John J. Kelly created the Facebook group Brucebook in 2011, with the goal of evoking a concrete experience in a virtual way.
“My goal was to try to give everyone the ability to feel — when Bruce is on tour — the feeling of actually going to a show,” he says.
Bringing things full circle, in a way, the virtual community will gather in a real city, Asbury Park, Sept. 22-24, for the first Brucebook Convention. (Sept. 23 will be Springsteen’s 68th birthday.)
The event will include a walking tour of Asbury Park, Sept. 23, led by Springsteen experts Stan Goldstein and Jean Mikle, with special guest Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez (the original drummer for the E Street Band), and a bus tour of Springsteen-related locations in Asbury Park, Freehold and other cities, led by the same crew, on Sept. 24. There will also be a private concert at the Wonder Bar on Sept. 23 with Bobby Bandiera, The Ries Brothers and a cameo by Lopez.
Those attending the convention can also go to open-to-the-public shows by John Eddie & His Dirty Ol’ Band (with the Bob Polding Band and Lights of the North) at the Stone Pony, Sept. 22; and the Eddie Testa Band at the Wonder Bar, Sept. 22.
Kelly — a former radio newsman and current freelance book reviewer who lives in Detroit — said the convention is sold out, with more than 300 people planning to attend from as far away as Australia. But he is eager to get the word out about the convention’s charitable aspect. An online auction that begins Sept. 15 at 5 p.m. at bidpal.net/Brucebook2017 will raise money for Fulfill (formerly known as the FoodBank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties).
Last year, an online fundraiser, intended as a kind of birthday present for Springsteen, raised more than $8,700 for the same organization. This year, Kelly’s goal is to get over $10,000. Springsteen’s management company has donated a signed copy of his “Born to Run” autobiography, and many items are being donated as well.
Just today, Kelly was offered two highly coveted tickets to “Springsteen on Broadway” to auction off for the cause.
Kelly saw his first Springsteen show in 1978, and has now been to more than 100. He says Brucebook was pretty stagnant for its first few years, but started to pick up momentum in 2014. It now has more than 8,600 members and he spends about 40 hours a week monitoring it, he said.
The online auction will be on a website whose URL has not been announced yet. Brucebook members will be notified of the URL via Facebook and Twitter on Sept. 15. Brucebook is always accepting new members, and its Facebook page can be found here.