Got big dreams? See what happens to a college student at a Springsteen concert.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Matthew Aucoin knew he had a choice Friday night at Citizens Bank Park. He could remain in the crowd with his father, continue to be awed at the sight of Bruce Springsteen performing on that South Philadelphia stage, or he could hold up his sign, take a chance, and say "no retreat, baby, no surrender." After all, he had gotten this far. The 19-year-old sophomore from Texas A&M had seen The Boss in concert a dozen times, but never in Philadelphia. So when Springsteen's second Philly performance lined up with a free weekend, Aucoin saw the streets of Philadelphia in his future. "I went to Philly solely to see Bruce. I'm a college student so I had to pick a date that was close to a weekend and that didn't interfere with my studies," Aucoin told 6abc Action News. "I have always wanted to see Bruce in either Philly or Jersey. Somewhere northeast. Finally got to." Aucoin and his father purchased their General Admission tickets and made the 1,547-mile trek from Houston to Philadelphia. The Aucoins, just like a good Philadelphia Phillies tailgater, realized they needed to get to the stadium early - because concert officials were handing out wristbands to the GA audience. The number on your wristband determined when you could enter. For a college kid from Houston getting to Philadelphia was one thing, navigating your way through the subway tunnels of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority was another story. So Aucoin took a leap of faith. "We kind of rode along with some fellow young guys going to the show we had just met. But they accidentally got all of us on the wrong subway which delayed our time," Aucoin said.
After his impromptu tour of Philadelphia's Broad Street Line subway system, the Texan teen arrived for his wristband. After waiting in a very long line, father and son got their bands - numbers 1,305 and 1,306 of 1,500. "At about 4:30 p.m., they picked the winning lottery number of who gets to go in first. The winning number was 1,227. So we were number 80-ish to go in," Aucoin explained. "If we had taken the right subway originally, we probably would've been number 1,100 or something and been one of the last people to go in. So a big shout out to those guys for getting us on the wrong subway!" Philadelphia was proving to be one lucky town for Aucoin, but the night was far from over. Aucoin and his dad made their way right in the line of sight of the legendary singer from New Jersey. Should he get that prime spot in the crowd, the college student was prepared with a sign - one displaying a certain request. "It was at the end of 'Rosalita', I just got my sign and stuck it in his face. The sign said, 'Can a college kid play 'No Surrender' with you?' And at the bottom I wrote every chord to the song in order to show him I wasn't messing around," Aucion said with a laugh. Aucoin could - like the lyrics say - feel his heart begin to pound as Springsteen noticed his sign and called him to the stage. "I was kind of like, 'Alright. Here we go. It's showtime!" Aucoin recalled. Aucoin, who surprisingly admits he is not in a band, had only practiced the chords for 'No Surrender' just a day or two before the concert. "I wasn't as nervous as I imagined I would be. But I felt my hand shaking at a couple parts, like when I sang that last solo when I wasn't strumming, I was thinking 'Oh, wow my hand is shaking.' I didn't actually feel nervous. I have little to no stage experience. Maybe that should change," Aucoin said. In video taken of the concert, Aucoin not only looks calm standing next to one of his music idols, he looks like he's a natural, keeping up with The Boss both on the microphone and with the guitar moves. "All of the moves just came naturally from watching Bruce for years. I never looked over to see if he did the same moves; I just did my thing, which at the time, it didn't hit me that I was moving just like Bruce. I didn't realize how in sync we were till I saw the footage after the show. I think that's why lots of people asked if it was staged," Aucoin said. Aucoin is not kidding. His performance of "No Surrender" with the 20-time Grammy Award winning singer was received so well by concertgoers, some thought it had to be just part of the act. One Twitter user wrote to E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt, "Was that kid a ringer? He was spot on!"
Playing along with the idea, Van Zandt responded, "Yeah, we bring him everywhere. Gotta get him back to college soon. School start yet?" With every strum of the guitar, Aucoin won over the Philadelphia crowd. But he cemented his legacy in the City of Brotherly Love when he was given the microphone to sing a verse. Instead of singing the original line "With a wide open country in my eyes," Aucoin modified it to, "With a wide open country of Philly tonight," much to the delight of the Citizens Bank Park crowd. "Honestly, I came up with that on the spot. As I was singing the solo part at the end, I looked out into the crowd and it kind of clicked to say, 'Philly tonight.' The people of Philly were so nice. Every person I met was so welcoming. Even the taxi and Uber drivers were very supportive and endearing. So they deserved it! I didn't realize until now how beautiful of a city Philadelphia was," Aucoin said. Once the song finished, thinking his debut did fairly well, Aucoin told Bruce Springsteen, "Thank you, brother." "And Bruce turned to me and in the most sincere, gracious way he said, 'Bro. That was sooo good!'" Aucoin said, emphasis on the so. The longtime headliner and the novice show-stealer talked a little bit longer, with Aucoin telling Springsteen of his journey to Philly just to be at the concert. As the College Kid - as he is now referred to on social media - began to walk off stage, he heard a familiar voice screaming, "Matthew! Selfie! Selfie! Selfie!" It was his father, who just like his son, had a plan. "I went to get off the stage and my dad threw me his phone. I was surprised my dad knew what a selfie was. I went back and took a selfie with Bruce. I looked later at the footage and then it hit me - that Bruce, at least in my humble opinion, really enjoyed the performance. The way he looked at me in a couple pictures really showed what he was thinking during the song. To have the Boss look at you like that, I can't even put the feeling into words because of how much I've looked up to him throughout my life," Aucoin said. Since his breakout performance, Aucoin has been receiving praise all over social media from all over the world. "I never expected it to be this big of a deal. It's sort of surreal getting messages from people in Australia, Germany, Belgium, Italy, France, Spain, Norway, etc. saying how much you 'killed it' and how I'm the 'Philly Legend' or the 'College Kid.' It's so fun to read," Aucoin said. While an encore performance is not out of the question, Aucoin remains appreciative of his moment in the spotlight with The Boss. "I want to send a big thank you to Bruce and the band for giving me a once in a lifetime opportunity, Thank you God, and thank you Philly! I hope the College Kid can return to Philly soon!" Aucoin said.