Because of a scheduling conflict, my 19-year-old daughter gave me her VIP1 ticket to see Ethan Nestor of CrankGameplays during his recent appearance at the State Theatre in Portland. At 54, I am beyond the typical demographic for this 25-year-old artist (especially since my adult children must continually help their “stone-aged” mother navigate technology). The room was filled with brightly colored, asymmetrically styled hair, multiple body art or piercings and vivid androgyny, all on 20-something-or-youngers. In my plain jeans, T-shirt and graying brown hair, I got curious stares from those around me, all wondering where the teen was who surely should be accompanying this parent.

Ethan Nestor, who grew up in Cape Elizabeth, performing at The Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minn., on March 29. Jaime Berry of Stockton Springs was in the audience April 15 when he returned to Maine for an appearance at the State Theatre. Photo by Sara Fish Photography

My youngest girl and I have watched lots of Ethan’s videos, but I was taken aback by the April 15 show’s intensity. It was like an autobiographical, behind-the-scenes, documentary musical with audience participation. He has created a very special performance without precedent. His goals – to create something he is proud of, and to give back to all his viewers who helped him get where he is today – have been achieved. Many in the audience are striving to become a popular YouTuber such as Mr. Nestor, and he demonstrated encouragement and support for their efforts, asking others there at the State to help bolster the confidence of one in their midst, whom I believe was named Cadence.

His insistence on not allowing “bootleg” recording during the show seemed to be honored as the performer asked us all to keep each other honest. While a lot of the spectators are endeavoring to create their own YouTube presence, they probably respected his request because they would want it respected for their own material. Since we haven’t seen any segments being broadcast thus far, this instruction appears effective, and it made being there live even better. There were no spoilers or preconceived expectations, so it was all fresh, though he had already performed this script in a dozen or so cities. We all focused on enjoying it as it happened – following Mr. Nestor’s intent with this show, which he summarized in a previous interview: ”Live right now and appreciate everything.”

CrankGameplays’ return to Portland, with his emotional thanks to his hometown, was touching to witness. Grampy, Mom and Dad were highlighted when Ethan hopped off stage and a spotlight followed him as he hugged them. We all got to see a man come home to Maine “from away” as a proven success story to inspire us all.

I took that positive energy to the Bangor airport to pick up my aforementioned daughter, and I told her all about the show during our drive home to Stockton Springs. She was sad to have missed it and wished I could have audio-recorded it, so she could have experienced some of it; I told her that an audio recording wouldn’t have properly conveyed the intent anyway.

The 300-plus miles I drove that day were well worth it to be there, and personally, I am moved to honor his gift to us of encouragement by writing this opinion and submitting it. Bravo, Ethan!

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