Tom Gabel, Shirley Manson, and More Play Cancer Benefit
A roster of all-star rockers help turn a tragedy into a celebration in L.A.
On Saturday night in Hollywood, an eclectic set of musicians gathered to perform stripped-down sets in honor of a very good cause – the Pablove Foundation, which raises money to help children with cancer. Founder Jeff Castelaz, the Dangerbird Records co-owner whose six-year-old son Pablo succumbed to the disease in June, had completed a cross-country bike trip for the cause only three hours before, making the night a celebratory lap for the beloved local figure.
Sets were short and spirits were high: The audience was treated to no fewer than 10 performers in three hours, with Shirley Manson, Against Me!’s Tom Gabel, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and Band of Horses delivering the night’s most poignant notes.
The former Garbage frontwoman took to the stage following the high-drama acoustic balladry of Jarrod Gorbel (of the Honorary Title) and the dulcet, brooding chamber-pop of Silver Lake six-piece Sea Wolf. Backed by an all-star band – Gabel, Garbage-mate Butch Vig and the Bird And the Bee’s Greg Kurstin – Manson crooned an original written for Pablo, then covered the boy’s favorite song, David Bowie’s “Life On Mars?”
Butch Walker, a solo artist and the producer whose fingerprints are all over Weezer’s and Dashboard Confessional’s latest, debuted a few new songs flanked by the harmonically inclined Chapin Sisters. He sung his lyrics from a sheet taped to his guitar, and closed with a heartwarming dedication to the Castelaz family – a song he’d written for his own young son called “Be Good Until Then.”
The night’s surprise guest was Rooney, whose campy lovelorn lines and easy rock pastiche was a palate-cleanser for Tom Gabel’s rousing set. With Vig eventually joining him, the Against Me! singer roared through three unreleased songs of spirited literary acoustic punk, including the searing title track from his band’s upcoming White Crosses album. Fittingly, this was inspired by St. Augustine, Florida, where Castelaz’s cycling odyssey began.
Josh Rifkind, president of the Songs for Kids Foundation subsequently introduced his one-off crowd participation-heavy performance of “The Wheels On the Bus” with these words: “This song effing rocks and I guarantee you it’ll outlast anything by Pavement.” Black Rebel Motorcycle Club took note, and responded with a powerful three-fer of their patently slow-grinding, blues-fueled tunes. “666 Conducer” sounded particularly good unplugged, and backed by the methodical crush of new drummer Leah Shapiro.
Less encouraging was Tom Morello’s turn as the Nightwatchman. “Flesh Shapes The Day” features righteously challenging lyrics, but it was more challenging still not to head to the bar when the Rage Against the Machine guitarist began singing. Still, his take on Rage’s “Guerilla Radio” was well received. Far more so were Band of Horses, who left the Avalon’s ballroom feeling haunted by performing “Ode To LRC” as a drumless two-piece. The Seattle group went out in grand fashion expanding its ranks to five for the barroom stomper, “The General Specific.”
Earlier in the night, Castelaz took the mic. “Where do I begin,” he paused. “I lost my best friend.” Awful as his loss was, the grieving father stressed that this night, and his journey across the United States, was about a family whose membership extends to hundreds, if not thousands, of households. That sentiment continued to echo long after the last chord had dissolved amongst the rafters.
Band Of Horses
“Ode To LRC”
“The General Specific”
“Flesh Shapes The Day”
“Guerilla Radio” (Rage Against The Machine cover)
“Shuffle Your Feet”
“Ain’t No Easy Way”
Songs For Kids (Josh Rifkind)
“The Wheels On The Bus”
“High Pressure Low”
“If It Were Up To Me” (Pablove version)
“Don’t You Think Someone Should Take You Home”
“Be Good Until Then”
“Witness To Your Love”
“Life On Mars?” (David Bowie cover)
“You’re A Wolf”
“Ten Years Older”