Why 3 Friends Are Attending the Worst Concerts They Can Think Of — Completely Sober


In the last two years, John Simon, Tony Cerame and Jason Struttmann have soberly seen Creed, the Backstreet Boys and — after tonight — Cher in concert. Why? To raise awareness and money for multiple sclerosis (MS), of course. Humor, sarcasm and all-around absurdity is the best way to fight the debilitating disease, they think.

In 2008, Simon visited a neurologist after experiencing dizziness and double vision. When he was then diagnosed with MS, “it was completely terrifying,” he told The Mighty. Still, when he sent an email out to his friends and family about the diagnosis, he made jokes — not to trivialize the disease but to lighten the mood.

That email’s tone struck a chord with Cerame — how could he use humor to raise MS awareness? The answer, he found, was to promise to attend horrible concerts if people met fundraising goals. He wondered, how much money would people donate to get him, Simon and Struttmann to attend a Creed concert — something they all imagined to be terrible — completely sober? One thousand dollars, at least, they thought and set up a CrowdRise campaign. In two days, they broke that goal, raising more than $3,000.

“The initial engagement and support for it really made us think that we’d tapped into something,” Cerame said. “We’re sort of accidental philanthropists.”

With Simon, they set out to attend more concerts. Up next: The Backstreet Boys — the three attended the boy band’s concert with spray tans and frosted tips and raised more than $4,000 on CrowdRise.

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Next, the three will attend a Cher concert — dressed in drag. Already, they’ve raised more than $6,000.

“None of us have any malice in our hearts for Cher,” Simon told The Mighty. “The project has grown into, ‘What can we do to make people pay attention and want to engage? We want to reach people who don’t necessarily have any direct ties to MS.”

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Simon, who’s thankful that medication has helped keep his MS symptoms at bay, of course wants to raise money for research, but he and his friends are mostly focused on raising awareness. He knows that a lot of people don’t understand what MS is.

“Maybe, through what we’re doing, someone will learn and be able to empathize with a person with MS,” he told The Mighty.

Cher4MS benefits the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Gateway Area Chapter. If you’d like to make a donation, head here.


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