After an inspired three-song opening at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Tuesday, New York band the National spoke directly to the packed crowd about the floods that had besieged parts of Colorado.
“All of you who are victims of the floods, you’re in our minds,” National singer Matt Berninger told the audience. “We didn’t even think we would be here tonight.”
The band then passed the hat — rather a four-gallon water cooler bottle – and ended up with $10,102 in crowd donations for Colorado flood victims. On Thursday, a representative of the band said the National will match that amount.
And just like that more than $20,000 was donated to the Conscious Alliance Flood Relief Fund, a locally managed collection handled by a Boulder-rooted non-profit.
There are more Colorado flood benefits in the coming weeks. See our growing list here.
“It was very moving for us to perform at Red Rocks, especially after the events of the last week,” National bass player Scott Devendorf said Friday. “We hope that everyone fares as well as possible and that recovery is swift.”
Musicians are now rallying for flood relief efforts in Colorado, as they have for wildfires and hurricanes and earthquakes before. What’s unique about these efforts is that so much of the instant reactions have come from local musicians and organizations.
“It’s close to home, so it’s important to us,” said Justin Levy, executive director of non-profit Conscious Alliance. “We have so many volunteers and people close to the organization affected by the floods, and with Big Gigantic and the Lumineers being from Colorado, it’s been pretty sweet to team up with them to make a difference in a time of need.”
Boulder-based Conscious Alliance has a long history of linking its charitable efforts with the live music community, from food drives to fundraisers for post-earthquake Haiti and post-hurricane New Orleans. The group teamed with Denver indie folk act the Lumineers and promoter AEG Live to pass the water jug at two Red Rocks concerts Sept. 14-15, and the crowd donated $14,700 over the two nights.
“We’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of help,” said Lumineers frontman Wesley Schultz. “We played a lot of shows where you pass a hat, and we basically passed a bucket around Red Rocks … We were just trying to do something, our part. For someone in our position, it was the least we could do.”
The Lumineers donated another $4,000 via poster sales from the shows, a representative said.
“The Colorado music community is so vibrant, and this energy and passion translate into every aspect of the larger community,” said Don Strasburg, vice president at AEG Live’s Denver offices. “It’s one of the many reasons Colorado is such an incredible place to live.
“Our job at AEG Live is to bring people together. We foster community through events and are honored to have this responsibility. Essentially we act as facilitators, therefore it’s second-nature in times of need — we will utilize our resources to help in any possible way.”
Boulder-based band Big Gigantic will headline the Fillmore Auditorium on Sept. 27 and Red Rocks on Sept. 28, and the group will donate a portion of its proceeds to Conscious Alliance, its longtime partner. Big G’s Red Rocks date is already sold out, but there were still Fillmore tickets available at press time.
“We’ve been talking with community members from all around Colorado to establish what the most critical need is,” said Conscious Alliance’s Levy. “It’s still a little soon to decide, so for now we’re going to hit our sweet spot and tap into the natural food companies to provide emergency food for families.
“The thought is: If we can provide emergency food relief, families are able to spend the money they do have on fixing their homes and relieving some of that stress for them. And that’s phase 1 where we’re starting in the next day.”
It’s not only the Red Rocks headliners raising large amounts of cash and food donations. There are already a smattering of rock club fundraisers, and the Denver Film Society and Barry Fey Foundation said they will donate funds from their screening of the U2 concert doc “Under a Blood Red Sky” (with musical guest the Samples) at Red Rocks on Sept. 26 to flood victims.
On a smaller but more immediate scale, look at the small, currently displaced population of Lyons and you’ll see the kind of community organizing that lifts a town in ruins above the destruction.
“It was the biggest amount we’ve ever raised in one night,” said Jami Lunde, a Lyons-based musician who runs a monthly tribute series at Oskar Blues. “Before that we’d raised $1,200 for the Four Mile Fire victims. But last night when we brought in $4,486, it wasn’t surprising, because that’s just the kind of people who live in Lyons.
Lunde hosted a fundraiser Sept. 18 in Longmont for Lyons musician Danny Shafer and his family, who lost much of their life in the floods. Lunde calls Shafer “one of the most gracious, kind, giving, appreciative musicians out there playing 200 shows per year. He’s one of the rare ones, and I’ve known him for close to 10 years.”
Lunde said the music-filled fundraiser was a potent gathering of community, and she was especially touched when Alex Johnstone of bluegrass outfit Spring Creek popped into the benefit with a donation – even though he had also lost nearly everything in the flood.
One night earlier, the weekly Lyons Jam took over a different Longmont bar – a fundraiser for the Lyons Musicians Relief Fund. The Lyons Jam is the longest running jam in Colorado, and it will continue at Longmont’s CHUBurger until its home in Lyons is ready for its return.
“It would be impossible to be at the Lyons Jam last Tuesday and not be moved by the feeling of community,” said the jam’s co-host KC Groves. “There was also a more subtle feeling of community as it was the first time many of the refugees, now being told they might not be able to return home for months, were able to gather. There were tears. There were long hugs. There was just over $4,000 in a glass jar being passed around.
“It might not buy Dave and Enion Tiller or Danny Shafer a new house but it will hopefully help some of these musicians affected so deeply by the flood to get by until the next chapter unfolds.”