By Christian Thompson
For most people, the dream of playing rock ‘n’ roll in front of thousands of screaming fans never becomes more than a far-fetched fantasy.
Not so for Never Born to Follow, a band consisting of five Tuscarora High School students. Thanks to an online contest, the band gets a chance to open for Bon Jovi on an arena stage.
It took talent to win the contest, however, and that’s something Never Born to Follow has in spades. The Leesburg musicians, all of whom are classically trained, have been playing their dynamic take on classic rock together for nearly three years. They’ve been performing locally and even have a four-track EP for download on iTunes.
And success is no stranger to the band. In 2017, Never Born to Follow won the Loudoun YouthFest Battle of the Bands, which took place on the stage of Leesburg’s Tally Ho Theater. So when they were told about a contest to open up for Bon Jovi at their upcoming Washington, DC, show, entering seemed like a no-brainer.
“Our friend heard about it while he was listening to Big 100.3 and called us,” said Allan Fogelson, the group’s drummer and cellist. They decided to submit “Broken Child,” a track that shows off their mastery and knowledge of the classic rock canon.
When the band found out about their first-prize victory, Fogelson said they were in “total disbelief.” But they’re taking that same confidence that got them to this position and using it to stay focused.
“We’re practicing and planning the set like any other show,” Fogelson said, “except there’s more pressure to make sure it is as tight as possible.”
The band’s set will contain five songs, all of them originals, and it will include “Broken Child,” the song that won them the opportunity and seems destined to be Never Born to Follow’s defining track.
Fogelson acknowledges that the band will be a little nervous in front of so many people, but they believe in themselves and have the audience in their minds. “We’re confident that we’re going to put on a show and connect with everyone there as best as we can.”
The show takes place at Capital One Arena on Monday, May 14. It’s the second to last show on Bon Jovi’s tour supporting the release of their 2016 album, “This House is Not for Sale.”
Bon Jovi has held opening act contests twice in previous tours. In a post on its Facebook page, the band stated that the contest is a way to “pay it forward” and to use their success as an opportunity to give lesser-known bands a chance for larger exposure. For every show they’ve played in North America, Bon Jovi has had a different local band open for them.
If you can’t make the Bon Jovi gig, Never Born to Follow will also be playing at the Music at the Manor Festival on May 19 at the Paxton Campus in Leesburg.
Fogelson said that they have plans to follow up their 2017 EP, Chase, soon, but that for right now, their sights are set on what matters most—their big evening at Capital One Arena.
“This is an opportunity that we could only dream of,” Fogelson said. “Right now, we’re focusing on getting ready for the show and simply enjoying the moment.”