John Mayer and Crosby, Stills & Nash Headline 2nd Benefit Concert
The annual Light Up The Blues Concert benefiting Autism Speaks is a star-studded showcase that inspires solidarity for the often misunderstood condition affecting millions of families. Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN), John Mayer, Don Felder, Brandi Carlile and Chris Stills headlined the show on April 5, alongside several talented artists on the autism spectrum including indie-rock artist Xolie Morra and The Strange Kind, rapper Rio “Soulschocka” Wyles with guest artist Watsky, and cellist Adam Mandela Walden. CSN musician Stephen Stills and his wife Kristen Stills hosted the sold-out event at the newly refurbished Theatre @ the Ace in downtown Los Angeles, bringing together 1,600 people and raising more than $320,000 for the organization.
Roland Corporation U.S. donated musical instruments signed by rock and roll legends like Eagles Guitarist Don Felder and hosted a silent auction to benefit Autism Speaks during the event as well.
On the Blue Carpet…
Stephen Stills was all smiles on the “blue” carpet, visibly happy lending his hand to make the 2nd Light Up The Blues Concert possible. “Well, this is the second one, so we know our way around. I’ve actually already found my people for next year…fingers crossed! And tonight’s got the same convivial, wonderful vibe that the last one did.”
Stephen’s CSN band mates Graham Nash and David Crosby rallied and asked the audience to help find out more about a condition that continues to puzzle scientists worldwide, affecting nearly one in every 100 children born in the U.S., with three out of four of those being boys. “From the very first day that Stephen asked us to do this, we’ve been very supportive of him. It’s important to find out the information. It’s important to get involved. It’s important not to be apathetic and to actually get off your ass and do something about it. The more concerts like this, the more people see that we’re getting involved, the more likely it is that they will get involved. That’s when you start to find out answers,” said Graham Nash. The blue puzzle piece, worn by most everyone in attendance, was symbolic of the unified front needed to bring about awareness and advances for autism and as a reminder that our boys are being diagnosed far more often then girls presently.
Light Up The Blues Supporters…
The outpouring of support overjoyed Kristen Stills, wife of Stephen Stills and mother of Henry Stills, an inspiring young man featured in Autism: The Musical. Kristen said, “I’m in utter disbelief that we’re pulling off another event like this and so thrilled to have Roland come in and contribute to the fundraising efforts. We have a completely new batch of artists this year, and we want to continue to bring in new talent, both the spectrum artists and the artists that people recognize. I’m overjoyed. Thank you to Roland.”
Stephen Stills’ son Chris Stills, a talented actor, musician and producer, opened the show with the song “Calling the Underground,” setting the tone for an evening that opened eyes to the art, beauty and humanity that prevail within a truly accepting community of those touched by autism.
“There is a place for us, where we sing and we dance. Where nobody f*cks with us, and dreams are all given a chance. Where the misunderstood carry on, and give rise to a hope that defines me. Where I put my feet down, knowing I don’t have to run. Where my freedom is true. Where my freedom is love. Hear me. Calling the underground…”
Abuzz with pre-performance jitters, Chris Stills said his energy was similar to the first Light Up The Blues Concert in 2013. “Still got the butterflies. Nothing I can do about that. But I love that Light Up The Blues is growing, and I just hope it keeps on getting bigger. We need to get the word out and share about autism to get people talking about autism and listening.”
Xolie Morra, front woman for the up-and-coming rock/indie act Xolie Morra & The Strange Kind, gave a performance that was nothing short of spectacular despite the sensory overload she regularly experiences living with Asperger’s syndrome, also known as “autism spectrum disorder.” Sensory perceptions like Xolie’s are very common for thousands of people living on the spectrum. She explained, “It was a little overwhelming at first, but I got some really great ear plugs, from this group called Earacers, that [Roland US] actually followed on Twitter, that’s how I found them. And so they’ve kind of cut down a lot on the crowd noise and the sounds of the city. So it’s been pretty great. I feel good in my little group of people. They don’t let the crowd completely overwhelm me, so that’s good. We’re performing “Garden in the Sky” tonight, and I actually get to sing it with Chris Stills. So it’s going to be great, and I’m really excited about it.”
Don Felder enthusiastically gave one standing-ovation performance after another throughout the night, all in the name of Autism Speaks. “It’s an unbelievable cause. It’s become an epidemic, autism in America, and I’ll do anything I can to help this cause.”
Autism Speaks Executive Director of Southern California Matt Asner showed his support, as did almost everyone attending the event, by wearing a blue puzzle piece pin, a symbol that unites all who advocate the cause. His brilliantly blue shirt perfectly matched his piece of the puzzle and amplified his glowing sincerity and gratitude. “Kristen Stills, and Stephen and Chris Stills, they are the greatest partners ever, that I have ever dealt with. It’s been nothing but a joy to work with them. They’re so incredibly giving of their time, of their talent, and of other people’s talent. This is the second year, and hopefully we’ll do it three, four, five, six years, and we’ll go from there.”
The Light Up The Blues documentary recorded at the very first Light Up The Blues Concert is available now through iTunes. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Autism Speaks.
April is Autism Awareness Month. Please step forward and show your support for Autism Speaks.
Light Up The Blues 2013
Photo credit: Getty Images