After falling 25 feet from the roof of a Kingsessing rowhome while fighting a massive blaze just about 8 weeks ago, Randy Ballinger and his rock band Jersey Calling will now be opening Adjacent Music Festival in AC this Memorial Day weekend.
He fell to the ground 25 feet on February 25th and the firefighter/ rockstar spent 13 days in the hospital where he underwent heart surgery also being treated for 4 broken ribs, a punctured leg, a compound leg fracture, a broken heel and broken pelvis. He is a true rock and roll hero on so many accounts.
The Philadelphia Inquirer spoke with Randy about the incident:
“I like to say that my X-ray looks like the Game of Thrones chair,” Ballinger said.
But come Memorial Day weekend, Ballinger’s X-ray and the screws in his body won’t be the most metal thing about him.
When Geoff Gordon, regional president of Live Nation Northeast, heard Ballinger is the longtime bassist for a punk rock band, Jersey Calling, he surprised the firefighter on a video call earlier this month. He asked the band to open for the Adjacent Music Festival in Atlantic City Memorial Day weekend.
“That would be the biggest dream come true,” Ballinger told Gordon from his hospital bed, during a recent re-hospitalization due to an infection.
The two-day festival features headliners Paramore and blink-182, and other acts like Japanese Breakfast and Coheed & Cambria.
“The Adjacent Festival had me absolutely floored. He said they expect attendance to be 25,000 to 30,000 people,” Ballinger said. “Usually people aren’t banging on our door to book shows, we’re going out to get them.”
Jersey Calling’s biggest gig so far was for about 500 in the basement of Haddonfield United Methodist Church.
“This will obviously be bigger than that,” Ballinger said. “Not to say we’ve been waiting around for a break, but I think this is what all of us wanted for the last 21 years, for our music to reach as many people as possible.”
In a statement, Gordon called Ballinger a “real hero” who inspires others with his courage.
“Music has a unique power to bring us together and it also has an ability to heal,” Gordon said. “We are psyched to give Randy and his band some hope and an opportunity to perform in front of a large audience on the beach in Atlantic City, and in front of some of their favorite bands they adore.”
Ballinger, 38, of Andorra, is engaged and the father of two girls, ages 9 and 2. He grew up in Woodbury, N.J., and joined the Friendship Volunteer Fire Company there at 19. He was hired on staff at the Woodbury Fire Department in 2015 before joining the Philadelphia Fire Department in 2018.
“I wanted to come somewhere more active and fight fires,” he said.
At Ladder 13 in West Philly, where Ballinger is stationed, his nickname is Gritty, because he has red hair and is goofy (and because Philadelphians are ruthless). He also plays bagpipes with the Philadelphia Police and Fire Pipes and Drums.
Ballinger had just come on his shift Feb. 25 when the call came in for a rowhouse fire on the 1100 block of South Paxton Street with reports of people trapped inside. Firefighters made sure the house was evacuated and Ballinger went to the roof with his partner to ventilate the structure.
Once the fire was under control, Ballinger’s partner climbed down, then Ballinger lowered his chainsaw on a rope. His last memory is of walking to the ladder.
“I feel like your brain shuts off to protect you from that kind of trauma,” he said. “I don’t know what caused me to fall and I was the only one up there and nobody saw, so it will remain a mystery.”
Ballinger underwent eight surgeries and was recently re-hospitalized for an infection. He uses a wheelchair and has a long road of physical and occupational therapy ahead of him. A GoFundMe set up for him by his coworkers has raised more than $88,000.
“It was incredible because I’m not a person that would ask anyone for anything,” he said. “The people I work with did it and it was wildly successful and I’m eternally grateful for that.”