NEW YORK -- When it comes to Grand Slams, the U.S. Open is like Lollapalooza compared to the others. There is loud, popular music, fan cams and activities to keep even the tennis novice interested. It's like a rock star country club with a bit of tennis sprinkled in.
So, some fans may have been a bit confused if they spotted the harpist playing outside the President's Gate.
"I really wouldn't expect this at the U.S. Open," said fan Pablo Hinjos, 33, from Miami, Fla. "I'm used to hearing songs like 'Call Me Maybe' and Rihanna at The Open, not harp music. It's a little weird."
One U.S. Open security employee said, "The harp is kind of relaxing."
In true U.S. Open fashion, this harpist isn't just any other harpist, he is a barefoot, pop-music harpist. Meet Erik Heger, who, between classical music sets, plays tunes from Coldplay and Lady Gaga, among others. He also plays with his bare feet pressing the pedals of the harp (he does this because his large shoes sometimes cause him to hit the wrong pedal on the harp).
"Playing pop music keeps folks interested when they hear songs that they can sing along to," he said.
Like his music, the 37-year-old Heger has an eclectic background. He picked up the harp at age six when his grandfather gave him one. He later went on to play basketball at Colorado College and briefly played pro hoops in Denmark, Lebanon and the Philippines.
"I thought I could continue to play in a boy's game and delay growing up," Heger said.
Due to injuries sustained on the court, Heger now does yoga and plays tennis to stay in good enough shape to lug around his 45-pound wood harp. He was also an actor in the Broadway play "End of The Rainbow," which depicted Judy Garland's life.
Heger has a limited appearance schedule at the Open, but if you want to catch his tunes, hang out near the President's Gate from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. You can't miss him.