The Pop Culture Road Trip

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Mike Portnoy, meet the Sullivans

posted by Chris Epting

My son and I went to see the band Avenged Sevenfold last Friday in Irvine, which was an Orange County homecoming for the band (they are from here in Huntington Beach where we live). 

The band’s drummer, Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan died last December, and since then I have written several newspaper columns on Sullivan, the band, and especially the fans, who share a special bond with this band–a deeply emotional connection to the music, the lyrics and the members themselves.
Interestingly, after Sullivan’s death, legendary drummer Mike Portnoy was asked to sit in on the new album and then ultimately, the tour the band is in the midst of now. 
Portnoy, leader of the famed prog-metal outfit Dream Theater was Sullivan’s favorite drummer growing up, so the news of Portnoy’s involvement was significant (Portnoy also made big news recently after announcing that he was leaving Dream Theater to pursue new creative avenues). 
My family and the Sullivans are good friends, and we met them after the show Friday night. This was the first time they’d seen Avenged Sevenfold, and so they were understandably emotional. Joe, Barbara and their two grown daughters told us they’d enjoyed the power of the show but that obviously, it was strange (and sad) to not see Jimmy behind the drum kit. 
Mike Portnoy, who I’ve interviewed before, was kind enough to arrange for my son and I to go backstage after the show to see him. 
The Sullivans had yet to meet their son’s idol who was now sitting in for him, and they were anxious to. 
So now we had a mission and off we went. 
Backstage was an outdoor area set well behind the stage where the band Disturbed was off in the distance, closing the show. It was dark, crowded, and congested with band busses, gear cases, a couple of limos, and the usual chaos one encounters backstage at shows of this magnitude.
I left the Sullivans to find Portnoy, which took me just a few moments. I told Mike that I had the Sullivans and to stay put while I went back and found them in the mob. 
A minute or two later, the introductions were made. 
Mike and Joe Sullivan embraced. Then Mike hugged Barbara, and Jimmy’s two sisters. There were tears. And stories. And lots of emotion. Mike told the family how much he feels Jimmy’s legacy in the air each night they play. And what it means to him to be playing drums in the band. Joe expressed to Mike how much “little” Jimmy adored Portnoy growing up. Some pictures were taken. More hugs. More tears. More sharing of stories.
It’s easy to imagine that somewhere in that cool, star-filled night sky, someone was watching – a former rambunctious little kid who used to play pots and pans in the bathtub – then grew up to become what band called (back at the funeral and again onstage Friday) “everybody’s best friend” – and one hell of a drummer. 
You could feel it. 
This was a very special moment in the middle of all the craziness, and a privilege to witness. 
It was a drummer honoring a family honoring a drummer–a cycle of love and appreciation – a moment in which two parents and two sisters were able to embrace the man that will now be linked with their son, in spirit and in music – foREVer.
MP & The Sullivans.jpg


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Comments read comments(26)
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Grace

posted September 20, 2010 at 12:43 pm


This is awesome Chris. I read all your articles on A7X. This one was really emotional. Thank you for sharing your stories on Jimmy, his family, and Avenged.



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deidre

posted September 20, 2010 at 1:10 pm


this is a beautiful article.
i wish i could meet the Sullivan family..hopefully one day.
their love is so strong and it’s what helps keep’s Jimmy’s memory alive; along with the help of Avenged.
such amazing and inspiring people.



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Angst

posted September 20, 2010 at 1:13 pm


Really nice article Chris, it must’ve been an epic moment introducing Portnoy meet the Sullivans…And i’d also just like to thank you for all the care and support you show us fans :)



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chris epting

posted September 20, 2010 at 2:18 pm


It was epic to be sure – and sharing it with you all was something we were anxious to do



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Kel

posted September 20, 2010 at 2:57 pm


Awesome! I’m so glad you are able to bring us this on-going story and I’m so glad they all finally got to meet! Great article!



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Diane

posted September 20, 2010 at 3:09 pm


Amazing article. This was by far the best experience of life along with my younger brother and his friends. It was a big family reunion on Friday for everyone. After the untimely passing of our fallen beloved drummer, to watch the A7X boys play they’re hearts out was an experience in itself. But to see and read the Sullivan family come in support of their son and the band was amazing. No words can explain the feelings I have running through me. Mike Portnoy has surely been ‘Welcome to the Family’. I’m sure the Sullivan has seen more of what a huge impact their son has made in many many lives and I could only imagine how much more proud they are of Jimmy.
Nothing can ever take the place of the experience it was for us on Friday. Avenged Sevenfold isn’t going anywhere any time soon and to hear them confirm and all A7X fans couldn’t be happier. Jimmy will always be in our hearts foREVer.



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Mrs. S. Twiztid

posted September 20, 2010 at 4:30 pm


Thank you Chris for writing about this! It was a comfort to see Mike with the Sullivan Family. The pics were great and it was good to see them out supporting the band that Jimmy loved so much! Thank you! Also, thank you for taking the time to read the fan mail and for responding. I hope that others find the comfort that I have felt after seeing the pics of the Sullivans with Mike.
A7X Eternal Soldier-foREVer!
Selisa



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Rachel

posted September 20, 2010 at 5:36 pm


A really bautifully written artice. Thanks so much for the pictures and for letting us in on that emotional meeting. I’m sure you and your son had a great time. You’re loved by all of us!



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Tarzane

posted September 20, 2010 at 11:27 pm


This was the first Avenged Sevenfold show that The Rev’s parents had seen? They never saw him play with A7X?



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Brianna

posted September 20, 2010 at 11:36 pm


@Tarzane I think he meant the ‘first Avenged Sevenfold show they had seen with Mike Portnoy behind the drums’. I had to re-read it a couple of times as well because it confused me at first, haha.
Awesome article, very well written



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GEddy

posted September 20, 2010 at 11:39 pm


I personally think that Mike Portnoy is the most awesome drummer in the history of the world. He looks baddass, plays badasss, and is a Hero to many including myself. Thanks MP!



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olaf

posted September 21, 2010 at 1:29 am


sehr schöner artikel
ich bin auf der suche nach neuigkeiten über mike darüber gestolpert und an dieser tollen geschichte hängengeblieben.
solche momente gibt es leider viel zu selten.
vielen dank
liebe grüße aus deutschland
olaf



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DOD, Ireland

posted September 21, 2010 at 4:46 am


The hairs on my neck stood on end reading this piece. Very emotionally charged. Great to see a pic of Mike Portnoy finally with the Sullivan’s. Legendary \m/\m/



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Tarzane

posted September 21, 2010 at 9:08 am


@Brianna I was thinking that was the case, but how it was worded definitely made it sound like they had never seen A7X play.



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chris epting

posted September 21, 2010 at 9:38 am


It’s hard to get this moment out of my head – there were tons of people backstage, lots of noise from the chatter, the Disturbed wall of sound behind us, yet in this little circle with Mike and Sullivans it was totally peaceful and serene. You could easily hear every quiet word, which almost made no sense given the noise surrounding us – like being in some sort of sacred little vacuum. Thanks for everyone’s comments – I appreciate you reading the piece.



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Spider

posted September 21, 2010 at 10:14 am


Just goes to show you how earth bound Mike really is



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Johanna

posted September 21, 2010 at 3:35 pm


This was such a great little article! It’s so nice to hear about MP meeting Jimmy’s family, and I can only imagine how emotional it was for everyone!



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Dave Kehrer

posted September 21, 2010 at 7:29 pm


Mike Portnoy is just a great guy period .



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Rick Wallace

posted September 22, 2010 at 10:03 pm


I’ve met Mike as far back as IAW and spent time with him at NAMM shows as well as backstage at Gigantour and the guy is and always has been a totally amazing man. No BS no attitude just a down to earth guy! Love you Mike!



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Kenny Corry

posted September 24, 2010 at 2:14 am


It also reminds us “Just how much” MP is “The Man” ! … The Rev was an incredible player ! … and yet …still looked up to Mike. It’s good to be Mike “The Man” Portnoy ! :) …… Rock on Brutha !



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František from Czech rep.

posted September 29, 2010 at 5:45 pm


one hell of a article… well done, it’s nice to know, that there are celebrities with open heart.



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person

posted October 5, 2010 at 1:17 pm


sounds so sad



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Jason

posted November 1, 2010 at 11:32 am


I met Mike briefly here in AZ, when DT was playing with Maiden back in June. That morning I had learned that my father was diagnosed with Cancer, so meeting my idol for the first time after 20+ years of waiting was simply amazing. Mike is generous and makes time for his fans. Having him as a member of A7X to HONOR the memory of Jimmy was the best news I could have heard, and knowing he will continue to honor Jimmy and the rest of the Sullivan family with his incredible talents will certainly not go unnoticed. Thank you Chris for posting such a great article, and sharing this emotional story.
Jason, Phoenix AZ



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