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As lovely things go on the list of lovely things that Dave Grohl has done, inviting a young boy on stage with his family to get the best view in the house was one of many.

So far, so Dave Grohl. He is the nicest man in rock, after all.

It wasn't even his first kind gesture this month, having pulled a 10-year-old boy to play guitar for a Metallica cover on stage at the Foo Fighters' Missouri gig just a few weeks earlier.

In the Instagram era, these instances are no longer intimate moments shared between a musician and fans, but between thousands, hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of social media users across the world.

Image: Owen Anderson with mum and dad, Stacy and Nathan

So it is pretty undisputed that Dave Grohl is a very nice guy.

But for the little boy who rocked on stage with the Foo Fighters in Minnesota, it was a bigger deal than for most.

Owen Anderson is a 13-year-old rock super fan. He is also blind, and has autism and severe developmental problems, as well as Crohn's disease. He is only able to speak a few words.

Born extremely premature at just before 23 weeks, weighing just over a pound, his parents, Stacy and Nathan, were told he had just a 5% chance of surviving.

Their tiny baby boy, their first child, spent the first six and a half months of his life in hospital, undergoing countless procedures and dozens of surgeries. But he survived.

Owen Anderson, who is blind and has autism, pictured when he was a baby
Image: Owen weighed just over a pound when he was born

Stacy and Nathan, who live in Moorhead, northwest Minnesota, would play Owen music in hospital.

They played him music at home when he was discharged.

He grew up with rock music – AC/DC, Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones, all their favourites. And he loved it.

Owen's favourite bands – mainly rock, turned up loud, but a bit of indie, folk and pop, too – would put a smile on his face like not many other things could, says Stacy.

Owen Anderson and his sister Zoey
Image: Owen and his little sister, Zoey

So a few years ago they decided to take him to a gig.

They were worried about many things: the noise of the crowd, the sheer volume of people, the standing around. But they felt it was worth trying.

"Tom Petty was his very first concert when he was about seven or eight and since then we've been going to a few a year every year, as many as we can afford to," says Stacy.

"We thought, he loves Tom Petty, let's just try it out. It was amazing. When Tom Petty came on he started dancing, he does this little rocking dance. He loved the whole thing. He danced the whole night and sang along.

"Owen does not have an easy life, but we try to do what we can to make it the best for him."

It was a turning point for Owen, and his parents.

Since then, he has been to around 50 big shows, seeing everyone from Kings Of Leon, The Avett Brothers and Paul McCartney to The Killers, AC/DC and Green Day. Next on his wishlist is Pearl Jam.

"It's not always easy but we just think, what's the worst that can happen?" says Stacy.

"We always put headphones on him. He actually loves the crowd noise too. It brings out the best in him and I think he really brings out the best in other people too.

"We want him to have these experiences. We were super nervous the first time because he can have pretty bad meltdowns, but he didn't do any of that and he never has. He always gets a little nervous beforehand but as soon as he's there he loves it."

Owen Anderson, who is blind and austistic
Image: Owen has been to around 50 gigs

Owen's latest Foo Fighters gig was his second time seeing the band. After being welcomed on stage by Grohl, he got to strum the frontman's guitar. It's fair to say he's now an even bigger fan than he was before.

"It's kind of a blur what happened because it all happened so quickly," says Stacy. "We were at the front and could kind of see him looking at Owen.

"I don't know if he knew he was blind at that point but he stopped and asked if he needed a seat, told him to come up and bring the parents, to go to the side of the stage.

"He came over with his guitar and got Owen to feel and play it a little bit. I was so proud of Owen and so happy he gets to do cool things like this.

Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters performs on stage during Cal Jam 18 at Glen Helen Regional Park on October 06, 2018 in San Bernardino, California
Image: Dave Grohl, aka the nicest man in rock

"After the gig we've asked him whose guitar he played and he says 'Dave Grohl' and starts cheering and clapping. It's incredible."

Stacy, who is also mum to Zoey, six, says going to gigs has become Owen's "thing".

"When he was born, it was a really scary time. We couldn't even touch him for the first month or so.

"He has pretty severe autism and lots of developmental disabilities. He didn't walk until he was four and his mental age, well, it's hard to tell so we don't really know as he's mostly non-verbal.

"But I think he understands music and concerts are something for him to look forward to. My husband and I love music so it was a natural thing for us to do."

Tom Petty of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performs during their 40th Anniversary Tour at Bridgestone Arena on April 25, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee
Image: Owen went to see Tom Petty for his first gig

Owen makes it clear when he doesn't like a song, but that doesn't happen very often.

"He'll usually shake his head when he doesn't like something and now he can answer yes or no. He does a thing where he flaps when he's excited. He's always made it clear what he likes and doesn't like."

Stacy says at gigs, they always try and get as near to the front as possible.

"He likes to be close. We try to get there early so we can do that, which is hard because it's a long time to stand. But he's pretty tough, and it's worth it to see him smiling.

"Lots of times bands will notice him and he has been given drumsticks or set lists before. But this was his first time on stage.

"It's good for him to be around other people and I also really think it's good for other people to be around him. He's blind and faces so many challenges but he can do things like a typical person.

"Every concert we go to, he enjoys it so much. It's pretty amazing to watch him. Almost anyone who sees him becomes totally enamoured with him.

More from Dave Grohl

"And I can't go to a concert without him now as it's just so much more fun to be there and watch him – more than watching the artist, almost.

"To see him so happy is such a huge thing."

Original Article

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