It sounds like the stuff of teenage dreams, to get picked out of a crowds and to get up and play with your favourite band, to deafening cheers.
Occasionally, however, dreams like that come true, which 18-year-old Katie Roberts found out on Saturday night when the US rock giants the Killers dragged her out of the 75,000-strong crowd at the Emirates Old Trafford to join them on the drums for a song.
Videos of Katie, enthusiastically holding a sign with ‘Can I Drum For You?’ emblazoned across it, before being singled out by singer Brandon Flowers and sitting behind the drum kit, to hammer out an impressive version of ‘For Reasons Unknown’ have since gone viral, turning Katie into something of a social media star.
As Brandon whips up the crowd and gets them to sing and clap along, drummer Ronnie Vannucci sat Katie behind his kit and picked up a guitar, before playing along with her.
The best bit about it is not that she was sat there at all, but more that she absolutely hammered the kit, not holding back and banished the nerves enough to add her own drum rolls, fills and flourishes to the delight of the both the band and the crowd.
Afterwards, brandishing her prized drumsticks, and some signed cymbals, given to her by Ronnie, Katie met back up with her family, mother Angela, father Tim and sister Grace for an emotional reunion.
The chance for Katie to catch the attention of the Killers came earlier in the day.
There was a special reason for why the Roberts were having a family day out at the concert, as they were celebrating the end of 17-year-old Grace’s treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma cancer, a rare and quite aggressive form of cancer.
She had been receiving chemotherapy at Alder Hey and proton beam therapy at the Christie centre in Manchester.
That Saturday had marked the end of her treatment in Manchester and, as a gesture by a make-a-wish charity, the Willow Foundation, they had been invited to meet the band before the concert. They were even treated to an impromptu version of Grace’s favourite song, ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’ by the band.
However, unconnected to the band meeting, Katie had heard about the band selecting members of the crowd being invited on stage, and had already made up her mind to try her luck.
‘The band always have this bit in their set where, if you can drum, you can practise the song and then ask to get picked out of the crowd and play the same song,’ said Katie.
‘They look at all the signs and just pick one. They’ve no idea if you are good or can actually play.
‘I had my sign with me when I met the band, the one I held up in the crowd, and Ronnie, the drummer, asked me was I going to try and get picked? I said yes, of course!
‘They said they would keep an eye out for my sign, so I did have a little advantage over other people, but it wasn’t definite. There were lots of others with signs up wanting to be picked too, and they could have easily gone for one of them. I went not expecting to be picked out.’
Katie, who has been playing the drums for four years, had managed to cram in a few hours practice the day before in a Manchester drum studio, with drum tutor Steve Leach offering advice over zoom.
Up until that point her live playing experience had been limited to playing a small gig for gymnastic students, playing along with her dad’s band, playing Green Day songs and playing along with her grandfather at the Peel Centenary Centre.
Nothing really to compare to running up on stage in front of 75,000 people.
‘I was holding my sign and shouting, and then my dad picked me up and held me in the air.
‘Brandon was looking through the crowd and he pointed at my sign and said “come here then”.
‘A security guard helped me over the fence and we ran straight on stage.
‘I was so excited and full of adrenaline, and not really nervous. And because I’d met them before and knew how nice they were, I wasn’t worried about being on stage with them.
‘I’d watched YouTube videos of people doing it, and I knew the song, even though the live version was a bit different.
‘I actually played Ronnie’s Kit. He picked up a guitar and he stood next to me, giving me a nod here and there when I should be doing something.
‘The basic beat is quite simple, but you can elaborate on it if you want. I put a few fills in, but Steve Leach had told me that, if in doubt, keep it simple. I did go for it in a few places though.
‘It doesn’t feel real when I watch the videos back.
Hearing the people cheering so loud is a bit weird, as you can’t hear it that well on the stage. All you can hear is the singer and yourself.
‘I just went straight back into the crowd afterwards. I had the sticks with me and people were coming up to me. One girl said she cried when I played.
‘My friends have said they can’t believe it and some don’t really get it, but everyone is pretty excited and stunned I did it.
‘Grace loved it too and was right at the front watching.
‘She was pretty weak and couldn’t stand up for long, but she wouldn’t sit down. I think she was really proud.’
Mum Angela added: ‘It was lovely for all of us. We’ve been through a pretty rough time recently when Grace was diagnosed, and the past few months have been very hard on all of us, but especially Grace.
‘She has been through a lot, and for this to happen was just amazing.
‘If we just met the Killers and heard them sing Grace her favourite song, that would have been the best day ever for us. But then watching Katie get up and play with them was just amazing.’
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