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19 March 2013

All My Dreams: Jesse Jenkins Meets Prince at SXSW




  Jesse Jenkins had the opportunity to live every Prince fan's dream recently.
  The musician invited Jenkins, of Arlington, Texas to his concert last Saturday at the South By Southwest Music Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas--via Blogger Dr. Funkenberry, who made an announcement on his Spreecast March 13-- as his special guest, all expenses paid.
  This is not Jenkins' first encounter with The Purple One; He was handpicked by Prince and 3rd Eye Girl to be one of two people to premiere the single “LOL (Live Out Loud)” last month. The lucky fan, who makes YouTube videos related to Prince's music and public appearances, had previously never seen the artist in concert.
  Jenkins talked to “Dyes Got the Answers 2 Ur ?s” Monday night about attending the exclusive concert, hanging out with the New Power Generation (NPG) and meeting Prince:

  ?: Describe how you felt when Dr. Funkenberry told you that Prince was inviting you to SXSW?
  JJ: [I]t was really scandalous. I certainly didn't plan for that. I was not aware that was going to happen. I was more focused on catching him when he hit California, because I wanted to take a road trip down there anyway...I just automatically assumed this wasn't going to happen, because, I (didn't) have $800 and even if I did have $800, I don't know if I would spend it all on that one event, because, that's a lot of money...When it was announced, I didn't know what to think about it...It was truly a surprise.
  I had people telling me that I should send 3rd Eye Girl a message and that I should make a video about how I'm (near) Austin. But, I'm not like that; I don't like asking people for favors... People said “you should ask, maybe they'll help you out, they sent you a song...” I didn't think it would happen, with the timing, I mean it was just four days (from then)...
  ?: What kind of response did you get from other fans right after the announcement was made on the Spreecast?
  JJ: People said “ oh, you're so lucky.” There was a person (2elijah) on Prince.org who made a thread about how it was awesome that Prince decided to go this far. Everyone was just happy for me, because, they know I make videos (on YouTube) about Prince and that I've never seen him (in concert). The immediate response has been overwhelmingly positive...and they tell me that I deserve it and things like that. (People have) just been really nice, supportive and happy (for me). People have been telling me that they have been crying seeing (my) reaction (on the Spreecast).
  ?: Once the reality sank in that you were actually going to SXSW in the days before the concert, what was going through your mind? How did you feel?
  JJ: I started to become apprehensive after a while, because, it was announced on Wednesday... and I didn't get an e-mail or anything until that Friday...
  I was just feeling really good, though. I didn't really process it all, (because), I was waiting for a confirmation. I'm so paranoid with things and I thought “ I don't know, man, maybe they're just setting me up. Maybe they're trying to embarrass me or something like that (laughing)... "
  But, I was still happy because I know Prince is a man of his word. I knew it was going to actually happen, I just didn't know how it was going to work out... I just had all of these doubts... I was freaking out about transportation, because on the Spreecast, I said I was an hour from Austin, then I found out I'm three hours from Austin... (I thought) what if they say that's too far?
   I'm still shocked that it happened. It was really nice of (Prince) to do this for me, because I've only been making my videos about him for less than a year. He wanted to hook me up with the hotel, seeing him and the chance to meet everyone (in his band), it was just overwhelming.



  ?: Describe your trip from Arlington, Texas to SXSW?
  JJ: Well, I finally got the e-mail from Julia Ramadan (who works for Prince) on Friday... She said that she going to arrange for somebody to pick me up and she said she was going to get me a hotel room. She said she would get back in touch with me after a meeting... She did and said the (driver's) going to pick you at 3 pm. It was just like that.
  I couldn't hardly sleep... I probably got like a couple of hours (of sleep). (The next day) I went to the barbershop and I got my hair shaped up and I got back around 2:45 pm. I figured (the driver) was going be a little late, but, (he arrived) at 3 p.m. on the dot...my dad told me that somebody was outside to meet me. (The driver) asked for my bags and we left...
  It took a while to get to the hotel, because, there were so many people at this event. You know, I'm from New Orleans and Bourbon Street is always packed, but, it was
like Bourbon Street 2.0, intoxicated...I've never seen so many people.
  We had trouble finding the hotel. We didn't know if the hotel was just being renovated or what, because, it was not obvious that it was a hotel; it was connected to a restaurant. (But), finally we made it...
  When I got to the hotel, I made the little video recording. I knew a friend in Austin and I wanted to hang out with her, because, I missed her birthday party (the previous) week.    She sent me a message that said “oh, you're in Austin? Good, then we can hang out.” 
   (Before I met her), I walked around the city for about 30 minutes or so trying to see where the club was (where the concert was being held). I was going to take a (pedicab), because I didn't know all this other stuff had been planned for me. Then my friend picked picked me up.
  ?: What was the concert like?
  JJ: It must have been around 9 p.m. when Ramadan called me and said that Prince wanted to see if I wanted to go see Andy Allo (in concert).  Me and my friend were already (in the car) looking for food, so, I had to tell her that, unfortunately, I had to go back to the hotel and take a shower, because, you know...it's Prince and I wanted to meet Prince and Andy Allo. So, she took me back...
  Ramadan said somebody was going to pick me up and they would drive me over to where she was, because, she was already at the club where Andy Allo was performing. He was really late, he was supposed to get there around 9:30 p.m. and he didn't get there until 10:20 p.m. 
  He apologized, because, he was stuck in traffic...He was going to drop me off at the club where Prince was playing, but, he said, no, I'm supposed to take you somewhere else. He was trying to call Ramadan, but, she didn't answer...
  She actually got a hold of me (on the phone) and told me she was still at the club and that Andy's set was almost over. By then, we were stuck in traffic and by the time she was giving me directions to where she was, it was already 10:45 p.m.
   The streets were blocked, so, I had to get out of the car and I had to find where she was, because, we couldn't get there with the car. I was on the phone with her for five minutes, trying to find out exactly where she was at. I was running through the streets saying “where are you?” and sweating my suit out, man! So, I finally met her and we hug, she said “come on, let's go,” and I saw (Allo) performing “People Pleaser” right in front of me. 
   (Later, on the way to Prince's show) a lot of people thought we (Ramadan and Jenkins) were Prince, because we were riding (to Prince's show) in a white Escalade. (They) were saying “we can't wait to see you, man!”  Ramadan said "you should scream 'aaaooowah!'" and I think I did, but, I didn't do it too well... While we were driving there she gave me the wristband, told me she was happy I was there and said it was going to be a good concert...



   I saw Donna Grantis (guitarist for 3rd Eye Girl) as soon as I got in the club and I hugged her. I was so happy to see her, but, I was so nervous... I told her how awesome she was and she told me it was good to see me. Then I saw Hannah Ford (3rd Eye Girl's drummer) and I hugged her. Her husband was there and we talked for a while. Then, I saw Ida Nielsen (3rd Eye Girl's bassist) and then Shelby J came. I talked to her and Shelby had the smoothest skin...that's one thing I remember...and she said, “well, let's take a picture,” and Ford took a picture (of us). 
  I saw Elisa Fiorillo-Dease and she said "Hey, Jesse!"-- they all called me by name-- and she told me it was awesome to see me. I talked to Cassandra O'Neal and all of the horn players, a bunch of them. I don't remember their names, though...It was such a family atmosphere...
  (When we got inside), everyone was just dancing, because A Tribe Called Quest was already on stage...Q-Tip performed for about 45 minutes or so and, finally, he said “I'm gonna clean the stage. I don't ever do this for anybody, but, I'm doing it for Prince.” Everybody just went crazy.   (Later), the symbol came on the stage and that's when it finally hit me, like, this is real, I'm finally about to see Prince.
  I was in the VIP section, so, I was up close, I was basically right next to the band--right next to the drums and the guitar-- and he put on a show. He finally arrived; he had the black suit and the pink shirt. He walked out with the cane and everything, orchestrating the band, my mind was blown.
  His voice was perfect. I've heard a lot of Prince performances and he couldn't have sounded any better. His was falsetto was perfect, he was doing all kinds of dance moves and playing the keyboard...He didn't play the guitar at all-- which was kind of a surprising thing—but, he didn't need to, with the control he had over the band...
  You know Prince and you know he's a wonderful performer, so, I don't even have to go into how good he was. I could go on and on talking about that. It was the best concert; I've never partied so hard. He kept coming back for encores. Every time he left, he kept coming back and he kept bringing it harder each time he came. So, finally, he just threw the mic in the crowd and he just ran offstage. There was just guy (in the audience) who was crying and he was like “man, I've never seen anything like that.”
  I was just high off of it (the concert)...Donna's husband, who was with me the whole time, he was preparing me. When Prince would hit these notes, he would just grab my back. Of course, his wife was on fire... ?uestlove (was standing) right behind me; he was just grooving and jamming along with everybody else. Everybody was just partying. There was never a dry moment. I'm surprised I can talk right now, because, I was just screaming.
 Another cool moment was when Prince was playing... he looked right at me and he was just smiling. I was not expecting the songs he performed like “Extraloveable” and “Act of God.” It was more like a party, it didn't feel like a concert. Prince was the "partyman" all night.
  

  ?: What happened after the concert?
  JJ:  Ramadan came to me after she was finished and she said “come on, Prince wants to meet you.” I said “what?!” and she said “yeah, let's go!” Before that, John Blackwell gave me his drumsticks.
  I (was) shaking, shaking, shaking. Prince wanted to meet me! I went down,  pass the security guards, they open up the trailer and there is Prince. It's just me, Ramadan and Damaris Lewis. He looks at me, comes over and gives me a hug. I'm like “Oh my God, Prince, it's Prince!” and he said “yeah, it's me.”
  I said “Prince, I love your work so much and I really appreciate all that you've done. You're a wonderful artist, a wonderful person, I love your work and I love you.” He said “thank you and I love you back. Thank you for all of the support that you've given me, you're very genuine and that's why we had to bring you out here.”
  I told him that was it one of my favorite shows I had ever been to and he said “yeah, it's one of my favorites, too.” I said “where do you get that energy from? It's no wonder that you don't count time...Look at you!”
  Then I look at Lewis and said “Damaris, you are sexy!” and then Prince said “oh thank you, good night, time for you to go,” like he was going to kick me out of the trailer and I said “no, no, no, I was just kidding!”
  He said “yeah, well we caught you on the Spreecast... and he said he sent the video to the band and they were all crying. We had to give them tissue, because they were so happy to see you get so excited to come see me.”
  I said “I was expecting you to get on guitar,” and he said “well... the band was on point and I didn't even need to do that because, they made up for everything.”
  He added, “I really appreciate you, I love your videos and I love your spirit, that's why I brought you out here and this won't be the last time.”
  I said “I love you, Prince.” I hugged him again, I hugged (Lewis) and that's when she gave me the mask she was wearing. Prince said “it was a pleasure to see you,” and I said “it was nice to see you!” I left and I couldn't believe it was happening. I saw (the man) guarding the trailer and he said “man, how did that feel?” and I said it was awesome. He said, “man, the only person I saw Prince hug was Q-Tip,” because he hugged him when he came onstage. He said, “I never see Prince hug anybody else. He must see something in you.”
  I waited for a little while and I went back inside and I saw Liv Warfield, who wrote “LOL (Live Out Loud).” She was so happy to see me and I was so happy to see her. She said “you have such a beautiful spirit and we love you. You have to come see us again.”
  I talked to her for a while and then I went back outside. Then I saw Ford's husband, Joshua, and he said “Intercontinental?” That was the hotel I was going to and he said “come on, you're riding with us.”
  I waved back to the trailer and I said “Bye, Prince and I love you all so much.”
  I get on the (tour) bus and everybody said “Hey Jester... it's nice to see you.” and I said “ hey everybody, you guys are awesome.”
  I sat right next to Ford. At the time, I didn't want to sit next to Ford, because, I wanted her to sit next to her husband and she was like “no, you can sit right there.”
  We're on the bus and we're just talking about how awesome it (the concert) was. She said “we're so glad you could come, you're so awesome, we love your spirit, we love your support, thanks for everything.”
  I just said how I'm blessed and thanked God. I admire their faith, because, they have a lot of faith in God and it's always about the bigger picture...
  (The band) was dropped off first at their hotel and I hugged...all of them and I said “thank you so much for this opportunity” and they all said “no problem, you have to see us again.” Joshua said “that's (God's) favor, just continue to do what you're doing, man, you're a good guy. They get off the bus and I'm just taking a deep breath and I'm just thinking “wow, that was great.” Then I got back (to the hotel room)... and that's when I made the video.
  I'm going to give you a bonus story... when I made time, I called Ramadan to say thank you for everything and she said “no problem, Prince really likes you and he was happy to see you. He really likes your energy and you're part of the family.” 
  I called her the next morning, just to confirm everything and say thank you again... I said, “I really wish I had stayed longer.” She said, “you know, Jesse, you should have, because, me, Prince and (Lewis) went to IHOP right after you left.”
  I said, “are you kidding me?!” She said, “yes and we didn't have any bodyguards...and you could have come...”  She said he was talking to people, but, it started to get busy, so, they had to get their food to go. Of course, he didn't take any pictures. I don't know why people are asking if I took pictures, I have enough respect to know (not to take pictures of Prince)...have you ever seen one picture of him with a fan?
  She said it was so much fun and that when I called (her) that she was just thinking about me. She saw all my tweets and Prince said he appreciated the love. I said, “well, you must have seen my video.”
  She said “you made a video, oh my God, we have to see that, too. We really love you, Jesse, you know you're part of the NPG...”
  I said “thank you for everything...but, I'm still mad at you for not bringing me to IHOP (laughing).” She said “don't worry, this won't be your last time.”
  So, I packed all my stuff, I checked out and I went home. It was just spectacular, one of the best moments of my life... The NPG is a strong family, what I loved about them was everyone seemed to have so much respect for each other...



  ?: How do you feel now that a few days have passed?
  JJ: I feel blessed. I feel like I've just been rewarded a great gift. It just encourages me...One thing Prince said to me was “keep what you have, you're very rare, not a lot of people have what you have.” It just keeps me on board, because, I don't know how to be anyone else but me.
   It makes me appreciative that someone like Prince could find my enthusiasm and my energy to be infectious – that was one of the words he used. I like that, because, all of my fervor and enthusiasm has to do with listening to...the wonderful music that he has given to us.  I couldn't be more appreciative of him and what he's done...even giving me a chance to meet him, it was above and beyond.
  I always say surrender your expectation, but, I was not expecting him to meet me and to embrace him. It's been surreal; it was just two days ago... It feels like family; it doesn't feel like anything, but, just straight-up family.
  ?: Is there anything you wanted to add?
  JJ: My one regret is that I didn't compliment him on his cuff links, just in case. So, he could have hooked me up with some of those cuff links, because, they were fresh! They were these big sparkly ones...they were just shining from a distance. 
  Looking back, it's always a flood of what I could have said. But, to the best of my abilities, I just let him know that from me and the fans...that we all love (Prince). I made it clear to him, from one fan to millions, we really love him and I think he got that message.  

Stay beautiful, Kristi

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All photos courtesy of Jesse Jenkins.

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