Die-hard Lukas Nelson fan shares the love

Die-hard Lukas Nelson fan shares the love

Story by Linda East Brady , Standard-Examiner staff - Jul 27 2012 - 9:12am
(ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner)
Natalie Johnson holds a Lukas Nelson set list. Johnson is a huge fan of the musician and organized his upcoming show at Kamikazes on Thursday.

Music fans are known to wait with bated breath for their favorite artist's new CD. They might proudly sport their concert Ts and hats, and go to great lengths to get the best seats when the tour rolls through town.

Then there are the true believers, like Natalie Johnson.

Her devotion to Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real has her not only crossing state to see their shows, but, now, bringing the band to Ogden for a Kamikazes gig on Thursday, Aug. 2.

Johnson first encountered Nelson in Ogden, when he and the band played at the Historic 25th Street Harvest Moon Festival in the fall of 2010.

"Every time since, when I would see him, I would ask him to come here, and he'd say, 'Call my booking agent,' " said Johnson, a lifetime Ogden gal who teaches at Weber State University, her alma mater.

She called the agent, but the band booked its next few visits at a Salt Lake City venue. Not so this time.

Johnson laughed. "Maybe it just worked out to stop here this time. Or maybe they were just sick of us Ogden fans going, 'When are you coming here?' "

Since the Harvest Moon Festival, Johnson and her husband have hit several travel destinations, Including Driggs, Idaho, and Durango, Colo., timing trips to coincide with Nelson and his band's swings through town.

"Me and my husband, we both love watching him play. And we are in our 40s now, so we have both time and a little money to do this," she said.

Johnson said she had always wanted to visit Durango and Mesa Verde National Park.

"This gave us a reason to go," she said. "These kinds of trips are pretty inexpensive, too. For one thing, his shows are inexpensive."

Johnson notes that part of the appeal of seeing Nelson is that he is very generous to his fans.

"He is such a sweet kid and so amazing. He will talk to you after the show. And he is cute, too!" She laughed. "Sometimes I am like, 'Damn, I am too old.' And, of course, married! But really? I think my husband has a little man-crush, too. Nothing wrong with that, it keeps us young!

"People will say to me sometimes, 'Don't you have anything better to do?' Well, I think: What is more fun than to travel, and to see a band?"

Help from friends

Johnson is the first to admit she had no concert promotion experience when she started planning the Nelson show.

She was willing to risk the money to see to it that the band got paid, regardless of how big the crowd is, but she still needed a little help from her friends to pull it off. So she went to Tommy Melonas, who owns and operates Kamikazes nightclub.

"I'm an old party girl who used to go to Kamis when I was young, so I actually have known Tommy for years," said Johnson. "We'd kind of lost touch, because I don't go clubbing like that anymore, but we were really close years ago. I knew him so well that when I saw him, I just said, 'Tommy!' and we took off talking."

He agreed to host the show after Johnson got some additional support with advertising and ticket sales from Steve Conlin, owner and one of the marketing managers for Ogden's Own Distillery. Conlin was president of the 25th Street Association when Nelson came to town for the Harvest Moon Festival. He became a fan that night, enough of one that he also has crossed state lines for the music.

"I was on a business trip out in St. Louis when he did a show in Columbia (Mo.) last summer, and I planned the trip at a time when I could catch him playing out there," Conlin said.

With the Harvest Moon Festival show, Conlin said, Nelson won a core group of fans in Ogden. So when Johnson approached Conlin about helping out, he was glad to help.

"We have sold quite a few tickets and are selling more, as it gets closer," said Conlin. "I think it's great we are bringing him back to Ogden. It is very rare we get to see such musicianship around here, especially in a small place like Kamikazes."

Goody bag

Johnson admits to some nerves creeping in as show day approaches. Her concern is not losing money on the gig. After all, she has driven hundreds of miles, paid for gas and hotel rooms in order to catch a Promise of the Real show.

""It's more about, 'I talked you into coming up here, and then could not sell out this show.' I'd be truly embarrassed," she said.

She not only appreciates the rock 'n' roll these young men play, and their other obvious charms, but also their dedication to craft.

"I know they are young and energetic, but it is a hard way to make a buck," she said. "They have to do it night after night, and it is hard to stay that on, that focused, no matter how you are feeling, or what is going on offstage. We always bring them a goody bag of some sort, just to say, 'Thanks.'ââ"

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