Days before my 18th Birthday, my Mother took me to San Francisco for an event dubbed Sky Concert by local radio station KFOG. As mobility challenged Red Cross Volunteer, she needed my help to haul all of the supplies to and from the First Aid station she would run at the event. While I would like to say the reason that I agreed was to help my Mother, truthfully I went to check out an exciting new band I had recently discovered. The band was Wilco, and they were touring in support of the just released double disc “Being There”.
After a less than spectacular set by a band called Odds, I managed to catch the Wilco set across the park on a separate stage and was blown away. After the band wrapped up their set, I wandered around the park where the festival was held and quickly grew bored. About two hours after Wilco’s late afternoon set, I found myself sitting on a wall, playing with a Yo-Yo that some dotcom used as a promotional item (both the Yo-Yo and the dotcom are long gone at this point in time). It was right around then when things got interesting.
I don’t believe I had even put two and two together that I was sitting on this wall next to a row of tour buses. I was a bit shocked when one of them opened up and Jay Bennett of Wilco walked out with a case of beer. He jumped up on the wall, declared I looked bored and offered me an ice cold Heineken. Knowing that it would be rude to turn him down, I took the beer and thanked him kindly (despite the fact I was not a big drinker at this point in my life).
For about 30 minutes or so, we talked about Wilco (he was curious as to what I thought, as he saw me rocking out up front. I was after all wearing a Spamburger Hamburger shirt), my high school, girls etc. For a kid who lived in San Francisco, I sure had not run into many starts at that point, and to say I was star struck was a huge understatement. I think I played it pretty cool, but then again, I probably didn’t. The amazing thing was that he truly seemed to care about what I thought. He asked about school, girls, really seemed to want to know me. He was kind enough to share some road stories, but really the focus on me. To this day, I don’t know why, but he sure made me feel special.
Last night when I read that Jay had passed at the age of 45, a tear ran down my cheek. I hate when people get all upset when a celebrity dies, but I couldn’t help myself. For years now, I have thought about that magical afternoon in San Francisco. 17 and drinking beers with the band (ok a member of the band) was a pretty big event for me at that point in time. As the years have passed, I have met many members of many bands and have had some epic times. However, as they say you always remember your first, and Jay was mine.
RIP Mr. Bennett, I know you are now in a better place. I know you have suffered over the past few years, but you are now free of pain. Thanks for taking the time to make the day of a 17 year old kid. It may have been just another day to you, but for me it meant everything.