OWATONNA, MINN. - Their matching, luminous firefly costumes weren't the only thing that made daughter-mother duo Julia and Mary-Boyd Boudreau stand out in the long line outside Owatonna High School on Sunday night. They were also among the few people not saying hi to other people in line, having just transplanted to Chanhassen from San Diego two months ago.
"Owatonna is such a nice little town, you can really understand where he's coming from better now," Mary-Boyd said.
Owatonna itself lit up with excitement on Halloween for the city's nice, native pop star, Adam Young, who returned to his former high school Sunday to perform his first hometown concert since becoming a No. 1 hit-making singer last year under the alias Owl City. His big hit song, by the way, was "Fireflies" (hence the costumes).
Young played in the school gym to about 1,000 mostly local fans -- a point guaranteed by the fact you could only get tickets in person at the Owatonna People's Press office, or through a Tickemaster pre-sale offer where the password was the school mascot (Huskies).
Everything about the event oozed Minnesota niceties, in ways you rarely see at concerts. Like the way folks warmly greeted each other in line. Or that T-shirts were only $10 at the merch stand (and, in true Minnesota thrifty fashion, $15 for two).
Nicest of all, the concert was a fundraiser for the school's music and arts program, expected to raise about $25,000.
"It's exciting just to know he's from here, and then to have him do this is so cool," said resident Janis Higgins, there with her daughter Sara, 11. "She's getting a little too old to trick-or-treat now anyway, so this is a great alternative."
Among the attendees were some of Young's old classmates, including Derek Harvey and Phillip Hammitt, who remembered seeing Young play with his back to the crowd during church youth functions with his first band, Windsor Airlift.
"He's obviously a different kind of performer now, but he's still the same humble guy," said Hammitt.
Young is also still a faithful churchgoer and speaks openly about his Christian beliefs, something that "means a lot to people around here," said Nancy Turnball, who attended with her neighbor's pre-teen daughter. "His wholesome lyrics definitely have a lot to do with growing up here."
School Principal Don Johnson quipped, "I'm glad it's not AC/DC," when the concert was booked, but he and the other faculty were mostly praising the financial boost from the concert.
"Every school district is struggling these days, so the timing of this is perfect," Joan Young said, watching her son proudly from the "VIP section" -- a roped-off square under a basketball hoop. "He never was very outgoing in school, so it's amazing seeing him here now, center stage."
Young, 24, didn't hide his insular past in an interview before the concert: "I was a total nobody in high school," he said. "I remember going through entire days and never opening my mouth once to say a word to anybody. I went to the computer lab by myself during lunch instead of eating with everyone else."
Young and his band gave the school the same full-scale show they played on tour with John Mayer this summer, and will be performing again this week in Japan (their flight out was early Monday morning). Strings and synthesizers brought to life the songs Young crafted in his parents' nearby basement around 2008, including "Hello Seattle" and -- for the finale -- "Fireflies."
After the lights in the gym turned on, though, fans started chanting, "One more song!" There was little doubt Young would oblige the request -- especially when put so nicely.
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658
WANT TO SEE MORE?
Check out the photo gallery from Owl City's gym concert at startribune.com/music.