By Andrew Wroblewski
In a matter of days, Eric Heftler went from playing his guitar on the streets to playing in front of a crowd on the stage of The Paramount.
Known simply as “Eric on the Curb,” Heftler found himself with the opportunity to open for band Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes on Saturday after a run-in inside The Paramount’s Founders Room with acclaimed musician Jeff Beck put Heftler’s name on the radar of the band’s manager.
“Eric on the Curb… is how all of us who work at the venue know him,” Kevin Doyle, The Paramount’s general manager, said in a press release. “He’s been playing guitar on the corner of New York Avenue [and] Elm since we opened… even in the winter when it’s cold out.”
Heftler said he was playing his guitar at that very spot in Huntington village when Jeff Beck came to town for a three-night run April 15-17. On one of those nights, Tyler Bryant – a musician touring as the opening act for Jeff Beck – ventured from The Paramount onto the streets of Huntington village and came across Heftler, who just so happened to be playing Jeff Beck’s song, “Freeway Jam.”
Bryant came across the Long Island-native street performer and detailed the encounter in a social media post to Instagram that night.
“I sat and listened to Eric play for a bit,” Bryant wrote. “When I finally made it backstage, I told Jeff about Eric and he said he’d like to meet him.”
That was all the encouragement Bryant needed as he made his way back to the street in hopes of finding Heftler; he did.
“As I ran, I heard Eric’s amp echoing off of buildings on the empty street. His eyes lit up when I told him I wanted to take him to meet Jeff,” Bryant wrote.
Heftler, 59, couldn’t believe it, but he agreed; he said he was a big fan of Beck and as the two walked to meet the rock star Heftler’s heart was “racing.” They ventured into The Paramount’s Founders Room and soon the local musician and the international rock star began to bond over the music of iconic musician, Les Paul.
Beck asked Heftler to plug in and play; he did just that.
“He said some nice things about my playing and that he was impressed; it really made me feel great,” Heftler said.
But little did Heftler know that also in the room was Jason Miller, president of Live Nation, and Harvey Leeds, manager from Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes. Miller and Leeds were impressed by Heftler’s performance and offered him the opportunity to play a more than 20-minute-long guitar set to begin Saturday night’s show at The Paramount, which was headlined by Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes.
“I definitely love to play in front of people, but this was my first time playing in a place like that,” Heftler said. “Whenever I’m playing I always give it my all and it felt great to play up on that stage.”
While he said he was excited to get up on the stage and start playing, Heftler said he was able to keep his nerves in check, stay calm and just get up there and play.
“We take pride in being a musical magnet for Huntington,” Dominic Catoggio, director for The Paramount, said in a press release. “We book many local bands for opening slots from all over Long Island, but usually not right off the street corner. It turns out there is plenty of musical talent playing in town on most nights just waiting to be discovered and we want to be a part of that process.”