Last year, my wife and I decided we were going to go see the Foo Fighters perform at a concert outside of Pittsburgh. I’ve been a fan of the band and their lead singer Dave Grohl for many years and I told my wife I was looking forward to finally seeing them live. But as I was saying this, I realized I actually had seen Dave Grohl perform live once before.
I flashed back to a scene in 2004 and recalled the streets of Madison, Wisconsin being filled with more than 80,000 people, many of whom were college students. The event was a campaign rally for Presidential hopeful John Kerry, who was battling George W. Bush for the nation’s top office. The Secret Service had assigned me to a campaign “advance jump team” meaning I bounced around from city to city in advance of a candidate’s visit to help make security preparations, and then assist in coordinating protection during the event. This particular event was a challenge due to the large crowd and outdoor venue, but the local authorities worked with us to create a safe environment.
This event stands out in my mind, because prior to Senator Kerry taking the stage, two musical acts were going to perform. The first was an acoustic performance by none other than Dave Grohl, who was supporting Kerry’s run for the White House.
I’m not 100% certain, but I believe he played “Times Like These” and “My Hero” before moving aside for the next musician. Please forgive me for not remembering every detail, but you have to remember I was a little preoccupied with making sure nobody tried to kill John Kerry. However, I do remember thinking that Grohl sounded great and the crowd certainly loved the performance.
Grohl then stepped aside for some guy named Bruce Springsteen, who was also supporting the John Kerry / John Edwards ticket. While I can’t remember much about Springsteen’s performance (Hey, I was busy!), I do remember what happened once he left the stage. The Boss walked down the street and shook hands with the college students as he made he way toward his tour bus. Some students who were lined up in front of their own fraternity house asked Springsteen if he wanted to come in and have a beer. He shrugged and proceeded to move past a barricade, entered the frat house, and had a drink with the students. I’m guessing that’s not a moment those guys will forget.
After the event in Madison, I bounced around to several other locations before ending up in Boston, Massachusetts on election night. There, I heard Jon Bon Jovi playing an acoustic set for the pro-Kerry / Edwards crowd. In spite of the musical firepower possessed by the democrats in 2004, George W. Bush won the election which set up an Inauguration celebration in January 2005. I don’t recall where I was for George W. Bush’s second Inauguration, but I do remember being posted next to the stage during President Bush’s first Inauguration concert in 2001, and I can say it was a little surreal to see Wayne Newton and Ricky Martin perform within minutes of each other. We were all Livin La Vida Loca that day. (Sorry, had to work that into the post somehow)
Musicians playing a role in politics is nothing new and Presidents and Presidential candidates continue to recognize the power of music. Some understand music is a way to connect with younger generations. Some see the incorporation of musicians into political events as a way to increase attendance. Some simply want to see Wayne Newton dance.
The moral of this story is simple. If you ever, EVER have a chance to ask Bruce Springsteen to have a beer with you — ASK HIM!
J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.
Watch for my new book, BOLT ACTION REMEDY, in 2017!
An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.
In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered. When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.
And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology