Just about everyone has wanted to be a rock star at some point. On a recent night in East Nashville, Craig Smith got to live out that dream, thanks to a certain Predators fan.
Jay Weinberg has better rhythm than most. Perhaps it's in the family genes.
After all, his father, Max, just so happens to be the drummer for Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band and was also a member of Conan O'Brien's late-night program for a number of years. The elder Weinberg has made a living off of keeping the beat.
But growing up in New Jersey, it was actually hockey first for Jay, instantly hooked when he attended a Devils game in the late 90s.
A goalie on travel teams growing up, it wasn't until high school when he really became passionate about music, and it took off from there.
Fast forward 15 years later, Jay is living in Nashville, drumming professionally for the Grammy Award-winning metal band Slipknot. Sitting behind a drum set over the past decade has taken plenty of time and dedication, and he admittedly fell out of touch with the game that was his first love.
But after moving to Music City more than three years ago, that all changed.
"Coming down here and seeing Gold just sweep this city was so rad," Weinberg said. "With the run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017, this city became on fire with the love for the Preds, so to be swept up in that, it really recharged my interest in the sport… The Predators reinvigorated my love for the sport, for watching the sport."
That passion came roaring back so much so that Weinberg began to spend time not only watching the Predators at Bridgestone Arena, but also travelling to see them on the road.
He recalled playing a festival in California and taking a day off to drive to Anaheim to see his favorite team play the Ducks. During warmups, he struck up a conversation with a fellow fan sporting Gold. Turns out, that gentleman not only happened to build guitars for members of Slipknot, his brother is Predators Strength and Conditioning Coach, David Good.
Small world, right?
It was from that chance meeting that Weinberg was eventually introduced to Smith, who is also known to dabble with a six-string in his hand.
Video: Smith jams with E St. Band for a good cause
Smith and Weinberg then reconnected during the Nashville Predators Foundation's Preds & Threads event last season, a fashion show put on by the team to help benefit Best Buddies Tennessee, an organization that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Needless to say, Weinberg left the event feeling inspired, wanting to find a way he could assist with the organization's mission.
The solution? Buddies on the Beat, hosted by Jay and King Thrust Entertainment, at The Basement East in East Nashville.
Weinberg brought together musicians from a number of different bands for a night of jamming, along with a silent auction, to benefit the organization. Among those in attendance was his father, along with Garry Tallent, of the E Street Band.
And joining them on stage to live out a fantasy and play his favorite Springsteen song, "I'm On Fire" - none other than Smith.
"That was one of the most unique situations I've ever been in and it was almost like it was like dream come true," Smith said. "I certainly can skate better than I can play guitar, but that was a lot of fun to get to step in their world for just a half a second… I was a little nervous on which cord to even plug in to when I got up there because I'm not savvy with the electric guitar, but it was awesome."
And as much as Smith enjoyed the experience, that appreciation was reciprocated tenfold by the host.
For Weinberg, the night represented everything he loves about Nashville - music, the Predators and people coming together for something greater than themselves.
"I was beside myself with gratitude," Weinberg said. "It was just a such a good time and a great vibe, we contributed immensely to this really amazing cause that I was introduced to through the Nashville Predators, so it really was like a moment of just everything coming together. It's a night I'll never forget, that's for sure."
Jay Weinberg still has unique auction items available to benefit Best Buddies Tennessee, including a custom-painted Predators snare drum signed by their entire team. It will be available at the Party with a Purpose on Nov. 2 in Nashville. For more information, click here.