring Farm Aids kickoff performer Jesse Lenat. Jesse is a songwriter, singer and performer who makes his home in New York City…but grew up in rural Pennsylvania the son of a cactus man. Jesse recently worked with John Mellencamp and Stephen King on a project called “Ghost Brothers” in which he played The Shape – or as he called it – the Devil.

Jesse also, as some of you may have learned from the trivia questions, has to his New York theater credits Rent, Tooth Crime: Second Dance and he performed a solo show of the life of Woody Guthrie. It seems I always get to meet a great new performer every year, and they become an instant friend – Jesse is no exception.

So with Jesse in tow, we headed out. After looking for a good deal of time and actually having a family become too shy to continue with an interview we found a set of two couples who matched the goal. They were surrounded by people waiting in line for the ATM, just relaxing on a blanket and feeling very content.

As Guster wrapped up their set on stage, I approached and began to unravel our plan. They were Eric Nyman, Katie Cook & Rosemary Topar and John Thomas, all from New Jersey. They are all current or alums from Montclair College.

I introduced them to Jesse. They began to look down ashamed of not having seen him perform at 12:00 because they got there around 2:00pm. Katie said they had planned an getting here – but the buses took forever – it was their first time to Randall’s Island – their first time to Farm Aid too.

Then Jesse and I explained our tradition. It slowly began to sink in. They jumped to their feet. John was speechless. Katie went in for the hug (I got the hug)… Katie said “Jesse – now we are your biggest fans…”We posed for photos, autographs, and packed up and started the trek up to their new prime location. The whole time, their eyes were big with amazement and mouths open with shock.

The trek back was long with stops for Jesse to talk to fans, and obstacles of lines for food, port-o-potties and the biggest line for the ATM. In the end – four concert goers ended up jumping in the front as Counting Crows began their set and I have two tickets myself.

Jesse will be performing the lead in the play “Current Nobody at the Wooly Mammoth theater in DC, near where I live. So a win – win tradition with just a little hugging.

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