Hamilton

Meet 'Harmonica Phil,' the hero of the Arkells stadium show

From now on, Phil Farugia will be known as “Harmonica Phil” — a proud reminder of the night he got to share the stage with both Arkells and Frank Turner, all in the same night.

Fan Phil Farugia was called to the stage to play with both Arkells and Frank Turner on the same night

Phil Farugia will never forget the night he got to play in front of 10,000 people at FirstOntario Centre, both with Arkells and Frank Turner. (llaurenmac/Twitter)

From now on, Phil Farugia will be known as "Harmonica Phil" — a proud reminder of the night he got to share the stage with two rock and roll titans.

Farugia got to live out every fan's fantasy on Friday night, getting pulled onstage during Arkells' sold out arena show to play in in front of 10,000 rabid fans.

But Farugia, lucky as he is, somehow got to do it twice in one night — first with opening act Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, and then once again with hometown heroes Arkells.

Harmonica Phil onstage with Arkells

5 years ago
0:49
Phil Farugia grabs the guitar to play "Oh The Boss is Coming" with Arkells. 0:49

"I'm still floating on air," Farugia told CBC News. "Every musician's dream is to be called up onstage, and I like to think I've been training my whole life for this — and it happened twice."

Ferugia teaches music at West Seneca East High School, just outside Buffalo. He calls himself a hardcore Frank Turner fan, having met the folk-punk troubadour after a handful of shows in the U.S.

  • Warning, clip contains strong language:

Harmonica Phil with Frank Turner

5 years ago
3:36
Phil Farugia takes the stage with Frank Turner. 3:36

So he made sure he was in the front row to catch Turner's opening set at FirstOntario Centre on Friday. Ever the consummate showman, it's not uncommon for Turner to call up members of the audience during his shows.

On his last headlining North American tour, Turner would often get a fan to jump off the stage and crowd surf. That's what Farugia was expecting when he volunteered, he says.

Instead, Turner handed him a harmonica, and said he would be playing a solo during Dan's Song, from his 2009 album, Poetry of the Deed.

Farugia took to the harmonica instantly without any instruction onstage, prompting Turner to crown him "Harmonica Phil," much to the delight of the audience, who started chanting his name, uproariously.

"Harmonica Phil … is your new name, now and for all time," Turner said, before launching into the tune.

Then, after an impassioned harmonica solo, it was done. Exit stage right, and that was it for Farugia's dream moment.

Until it wasn't.

Not long after, during Arkells' set, frontman Max Kerman asked the crowd for a volunteer to play guitar during Oh The Boss is Coming, from the band's first album, Jackson Square.

He gestured to the "big man" in the front row to join him onstage, and then "Harmonica Phil" was back — this time rebranded as "Guitar Phil." Kerman hadn't seen that part of Turner's set as he was preparing to play himself, and told CBC News he had no idea that Farugia had already been onstage.

The crowd, predictably, went nuts.

"I just happened to be in the right spot, I guess," Farugia said. "It was mind blowing. It was insane."

He first saw Arkells open for Turner during a U.S. date in Ithica, New York, and Farugia says he was instantly hooked, and bought all their albums on iTunes on the way home from the show.

Now, both bands have given him a night he'll never, ever forget.

adam.carter@cbc.ca

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Carter

Reporter

Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.

now