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Hometown hero: Valley’s own ‘Voice’ Austin Jenckes visits his roots at surprise concert | Photo Gallery
Hunched over his guitar and grinning, red-faced, Austin Jenckes kicks out one, sometimes both of his booted feet as he plays. He’s more humble hometown boy than the rock star a capacity crowd has gathered to celebrate, and he’s the first to admit it.
“I really appreciate all of you being here tonight,” Jenckes told a crowd of 950-plus at the Riverview School District offices in Duvall Oct. 24 for his surprise concert. “All of this is actually kind of freaking me out!”
Jenckes was rewarded with laughs, whoops and applause from the audience, many of them local people who’d watched him grow up in the Valley, or grew up with him. This was their Austin, the one who played Little League in North Bend and football at Cedarcrest, the one who sang at his 2006 graduation ceremony, the one who played music every chance he got.
They’ve been sharing him with TV viewers ever since the 25-year-old Valley man was selected to compete in NBC’s “The Voice,” this fall, but tonight he was all theirs.
On the show, Jenckes competes with other hand-selected musicians for an opportunity for nationwide fame. He’s also being coached for success, but no one can teach him a thing about how to talk to his hometown crowd.
“I’ll say it again, my name is Austin Jenckes, and I come from Duvall Washington, and…” whatever else he was going to say was lost in the roar of approval from the audience when he opened his show Thursday night.
His first song was a heart-wrencher, one he said he played when he missed his father. Jenckes’ father committed suicide when Jenckes was only 16. A tiny, sympathetic “aww” rolled through the room, and a few tears followed, but Jenckes brought everyone back up with his tales of fishing at Rattlesnake Lake with his dad, and his message, keep on fishin’.
Soon, Jenckes brought out his cousin, Robert Perez, on the drums, and the pair had the crowd clapping and singing along, and eventually holding up their lit cellphones in homage.
The choruses of “We love you Austin!” throughout the show came so fast at times, Jenckes couldn’t even grin and shout “Love you back!” every time. He didn’t even try when a group of men’s voices started echoing the girls’, just laughed with everyone else.
By the end of the night, some of the youngest kids in the audience were curled up on the floor in front of the stage, and everyone was unabashedly singing along.
To introduce what he thought was his finale, he said simply, “All right, here we go,” and played the opening notes of “Simple Man,” sending a hushed thrill through the crowd. It was the song he played to end his many Duvall SummerStage shows over the years, and the song he played in audition for “The Voice.”
It wasn’t, however, his last song. His people weren’t done with him, and called him back for several encores, including his real finale to get everyone moving, “Twist and Shout.”
“I am the luckiest person on the planet,” a grateful Jenckes told his grateful crowd.
The concert, hosted by the Duvall Cultural Commission, also benefited the St. Vincent De Paul Food Bank in Duvall.
Video and photos of the concert will be available on the Duvall Cultural Commission’s website and Facebook page this week.
Young Jenckes fans come forward for a closer look.
An animated Jenckes belts out a song, and from time to time, kicks up his legs in concert.
Austin Jenckes performs with his cousin, Robert Perez, left.
A family dances at the surprise concert, and grabs a photo.
A school custodian, Hal Hopkins, takes donations for St. Vincent De Paul at the concert.
Jeckes signs autographs for fans after the show.
Fans welcome Austin Jenckes back home.