MUSICARES BENEFIT ROCKS AWARENESS
By Jennifer Buonantony
Photo Credit, Paul Clarette
Press Pass LA attended the 8th annual MusiCares MAP Fund Benefit which provides members of the music community access to addiction recovery treatment and was honoring Alice in Chains' Jerry Cantrell and Sony/ATV Music Publishing consultant and interventionist Neil Lasher.
The night included performances by Ann & Nancy Wilson of Heart, Duff McKagan, Billy Idol, and Mark Lanegan, with Moby DJ-ing and Steve-O as the night's host.
Host Steve-O kicked off the night in typical Jackass fashion asking for four members of the audience to join him on stage for his first stunt, including Moby who volunteered saying, "just because we are sober doesn't mean we need to be pussies"- setting the tone for the night! Steve-O then had the men sit on over-turned buckets in a square format and had them lean back so that each man's head was in the other man's lap, as he removed the buckets from below their bottoms. The human square balanced before the crowd's eyes before Steve-O humorously tipped them over. It was the perfect introduction to a night that would be as fun as it was serious.
But before more stunts and performances got underway, the evening began with a celebratory announcement. This year the Adam Goldstein Fund- honoring DJ AM who died of an overdose in 2009 and was the first DJ to perform at a MAP Benefit that same year- partnered with MusiCares, donating 25,000 to the charity. DJ AM's mother, Andrea Gross, was in the audience to receive rightful applause for the foundation's generous donation.
Duff McKagan, who served as the evening's musical director, was the first musician to take the stage saying, "he was really flattered to be here and play. I wanted to play a lot of upbeat tunes but for this event, we are going to keep it chill. This is old punk rock!" He then played songs including a Johnny Thunders cover "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory", Guns N' Roses "Patience", and a pair of songs with the Wilson sisters- Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers" and Elton John's "Curtains". The Elton John song was meant to be a surprise for Cantrell who is a huge fan, but Ann Wilson revealed that "you walked in on sound check. So act surprised." Before exiting the stage, Duff told the audience how he and Cantrell, "went through this thing (abuse and recovery) together. When we were at our worst we stayed away from each other, but we came through it together."
A representative from the Caron Foundation took the podium next saying, "My name is Bill and I'm an addict...this is the best meeting I've ever been to!" He then introduced interventionist and Sony/ATV Publishing consultant, Neil Lasher, who was being honored with the Heart to Heart Award for his dedication to the mission and goals of MusiCares. Lasher read a quote from a meditation book which has always guided him and then spoke to the crowd about setting up the very first 'Safe Harbor Room' in Madison Square Garden eighteen years ago. It was a room where anyone on tour, be it musicians or crew, could come to avoid the temptations of drugs and alcohol. "The only room they had for us at the Garden was actually a bar, so they had to cover up all the liquor," he added laughing!
Then we were back with Steve-O's most shocking stunt of the night- the 'double back'. Basically, Steve gave the audience a strip tease while swinging his male parts back and forth as fast as he could until he trapped his ball-sack behind him and dropped his draws, appearing fully nude to the audience. Yes, this is not a a joke. Don't believe me, we caught this crazy stunt on video.
Steve- O quickly moved on to his next introduction which would have been lost in the crowd's shock had it been for anyone else. "Taking the stage is a man who is bad at riding in airplanes and even badder at riding motorcycles, but fucking amazing at writing and rocking the shit out of songs". The crowd went wild as Billy Idol walked on stage and joked, "we are going to do three songs because I can only remember three these days" as the music for Dancing with Myself sounded from the band. The other two were hits White Wedding and Rebel Yell which earned him the crowd's standing ovation. For me, this was the highlight performance of the evening, and I easily sang and danced along in my seat.
Perhaps the funniest moment of the evening was Steve-O recounting his own intervention initiated by Jackass co-star Johnny Knoxville. "You know you have a serious fucking problem when Johnny Knoxville is your interventionist. The whole Jackass crew- producers, cameramen, grips, everyone- came over to ask me to stop hurting myself after ten years of them helping me hurt myself on the show. Pretty fucked up! The most fucked up part was that wasn't my first intervention, it was my fourth or fifth...except the other four were hallucinations...you know you have a problem when your hallucinations are worried about you!" This story was followed by a third stunt, 'the greatest bar trick of all'. Steve-O balanced a glass of water atop his head and then laid down on a table and contorted his body around so he could drink the glass without every using his hands. It was truly awesome and a bet I would certainly lose at any bar.
Other highlights of the night included a performance by Mark Lanegan of bands Queens of the Stone Age and Screaming Trees and speeches by Neil Portnow, Grammy President, and MusiCares board chair, Scott Pascucci.
Just before honoring Jerry Cantrell, Steve -O took the stage for his final trick. He told the crowd, "What I am about to do is pretty fucked up!" He explained that he even told the event producers about this stunt beforehand and said they were very nervous about it. "People think just because you are sober you lose your crazy personality, that's who I am." He then used the microphone to break a light bulb over his head. He picked up the largest shard of glass and used it to slice his tongue and showed the audience an open-mouthed smile filled with blood. He then dipped his fingers inside his mouth and used his blood to paint war paint across his face and body, proving "you can be clean and sober, but you can still be crazy". I'm pretty sure the entire audience agreed on the last part!
After a moment of silent/awkwardness, Harold Owens took the stage to talk about the amount of people Jerry Cantrell has affected by his recovery. Owens then introduced a video of James Hetfield of Metallica who virtually presented Cantrell with the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award. Hetfield was a previous recipient of this award as were other notable musicians including Bonnie Raitt, Dave Navarro, and Alice Cooper. Hetfield told the audience that "playing is the best high there is" and left the physical hand-off of the award to his 'roadie' (Alice in Chains band-mate) Sean Kinney.
"This will look good in one of your nine mansions, on one of your twenty seven counters," joked Kinney. He humorously lamented how Jerry always gets the awards and as he presented the trophy to Cantrell told him, "I love you. You are my best friend."
As he accepted his award Cantrell said, "addicts find it hard to receive love and so today is so overwhelming experiencing all this love and receiving this." He added, "Sean really is my best friend in the world so I am glad he is here to give me this. This band is my family, my brothers from another mother." He made the audience laugh by saying his band-mate Mike Inez calls it the 'Junkie of the Year Award' because "I am a junkie, an alcoholic and my name is Jerry". He went on to tell the audience about the day of his intervention, where he chose to jump out of a window overlooking a cliff and into a thorn-filled blueberry bush rather than deal with his addiction. "It took a lot of people to get me here, but I am glad to be here," said Cantrell as he went on to thank his sister, a long list of friends and supporters, and his longtime manager David Beno and everyone at Velvet Hammer Music & Management Group. He gave the crowd advice saying, "I had a lot of help, but I showed up every day and did the work". He expressed to his fans the importance of taking recovery day by day. Lastly, he said he loved the entire evening, especially Steve- O's "silence of the lamb" routine!
Alice in Chains then took the stage to perform "Got Me Wrong", "Your Decision," "No Excuses", and "Would?", to close out the night. The crowd couldn't be happier. Cantrell added, "We really miss Layne and Mike, and we carry them with us in our hearts," before thanking everyone for coming.
Watch the video of their performance.
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For more information, please visit MusiCares.org.