Smilanich, a 13-year-old from Sussex, attended the Pearl Jam / Tom Petty show at the Marcus Ampitheater with his father, John, a Petty zealot who procured front-row seats on the left side of the stage.
The younger Smilanich was wearing an orange University of Texas baseball cap, which seemed to please the members of Pearl Jam, who flashed him the "Hook 'em Horns" sign repeatedly throughout their energetic opening set. Guitar player Mike McCready made it a point to hand Ryan Smilanich a guitar pick and at one point in the show lead singer Eddie Vedder walked over and gave Smilanich a harmonica he had used during a solo.
"Ryan is so low-key," said the elder Smilanich, who has taken his son to several Petty concerts in the past few years. "He just stood there and took the harmonica and people around us were going crazy. When we walked out of the show at the end of the night, he was playing the harmonica. Some people said he could sell it on eBay, but I don't think he should. It's something he'll remember forever."
During the set by Petty and the Heartbreakers, Smilanich's Texas hat drew smiles from guitarist Mike Campbell and Petty himself. At the end of the show, a member of the band's crew handed Smilanich a guitar pick used by Petty, smiled and said "Hook 'em Horns."
Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at OnMilwaukee.com. Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.