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 The Five Horizons Foundation
Thank you from The Five Horizons Foundation to all of the awesome Pearl Jam fans for helping to raise over $5,000 on this tour at 5H pre parties. As a community, we done some great things already and can't wait to do it again on the next tour.

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9/30/12

Diary of a Wishlist Organizer: DeLuna Fest 2012 – Pensacola

Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters on the beach in September: I’m in! It had been about two years since I had last seen Pearl Jam in concert and when they were announced as a headliner for DeLuna Fest I was immediately excited to go.  After discussing it with my wife (OK, it was more like me begging her) we decided to make a mini vacation out of it.

The purpose of this post is to detail my experience organizing the Wishlist party for this show as well as to document my overall experience at the festival.



Wishlist
You may have seen my recap of the Made in America Festival a couple weeks ago in which I describe in detail how I got hooked up with The Wishlist Foundation so I’ll briefly summarize here.  I started this site, www.cometotheporch.net, one year ago and have been very fortunate in how quickly it has grown.  It gets nearly a thousand hits per day and the associated Twitter account now has over 24,000 followers.  I feel honored to be able to have that type of reach into the Pearl Jam fan community and I thought it was time I tried doing some good with it.

At first, I was just going to try to arrange an informal gathering of fans at both events thinking it would be fun to just meet up with a few people before the shows.  Through a series of connections, conversations, and shear number of responses I was getting, I realized that we had quite a few people willing to get together.  Craig, who I met on Twitter, gave me the idea of getting a nonprofit involved and raising some money for a charity at the party.  Who better than Wishlist?


For those who don’t know, Wishlist is a small, Pearl Jam fan operated, nonprofit organization whose primary purpose is to help people organize fundraisers that benefit charities that Pearl Jam has either already approved or would be proud to support.  Eric and Laura are the primary drivers behind Wishlist and over the last six years they have helped enable organizers to raise approximately a half a million dollars for various charities.  I reached out to them through JoAnna, a founder of JeffAmentsArmy, and asked to be the assigned organizer for the shows in Philadelphia and Pensacola this year, 2012.  Their initial reaction was that festivals are difficult due to the number of bands, start times of other acts, and usually the lack of a nearby venue.  Of course I took this as a personal challenge and started promoting right away!

The Charity
I chose a charity that I had supported in the past and that I thought the band would be proud to support.  Pathway Caring for Children is an organization that provides adoption and foster care services for kids who have suffered from physical, mental, or sexual abuse.  Below is the description I used in my Philly article:


“I've never really been a person who was deeply involved with a charity effort so I didn't have very many ties to that community.  Being in a position to do some good now was very exciting for me so I gave this a great deal of thought.  I considered the motivations and causes of the band and tried to reconcile those views with my own.  That lead me to an easy decision.  Kids!  About a year ago I was invited to participate in a fundraising dinner for Pathway Caring for Children.  I remember being at the event and just feeling very deeply for the kids they were trying to help.  They've had such incredibly difficult lives and have such sad stories.  But what struck me the most was that, despite those obstacles, or maybe because of them, those kids seemed to appreciate every single thing that was positive in their lives.  They light up for the one single gift under a Christmas tree.  As an adult with kids of my own I feel that I have lost that sense of joy for life's simple gifts and that I take way too much for granted.  I picked up the phone right then and called their Treasurer to learn more about how they spend the donations they receive.
I learned that Pathway seeks to raise $750,000 per year from donations and fundraisers in order to augment the government subsidies that stop at only the most basic of services.  This money is used to "do it right" and give these kids experiences they would normally never get by going through the system.  If you donated in Philly or DeLuna, you can rest assured that the money I threw in that bucket will be putting a smile on a child's face. 
If you'd like to learn more about Pathway please click here.  If you're interested in making a donation, please email me at pjfan@ymail.com.  I will ship a poster (signed by the artist and numbered) to the home of anyone who donates $20 or more while I still have prints. Details here.


Planning process
The planning process for DeLuna Fest was a little easier than it was for Philadelphia for a couple of reasons.  First, I had already done all the work for Philly so I had a bit of a process down for the second party.  Also, on Pensacola beach there are a very limited number of bars and restaurants so I was limited by virtue of the area as compared to Philly.  I called around to several venues and everyone was very nice but one place stood out.  Crabs We Got Em!  I almost crossed them off the list just based on that name alone but once I spoke to the managers there, I knew I had the right place.  Kevin was terrific to work with and he carved out their “Sunset Deck” for our party which was a perfect location.  It was shaded, we were overlooking two of the stages, and the breeze off the ocean made for a perfect place to hang out.  I also badgered him relentlessly about getting the bar to contribute to the fundraiser in some way.  He got creative and was able to get us a keg donated for the party.  We sold beer from the keg to raise money and it probably accounted for about $500 of the fundraising effort!  It was a perfect amount too, I literally poured myself the last beer out of the keg at the end of the party.  Pearl Jam fans don’t waste beer!

With the venue chosen I started posting about it all over the internet on Twitter, Facebook, my site, and the PJ forums.  We had a great response and I was confident that we’d have a successful party.  One thing I didn't expect was the number of people who were at the Philly party who also came to DeLuna.  It was great getting to see all those familiar faces.


Choosing the day for the party was a really difficult decision for me.  Typically these events are Pre Parties and happen before the Pearl Jam performance.  The challenge for this show was that Pearl Jam was playing on Friday night, the first night of the festival, and then leaving to play in Atlanta the next day.  I emailed the group of RSVP’s that I already had to see who was going to be at the festival early, and who was going to Atlanta the next day.  After the responses it seemed that a lot more people would have missed the party if I tried to do it early on the first day so I made the call to move it to the second day knowing that the folks who were headed to Atlanta were going to miss it.  I felt bad about it since those are clearly some hardcore PJ fans but in the end I had to go with what I thought would have the best attendance.  My apologies go out to those of you who were not able to make the party because of the scheduling.

One fun thing was that I was able to talk with Mario on his show Given to Cast in between the two events.  I plan to do another interview with him soon recapping DeLuna.  Here's that interview:

Click here if reading from your smartphone.


Fundraising
The primary way the fundraisers work is through a raffle.  People donate items to the party, we set them out on a table, sell raffle tickets, and raffle off the items.  This is probably the part I was most nervous about.  I don’t like asking people for things and I had no idea if I’d be able to get enough items for one party, let alone two!  Since I was asking for items to support a charity I felt a little more comfortable putting it out there but I wasn't sure what the response would be.  What I found was that this community is unbelievably generous and that people were excited to contribute.  I couldn't wait to get home from work every day because there would inevitably be a package from a fellow fan waiting for me.  When else can you get Pearl Jam merchandise showing up at your door every day without spending a fortune?  So I got to collect all this cool stuff and keep in my home office for a while.  The hardest part was dividing it all up for the two parties!  Well, actually, the hardest part was having to see all that great stuff LEAVE my office, it was fun having it for a couple weeks.  Check out this link to see all the raffle items for the two shows.



My Wishlist Sign
A couple days before the show, I got a crazy idea in my head.  I spent all my money on the VIP tickets so I knew I was going to be relatively close to the stage.  Since the party was going to be the day after Pearl Jam performed, maybe I could get Ed’s attention with a sign and get him to announce the party?  That was a long shot but what an attendance boost!  I mentioned the idea to my mom (awwwwww) and she offered to make



I rolled up the sign and threw it in my bag feeling hopeful, and a little silly, I mean, what are the chances?  More on that later ;)

I also decided last minute to make up a bunch of my own signs to post around restaurant and festival promoting the event.  I finally finished those up at about 1am the morning of my 6:30am departure from home to head to the show!



Show Time!
I woke up like a kid on Christmas morning on Friday knowing that I’d be seeing Pearl Jam on the beach that night.  Thankfully there were no issues at the airport and we arrived safe and sound in Pensacola around noon.  After checking into the hotel, we went straight down to the festival.  I was dripping with sweat because I was pulling my giant suitcase full of all the Wishlist raffle items with me down the street to the trolley in the Florida heat.


After about a six block walk we boarded the trolley and headed down to the festival.  After meeting with the manager at Crabs We Got Em and posting some signs around the restaurant, we headed over to check out the VIP section.

This is where the story starts to get ugly, and this is meant to be a happy article.  The VIP story of DeLuna 2012 is a huge black eye on an otherwise great weekend.  I decided to write a special article about that and you can read all about it by clicking here.  I’m going to set that piece aside for the purposes of this post.

We spent the day checking out some bands at the various stages.  One that I was intent on seeing was The Gaslight Anthem.  They’re big Pearl Jam fans themselves and I’d been listening to their stuff quite a bit leading up to the festival.  I was in a great spot at the back of the VIP area when they took the stage and was having a great time when guess who decides to join them?  None other than Eddie Vedder!  I heard some people to the left of me say they could see him by the side stage a couple minutes earlier and as soon as I saw a stage guy run out with another microphone I grabbed my phone and started recording.  Check out what I captured!


Once I recovered from the wave of awesomeness that washed over the crowd after Ed and Gaslight performed State of Love and Trust, we grabbed a beer wandered over to check out Ben Folds Five for a few minutes and then returned for Guided by Voices only because they were the last band before Pearl Jam and we wanted to get into a good spot.  Guided by Voices was terrible in my opinion.  The lead singer was clearly drunk, which was apparently supposed to be part of the fun?  They had maybe one catchy song and then a bunch of other stuff about giving donuts to snowmen and other such nonsense.  Maybe I just didn't get it but it didn't affect my mood much, PJ was next!

This was the point in the night where the VIP screw up really got underway.  Click here for that story.  Suffice it to say that somehow I wound up second person from the rail but my wife had to leave the area for the entirety of the Pearl Jam’s performance.

The guys walked out on stage and to my delight they started with the song that the whole crowd was praying for.  As Ed began, “Hold on to the thread,” I felt so lucky to be standing there hearing the greatest rock band of all time perform “Oceans” while my feet were in the sand next to the Gulf of Mexico.  After coming off of the “mainstream” set list in Philly, it was great to get to hear a few more rarities in Pensacola's lineup.  In particular, “Of the Earth” was really cool.  I don’t think it has been played in the US yet and there’s some talk of it being on the new record.  Their Johnny Ramone tribute, “Parachutes” was also great.  Anytime Encore 2 is Better Man, Lukin, Alive, Baba, and Ledbetter, you've had a great night.

The band looked amazing and I have to say that Mike McCready impresses the hell out me every time.  I’d never been up this close before and to watch him shred that guitar while literally having conversations with the crowd was just amazing.  I even got a wink-smile-nod combo when he saw my Wishlist sign!

My Eddie Vedder Moment
Speaking of the Wishlist sign, I wasn't able to get right up front, at first, and I couldn't seem to convince anyone right on the rail to take it for me.  Eventually, one guy let me slide my arm up to the rail so I could just hold it over the edge which was a pretty good spot.


Ed walked by mid show and looked right at it.  He smiled and pointed at it then kept on rocking.  I figured that was good enough for a nice story but I’d leave it out there as long as I could.  Eventually there was some shifting around at the rail and I was able to get right up front.  At that point I was all the way up, both forearms on the rail, and having the time of my life!


Set 1 ends and they walk off stage.  I was hoping to get it up there before an Encore so maybe Ed would come back out and mention it.  Encore 1 ends and they walk off stage.  I can’t say I was disappointed, I knew it was a long shot and I was flying high from the show anyway.  Encore 2 starts.  Better Man is pure sing along time, awesome!  Lukin goes by in a flash as it always does.  On comes Alive and towards the end, Ed starts going from one side of the stage to the other.  He goes to Mike’s side first (opposite me) and climbs up the stage support a little bit reminding everyone of the old days when he would climb around like a crazy man.  Then he makes his way over to my side.

Now or never.  I’m waving my sign around like a man possessed and I see him look right at it.  I hold it still so he can read it in the two seconds he’ll be there.  He looks up at me, smirks, and gives me a “send it up” wave!  I scream to the dude in the yellow shirt between me and the stage and start furiously pointing at the sign and then to Ed.  Luckily he’s on his game, looks up at Ed to confirm and then grabs it from me and hands it up!  From the reaction of the people around me you’d have thought I was just invited to go on stage myself!  They were patting me on the back, high fiving, smiling.  What a great moment!  Of course, seconds later Ed threw it down on the stage like it was a sweat towel and never went back but by then I didn't even care.  The camera guy had me on the jumbo-tron with the sign a couple of times and I was actually able to hand something up to Eddie Vedder during the performance of one of their biggest songs.

Life is good!

Just after the 5 min mark is my big moment!


After the show, we headed over to a bar across the street called Flounders to meet up with some other fans for drinks.  We met two Brazilian girls who had been traveling for over 24 hours to get to the show.  They flew from Brazil, to Columbia, to New York, to Charlotte  to Pensacola.  Those are some dedicated fans!  I had heard from several people that the trolley going back to the mainland was a total mess so we opted to take a cab home.  It took us an hour to get one but we finally made it back after a long but great day.  Just before I fell asleep I got a text from Eric at Wishlist that they were out having drinks with Mike McCready and Eddie stopped over to sign a couple things for the raffle tomorrow!  I slept well…

The Party
Having just done the Philly party I felt much more confident going into this one.  I knew just how I wanted to get set up and how things were going to run.  The party was set to start at 1pm with the raffle being at 3pm.  By 11:30am I was in the cab with my number one volunteer, my wife Anne.  We got there with plenty of time and started getting things set up.  One late but very welcomed addition to the party was a gentleman named Sea Dawg (it’s on his ID and everything).  Sea Dawg is a radio DJ, stand-up comedian, karate instructor, and self-proclaimed beach bum.  Kevin, the Crabs We Got Em manager, had mentioned to me a few days before that Sea Dawg offered to MC the party with his DJ equipment if I would let him.  How do you say no to Sea Dawg?

He showed up early and got his stuff set up and gave us a hand with ours.  This guy was awesome!  He turned his speakers out over the crowd of people streaming into the festival entrance and started inviting people up.  He played my Pearl Jam playlist from my iPod through the entire event and was just an absolutely great addition to the party.  I can’t thank him enough.

Greg Gilmer, the artist behind both of the party posters also came early to help out.  He did a great job getting all the raffle items set up and boxes labeled.  Craig Moore and his wife also came early to help.  Being an employee of Anheuser-Busch I thought it was only right to ask him to serve from the keg that Crabs donated for the party.  He and Christina were awesome and got everyone taken care of with a minimum amount of foam!


People started funneling in a little bit before 1pm and we had a pretty steady stream of PJ fans all the way through to the raffle.  It was a truly great experience for me to be able to meet a lot of the people I’ve spoken to online, the people who I had already met in Philly, and all of the new faces as well.  We were taking cash and credit cards like crazy and I could sense that we were going to achieve a pretty good donation for Pathway.  At 3pm it was time to do the raffle.  The folks from Wishlist had still not arrived with the autographed items so I decided to do those as a separate live auction.  They had already posted the items on their Facebook page so there was plenty of buzz at the party about them.



The raffle went off without a hitch and Sea Dawg did a great job pulling the tickets and calling the winners.  There were some great items in there and I really want to thank everyone who donated their merchandise.  You guys are the only reason that part of the event was successful.  Rest assured that your items have gone into the hands of some very appreciative fellow fans!   We even had a couple of local artists walk in and donate some items spontaneously.

Once the raffle was complete, a lot of people started streaming out which made me nervous since the biggest items of the day hadn't even gotten there yet.  Sea Dawg did his best to keep everyone interested while waiting for Eric and Laura.  He had another commitment and planned to break everything down around 3:30 after the raffle.  At 4pm, Eric and Laura came in with the autographed items and it was time to get our auction going!  Sea Dawg was kind enough to stick around and call the auction and I’m so glad he did.




We started off with the signed festival program (the smaller one).  The bidding started at $100.  I had no idea where this might go.  Sea Dawg kept it going in $20 increments.  It quickly got over $200.  It crept up to $300.  I couldn’t believe it!  The bidding continued.  Finally, Brian Plona from New York made the winning bid at $380 dollars!  What an amazing item, an amazing donation, and an amazing guy.  Brian was thrilled with the program and we were all smiles:

Brian Plona - Winner of the Autographed Festival Program
The next and final item was a call sheet which is only given to the bands.  Eddie actually went back to his dressing room to get this after seeing Eric and Laura the night before.  Ed and Mike both signed it and Ed even drew his signature wave picture which made it that much more special.  If the program went for $380, I had no idea what this one would do.  There were only about 40 people left and I was pretty sure Brian wasn't planning to go for both.

Call Sheet Autographed by Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready
Eddie's signature wave on the left.
The bidding starts at $100 and goes up in $20 increments.  $200, $300, $400 flies by.  We’re quickly down to only handful of bidders.  $500, $600, $700!  We’re down to two very committed bidders and I can’t get the smile off my face.  This is a very good day for Pathway and a lucky fan.  $800, $900!  Every eyebrow within ear shot is raised.  People are clapping after every bid.  Finally, Jill Friedlander makes the final bid at $960!  Once Sea Dawg said, “sold!” you couldn’t get the smile off of Jill’s face either!  I can’t thank Jill enough for her incredibly generous donation.  As we posed for pictures I learned that Jill made this contribution despite being on a teacher’s salary!

Jill Friedlander: Winner of the Autographed Call Sheet

Guess which one is Sea Dawg :)
Once the Wishlist party concluded I had a chance to chat with Eric and Laura from Wishlist for a few minutes and then it was time to count the cash!  From the end of the Philly show, through the conclusion of the party in DeLuna, we raised over $4,000!  All said and done for both parties, after Wishlist’s expenses, we will be cutting a check to Pathway for $7,000!  Well above my original expectations.  I’m so proud to be a part of a community that has been so generous and I can’t wait to hand them that check.

Bling Bling!

Conclusion
Once things got settled, Anne and I sat down for a relaxing dinner at Crabs We Got Em.  This was a great part of the weekend for me because we got to just sit, listen to the music from the closest stage, and relax.  After a big plate of sea food and an even bigger bucket of “Voodo Juice” we headed over to see Joan Jett, The Joy Formidable (my favorite musical surprise of the show), Band of Horses (who we saw in the airport on the way home), and of course, Foo Fighters.  We snuck out right at the end and were able to grab a cab quickly this time and went back to the hotel to wrap up the weekend.  Unfortunately we missed the last day due to scheduling but this was two action packed days and we had a great weekend.



Thank You!
Pearl Jam:  Without this amazing band we wouldn’t have this amazing community.  We may be “the strangest tribe” but this month has certainly made me proud to call myself a member.

My Wife, Anne:  Not only for being an incredible help working the merchandise table at the party, but also for putting up with my Pearl Jam passion on a daily basis!

Greg Gilmer:  For volunteering to do the artwork for both party posters. Great guy who I hope will do more in the future.

Craig and Christina Moore:  I’ve gotten to meet Craig a couple of times in person and he’s been a great help with both parties.  It was also a pleasure to meet Christina at DeLuna and she was a huge help with Craig on the beer keg for the party.

Sea Dawg:  What a great guy! Donated his time and equipment to MC the event and did an amazing job.

Crabs We Got Em:  For hosting the event and getting the keg donated.  Great management and it was great working with their team the day of the event.

Jill Friedlander:  For making a monster donation for the autographed call sheet.

@GivenToCast: Thanks Mario for letting me come on your show to promote the events.

Brian Plona:  Live auction winner of the autographed festival program after a very generous donation.

The Wishlist Foundation:  Last but not least, I’d like to thank Eric and Laura at Wishlist for building the framework to help organizers put these parties on and raise money for some great causes.

Cheers everyone!  I hope to see you at a future event!

Joe


For more pic's of the event, please check out my Facebook album.  Don't forget to click "Like" if you'd like to see my Pearl Jam posts in your timeline.

Update - 02/23/2013:  Check out what Jill did with her autographed items:



2 comments:

  1. You should know that Eddie Vedder is a huge fan of that "terrible" band, Guided by Voices.

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    Replies
    1. Haha, I know he is! To be fair this was my first and only experience with them but I have to call them like I see them. Ed even offered to let the lead singer come out and do a song with him and the guy declined because he knew he'd be to drunk. I did get a kick out of that

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