Bryan Benson, of Dayton, reflects upon his interest in music and his grandfather’s influence at the Journal Tribune office in Biddeford recently. LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

DAYTON — This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival. Many can say they saw an artist play at the original festival or the 25th anniversary, still more can say they were influenced by one of the artists, but only a select few can say they personally know one of those musicians.

Fifteen-year-old Bryan Benson of Dayton is one of those select few. His grandfather, Chris Lane, 68, played guitar with the New York-based, world beat band Futu Futu, one of the bands that performed at the Woodstock 25th anniversary concert in 1994.

“He’s always pushed me to strive to become a better musician,” said Benson.

Benson recalls watching one of his grandfather’s gigs when he was 5 years old and hopping up on stage, while Sting was in the audience, smiling.

Benson said he has great respect for his grandfather after watching him play on stage. He described it as a sort of magical experience listening to him perform and feeling the energy he puts in his performance. Benson said he often disconnects from the world around him while listening to him, and is shifted back when his grandfather gets off stage after the performance and sits down and carries on a conversation as though he just didn’t do this amazing thing on stage.

The Thornton Academy student is involved in theater productions at the school, as well as being a member of the chamber singers. In addition to performing vocals, Benson plays trombone and guitar and enjoys playing informally with friends, dabbling in a variety of music types including doo wop and reggae.

“You don’t need to limit yourself to one type of music,” he said.

Lane, in a phone interview from his home in New York, described his grandson as someone who is very charismatic and not afraid to put himself out there, yet has a humility about him and is very supportive of other musicians. He said Benson is not only good at the mechanics of singing and playing instruments, but is also able to convey emotion and enjoys experimenting with different types of music.

Lane also spoke about his time at Woodstock in 1994. He said his band, Futu Futu, which means “mix, mix” in a native language of Ghana, was chosen to perform because it was one of the biggest bands in that area of New York.

While Futu Futu was big enough to draw crowds in college campuses, the performance at Woodstock ’94 was like no other the band had, performing in front of hundreds of thousands of people

“It was a shot of energy, for sure,” said Lane.

Lane describes setting up to perform on part of a disc-shaped floor, while another band behind them was playing to the crowds, and hearing the audience roar behind them as they were doing sound checks. When the band before them was finished, the disc turned, and there they were, in front of the mass of people. As the band played, there was a wave of sound of people cheering.

It was a bit nerve-wracking, Lane said, but overall, “It was quite exciting and fun.”

Chris Lane and Joakim Lartey of the New York duo Joakim and Chris. COURTESY OF FACEBOOK

Futu Futu was active from 1985 to 1994. The band put out two albums and though they didn’t have any hit songs, they had quite a following, and even got a nod from the New York Times after the Woodstock gig.

“It was a good run,” said Lane, who these days still plays with Futu Futu band mate Joakim Lartey in the duo Joakim and Chris.

Lane describes his family as creative, and he’s happy to see his grandson, like other members in the family, pursue music.

“I think he’s very talented. He’s got a natural ability in music,” he said.

Benson is grateful for his musical upbringing. He said playing music helps clear his mind and even if he doesn’t pursue music as a profession, it will always be a part of his life.

Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be reached at 780-9015 or by email at [email protected]

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