The picture with this article is what was left of my girlfriend’s house in Tahitian Village of Bastrop, Texas after the Labor Day 2011 fires that devastated Central Texas. It was the worst fire in Texas history, with more than 34,000 acres burned and nearly 1,700 structures destroyed, including my former Bastrop home. The Central Texas Fires of 2011 were the third most destructive fires in U.S. history.
One month after the Central Texas fires, legendary musicians were quick to accept an invitation to donate their time and raise money for fire victims in a Fire Relief Concert held at University of Texas at Austin’s Frank Erwin Center. The concert line-up included Willie Nelson, George Strait, The Dixie Chicks, Christopher Cross, Lyle Lovett, Asleep at the Wheel, Shawn Colvin, Peter Schwarz, Eric Johnson, Steve Miller, Joe Satriani, Court Yard Hounds, and Texas Tornados. Tickets were $25-$250 and the concert lasted more than four hours. Kyle Chandler of Friday Night Lights helped host the great concert experience. Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett both cancelled other shows in order to participate in the Fire Relief Concert.
What made this concert so special was the great social media organization of the fund-raising efforts, the heart-felt videos using Bastrop fire victims, the invitations and honors given to the volunteer and community fire fighters and other first responders, and the loyalty of the musicians to help restore people’s lives. In between every performance, concert organizers displayed ways to text, call, or mail donations to Fire Relief. Organizers prepared interviews with video footage of the fire devastation that made the audience want to keep donating. Fire fighters and first responders were introduced and honored for their bravery and service to save lives and homes. It was the most amazing benefit concert I have ever attended.
Not only did each musician play some tunes in their own playlist, but they joined together to play with the other musicians, making the concert experience even more unique. Lyle Lovett and Ray Benson from Asleep at the Wheel, jamming together for Fire Relief, were among the crowd favorites. Of course, Natalie Maines and The Dixie Chicks, who performed for an hour, delivered powerful messages of compassion and hope for fire victims. While most of the 16,000+ crowd was older fans of Willie Nelson and George Strait, there were plenty of young fans that attended the Fire Relief Concert to show their support for local communities devastated by the fires.
I have attended hundreds of concerts since the late 1960’s and this is truly my favorite concert experience. Given that the organizers only had one month to put together a quality concert along with great social media ways to raise money, my hat goes off to their efforts. I know the people of Bastrop and other Central Texas communities burned in the fires were greatly appreciative for the love and support of these musicians and their fans.
I recently attended an Austin concert with Jackson Browne and Jimmy Buffet. It would have been great if they had a social media fund-raising component in their show for the West, Texas victims in the fertilizer plant explosion. It would be wonderful if every concert experience not only provided great entertainment, but also focused on helping victims of a local or national disaster. Americans are giving people, and what better way to help others than texting four little letters every time you attend a concert!