Ben Folds Five

For those of you who don't know me... I am a HUGE Ben Folds/Ben Folds Five fan! If you don't know me, you probably don't know the story of the time when I got to jam with Ben Folds Five in concert a few years ago on their hit song "One Angry Dwarf". Well... here it is (Really long, not for those with short attention spans), with a link to download an mp3 of me playing with them, and also some pictures of me at the show. Or you can read about a fan who had a very similar experience.

Ben Folds introducing me Me rocking out Still rocking Ben Folds Five + One

Listen to "One Angry Dwarf" featuring Don Walter with Ben Folds Five

The Story

Ben Folds Five has been my favorite band since their hit single, "Brick", came out on the radio. I heard it and heard a piano, and thought that was the coolest thing I had ever heard. After I heard the song I went out and bought the cd "Whatever and Ever Amen". OH MY GOD!!!!!! I didn't take the cd out of my player for months!!! Every song on it kicked ass... my favorite being the first song, "One Angry Dwarf". I felt I could relate to this song... it's about a kid who when he was in school was always made fun of by the other students, and beat up after class, and picked on, couldn't get a date, etc... and then he becomes famous and when those people that picked on him in his younger years try to be friends with him, he just ignores them, and if they want to see him, check the papers and the tv, and they can kiss his ass! I felt that I could relate to this song more than the others, because all through school I was the nerdy little kid that was always picked on and beat up in gym class, and after school, and couldn't get a date... but then at the end of my senior year, I joined the band known as JayAre. JayAre was already well established around my home area. When we'd be playing gigs in the next couple years, the same people that picked on me in high school tried to be friends with me and tell me we need to hang out and stuff like that. Riiight... just like the song, they can kiss my ass!

Well, I became a HUGE Ben Folds Five fan over the next couple years, buying all their albums, collecting memorabilia, and going to concerts. I even learned a lot of their songs on the piano and I was known around my dorm for playing and singing Ben Folds Five on the piano in the lounge. Unfortunately, I only got to see 3 concerts before this great group broke up in October of 2000... but that last concert was one that I would not soon forget!!!!!!

I had seen Ben Folds Five twice in October of 1999, in Columbus, OH and Bloomington, IN. After the second show at Bloomington, I waited around the backstage door for the band to come out. I waited there with about 40 or 50 other people and after about an hour of waiting, the guys all came out to sign autographs. I waited patiently while other people were getting things signed, and when it was my turn to meet Ben Folds, I presented him with his very own JayAre t-shirt and got a picture with him. We then talked for a couple minutes about the piano, and about his custom made Baldwin's. It was a GREAT night!!! I had finally met my idol... the man that kept me interested in piano and keeps me motivated to practice and improve!!!! I thought life couldn't get any better!!! I WAS WRONG!!!!!

On Ben Folds Five's next tour... they only toured at a few colleges around the east coast, coming no closer to Ball State than Scranton, PA on 4/29/2000 (Opening for them was the band known as Guster... which is another of my favorite groups), which is about 11 hours away. I was very upset, because I REALLY wanted to see them again! I thought it over, and looked at JayAre's schedule and realized we had the weekend of the 28-30 off!!!! I HAD to make that show! I tried and tried to find a friend to come with me to Scranton for the show, but it was very difficult as it was the weekend before finals, and everybody was studying their butts off hoping to pass classes. I didn't care about classes... I just wanted to see Ben Folds Five one more time!! In desperation, I even offered to buy their ticket!! It would be a completely free trip for them, they'd just have to tag along!! I FINALLY found someone willing to go (Jay) and we decided that we were going to go on Thursday, April 27. I called one of my friends that went to college around Columbus, OH... which was on our way to Scranton and I called her and asked if she minded if a friend and I spent the night the next night, Friday the 28. She had no objections (Thanks Jill!!!), so I printed off some directions from the internet and went to bed. We got on up Friday and went to classes... then called and ordered our tickets that afternoon after classes, and packed up and took off an hour later for Scranton!!!!! The tickets were general admission, so if we got there early, it didn't matter that we got them so late!!!

We drove throughout the evening, and arrived at my friend's college about 11:30 that night. She showed us around her dorm a little bit and then we hit the sack, as we had a long way to go the next morning! We figured that we had about a 7 hour trip in front of us still... so we decided to leave at 8 am the next morning.

We awoke on time Saturday morning... the day of the concert!!!! We took off and were on the road by 8!! Things were going exactly as planned!!!! We drove all afternoon, stopping only for the occasional potty break. It was a VERY long car ride... but we when we arrived at the University of Scranton at 3:30 that afternoon, it was all worth it!!!!! We got out and went right to where the concert was to be held and walked around the back, hoping to catch a glimpse of the guys standing around their tour buses. Ben Folds Five wasn't out there... but we did see a member of Guster before we were chased away by some security guards. We decided to just wait around by the doors until they opened for the concert, since we didn't know our way around Scranton and we didn't want to be late for the concert. Since we arrived so early... we were among the first in line. We waited there for a few hours... talking to a few of the people around us in line. The 2 people behind us in line, Sam (Samantha) and Joe, were really cool, and we talked to them most of the time. While we were waiting, I took off and walked down the street and grabbed a couple promo posters advertising the concert off of a lamp post, one for me and one for my friend, and then I rejoined my friends in line. While we were waiting there, I had a great idea! I was going to get on stage with Ben Folds Five that night and play piano with them on a song!!! My new friends all laughed at me!! This made me even more determined!!!! So I took out the directions I had in my pocket, and using my sharpie I brought along for autographs, I wrote a note to Ben on the back of the directions. I figured we didn't need them anymore, as we were already at the concert, and how hard could it be to find out way back... after all, we had already traveled the roads once that day =) The note I wrote said "Ben, I drove 11 hours to see you guys!! Can I play 'One Angry Dwarf' with you??" and signed it "Don Walter (The guy with the JayAre shirt)". I put the bit about the JayAre shirt partly because I had one on at the time, and partly because I thought he might remember the last time we met when I presented him with his own JayAre shirt! When they finally opened the doors... everybody rushed in... and my friend and I ran over to the left side of the stage, which is where Ben sets up. We were right up front!! There were a couple people in front of us... so I guess we would be considered in the second row.. but since there were no seats, it just all kinda blended in together. We waited through the first band, Josh Rouse, which neither of us had ever heard of. Josh wasn't too bad... but they had arrived late, and so they had to cut their set in half, along with the second group, Guster. Guster was really awesome!! Then... after Guster had left the stage... it was time for... BEN FOLDS FIVE!!!!!!!!!! The guys started off with the Last Polka... great way to start the show, in my opinion, with Ben coming out stomping on the piano. Then the second song they played was the Theme from Dr Pyser... one of my favorites!!! It was after this song that I threw my note on stage to Ben. To my dismay, Ben let the note sit there, and continued on with the show, playing 13 more songs. Those 13 songs included some old favorites... some brand new and as it turns out, unreleased songs... "Prince Charming" and "Amelia Bright"... and a whole lotta fun! Ben was going buck wild on his piano, with full body piano key smashes, bashing the keys with his stool.. stomping and dancing on the piano... It was great!!!

After the 15th song, Robert went offstage to get another beer from a roadie, and Ben PICKED UP MY NOTE TO READ IT!!!!!!!!!!! He sat there and read it, and then very slowly turned his head out to the audience and spotted me.. and he very slowly nodded!! I was sooo in shock, I couldn't move!!! My friend who was next to me gave me a push and told me to get up there, which snapped me out of it and I ran around the barricade by the security people and up on to the stage!!!! I got out beside Ben and he looked at me and started playing "Fair". I felt really stupid then, being on stage while they're playing a different song, so I stepped back behind their speakers, when roadie Joe DeLorenzo came over and told me I had to leave. I explained to him that Ben invited me up and he walked away, satisfied with that. Then their tour manager Doug Goodman came over to me and asked what I was doing. I explained everything to him and he said that he didn't think I was psycho, since I didn't rush the stage... but Ben didn't tell them ahead of time that anybody was getting onstage so they had to check me out. I sat their and talked to him through the song "Fair", getting more and more nervous with each passing minute!!!! By the time the song ended, I could hardly breathe and I was shaking like a prostitute in a confessional!!!!! Ben started to introduce me into the mic as I walked out. He then said "This one's for Don" and leaned over like he was going to start playing it, when I interrupted with "Can I play it?". I think he was caught off guard, for he couldn't think of anything to say.. just kinda sat there with a shocked look on his face! I think he read my note wrong, he thought I wanted him to dedicate the song to me, and not play it! So seeing the look on his face, I told him that I was really good, and that I promised I could play it! I pointed to my JayAre shirt and explained I was in a band, so I had to have some talent and Ben looked at the shirt and claimed to remember it from when I gave him his!! So he agreed to let me play!!!!!!!!!! He told me to start out at the beginning of the song, and play through the first chorus, and then stop and let them take over, and they'll "break it down". He didn't think I could play!!! Before I started I saw Rob and Darren looking at each other preparing for a disaster... and then once I started their eyes grew and they both looked at me in amazement... and Ben looked at me kinda surprised and gave me a thumbs up of approval!!!!!!! =) He stood out front singing the first verse, and I sat in his place at his piano playing, having the time of my life!! I kept looking around and Darren and Rob and they were watching me with huge smiles on their faces and I could see that they were impressed that I was keeping up so well! Well, we got through the first chorus and before I had a chance to stop Ben leans over the piano, gave me another thumbs up and told me to KEEP GOING!!!!!!!!!!! So I did!!!!!! I played the whole song with them!!! During the second verse... in place of the line "kiss my ass...", Ben changed the words around a little bit.. singing "kiss DON'S ass!!!!". When I got to the piano break, Rob screamed into the min "Alright Don... YEAH!!!" and I went at it!!! It went beautifully!!! Me playing my heart out and Ben dancing around the stage!!!! When I finished that part and we were in the bass run section... Ben starts chanting my name!!! "Don... Don... Don.. Don...". The crowd joined in chanting "Don... Don... " and then Ben started chanting my "last name"... "Nelson... Nelson..." opposite of the crowd chanting Don, so it sounded like Don Nelson... Don Nelson... (Ben later apologized and realized he said the wrong name and corrected himself!!). Then once again for the last chorus he sang "kiss Don's ass!", and the song ended with Ben leading me in a Ben Folds signature piano stool smash (Throwing the piano stool at the piano keys to end the song). After the song was over, Ben leaned into the mic and smiled said "Somebody get that bitch offstage, he showed me up" followed by Robert saying "Way to go Don!". Rob then proceeded to jokingly say "Don sped up the last chord", followed by audience laughter. he then said "He really did, he fucked me up. I'm not used to that kind of shit!", followed by more laughter. By this time I was back in my spot in the crowd. When I returned to my spot, I just looked at my friend and said "Tell me that really just happened!!!".. he held up our camera and said "I got pictures!!!". I was in shock! I couldn't believe it!! The guys then went on and finished the concert, throwing in a couple more new songs... "The Secret Life of Morgan Davis" and "Tell Me What I Did". And finishing off the night with their version of "Video Killed the Radio Star". It was DEFINITELY the best show I've been to, for a couple reasons. First... the obvious, I got to play piano with them! Second... they played 4 new songs that had never been performed before, and they will never be performed again now that the band has broken up.

After the show ended, I was on my way outside to go back to the tour buses and wait for the guys, when all of a sudden I got mobbed by like 50 people wanting pictures and autographs!!! It was crazy!!! I couldn't believe people were asking ME, Don Walter, to sign their Ben Folds Five shirts and posters!!! It was definitely a great feeling... but definitely strange! After I finished signing autographs, I went out to the tour buses, to find that Darren had come and gone. I missed him, but managed to talk to Rob and Ben and had them sign my poster. Robert told me I "kicked Michael Bluejay's ass!!!" (Michael Bluejay had played piano with them at a show in Texas back in 1998) and then he gave me some pointers and told me to "Work on that for next time". I couldn't believe it! I didn't think he was serious, but here was Robert Sledge giving me pointers and tips and telling me to work on that for the next time I jammed with them!!!! Then I went over and talked to Ben. He told me he was really impressed and we talked for just a couple min... didn't get into anything in depth, because they had to get going to get on the road for their show the next night.

After they had left, Jay and I were walking back to our car and left. As soon as we got on the road, I called the front desk of my dorm to get the number for Mike Slocum (Another one of my friends that turned down the free ticket!), and it turns out he was working the desk at the time. So I told him that I had just played with Ben Folds Five!! He couldn't believe it, and as soon as we got off the phone, he started making calls telling all our friends. We took turns driving throughout the night and returned back to Ball State around 2:00pm on Sunday April 30. When I walked into my dorm, I was greeted like a celebrity!! EVERYBODY had heard about my experience, and people still talk about it!!! I was so pumped full of adrenaline, that I couldn't sleep all afternoon (I haven't been asleep since we woke up at 8am on Saturday morning), so I finally got to sleep that late night to prepare for my first finals the next day. That finals week was hell... but I'd say it was pretty much worth it!!!!