The former Staten Islander plays drums with rock band The Killers at a sold-out 19,891 arena in Nashville
It was a hit in a million, but former Staten Islander Michael Phraner had faith. And now he can say he played drums for one of the best rock bands in the world.
On September 17, Phraner’s lofty dream of playing drums with The Killers – whose hits include Mr. Brightside and All These Things That I’ve Done – came true when he joined the rock band on stage for their performance of “Reasons Unknown”.
The once-in-a-lifetime opportunity came when singer Brandon Flowers picked Phraner from an endless sea of fans in a sold-out stadium of 19,891 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.
Phraner, 29, was born in the old St. Vincent’s Hospital in West Brighton, but moved to Athens Ala., with his family when he was in kindergarten. From the age of 13, Phraner began playing drums (he’s self-taught!) with his church youth band, which he continues to do today.
“It’s really a rare thing, the concert lottery! said Michael’s father, Rob Phraner. “Mike just tried and prepped and worked hard on the drums before the gig, just in case Brandon saw him, a one in a million chance. It was amazing. The energy was electric and Mike did really well! I still can’t believe it.
And the killers? “The Killers have been my favorite bands of all time,” Phraner said. SILive.com. “I’ve been a fan for 13 years and after hearing about their fan-drumming tradition, I knew I had to give it a shot. I went to the show with my family and some of my closest friends, so I knew it would be fantastic whether I performed or not.
The Killers fan-drummer tradition goes like this: A fan holds up a sign during a concert, indicating that he wants to play drums for “Reasons Unknown”. If Brandon Flowers picks you, you better be ready to go wild for a song during the gig.
“A few dozen people have been chosen to perform with The Killers, but it’s never a guarantee they’ll choose one,” Phraner added. “The week before the Nashville gig, they did it in Miami. They picked a drummer and he screwed up. Then they picked another one, and he screwed up too. And both had to be removed from the drums, in the middle of the song.
Phraner said he could tell by body language that Brandon Flowers was reluctant at the Nashville gig to choose a drummer from the audience, but he eventually did. And Phraner was ready for his hit, having practiced the song daily for weeks before the gig.
“I practiced for a few weeks and made my sign, which said, ‘If fate is kind, I’ll play the drums tonight. On the other side, the sign read, “I won’t spoil anything,” he said. “Brandon Flowers saw my signature between songs and seemed to debate it with the drummer, Ronnie Vannucci, for a while. He finally recognized me after the crowd around me continued to chant, ‘Let him play! “
According to Phraner, Flowers asked him if he was from Tennessee, and Phraner answered honestly, saying he was from Alabama. Flowers asked the crowd if they still wanted me to play after learning this information, and they did!
“Flowers said to me, ‘You’re pretty lucky,’ then he laughed when I flipped the sign over to say, ‘I’m not going to mess up,'” Phraner added. “He then called me on stage.
“Without the support of these complete strangers, I would not have been called on stage, and I will be forever grateful. For me, it was a reminder that we, as people, cannot lose faith in everything. the world and become jaded because of simply because things didn’t work out before. Miracles still happen.
“On stage, Brandon warned me that the last time they did that it didn’t work, to which I reassured him, ‘I know! I watched it!’ Then Brandon said, “Let’s give them a good gig,” and the drummer told me to follow his lead on the guitar and gave me his drumsticks.
So was Phraner nervous? “I was anxious about playing unfamiliar drums with bigger drumsticks than I’m used to, in addition to not having a metronome or monitors to play on. Fortunately, I managed to get out of it without making too many mistakes. The actual experience of playing was like a dream.
“I had a lot of fun and sang as much as I could. I really wanted to add to everyone’s experience – not take away from it, so I don’t take it for granted. I know people didn’t pay all that money to come see me, so I did my best, thanked the band and the audience profusely, and tried not to waste time.
“When I was done, Vannucci said I had done a good job and Brandon said I could keep the chopsticks while I was trying to return them. Brandon gave me a hug and introduced me. to the crowd. It was unreal. When I came back to my wife, family and friends, they were all going crazy. It was one of the happiest times of my life.
“I thank the Lord because so many things had to go right that were out of my control. I feel like this experience was God smiling at me, not that I did anything to deserve it. I got the sweetest messages from Killers fans all over the world telling me how well I did or how the highlight of the concert I was for them, which is hard for me to believe.
Does Phraner have any advice for anyone hoping to one day perform with The Killers?
“Buy general admission/floor tickets and practice on live versions of ‘For Reasons Unknown’ and use software to remove the drums,” Phraner advised. “Spend time making an awesome sign, buy and wear hi-fi earplugs at the concert, and join The Killer’s Victims fan page on Facebook and post a photo of you and your sign on the day of the concert .”
Above all, he advised: “Befriend the people around you in the pit.”
One day, Phraner plans to tell his 2-year-old son about his surreal moment as a rock star and make it a teachable moment. “One day I’ll tell him about the concert,” he said. “I will remind him to always be ready when an opportunity presents itself and to lean on God and your community to help you. You can’t do it yourself.