More than the music — which was nothing short of spectacular — Tuesday night’s sold-out Winston Calling benefit concert at the Echoplex in Los Angeles was about random acts of kindness.
How else to explain all the heavy hitters taking the lead of Pixies frontman Frank Black (a.k.a. Black Francis) and rallying to the aid of Winston Bertran, a 10-month-old boy from Olathe, Kansas, suffering from a life-threatening lymphatic malformation whose family none of them (including Black himself) had ever even met?
The five-and-a-half-hour marathon featured an almost-show-stealing set from Tenacious D and memorable renditions of Pixies material by OK Go’s Damian Kulash, who rocked “Debaser,” and “Weird Al” Yankovic, who did his goofball best on “I Bleed.” But mostly the concert underlined the generous spirit of Frank Black, who got the idea for the benefit after his wife (and partner in electro-pop project Grand Duchy) Violet Clark saw Winston’s mom as a contestant on HGTV’s Design Star and then forged a MySpace friendship. Clark subsequently learned about Winston’s dire condition and need for round-the-clock care.
To help, Black assembled three-quarters of the Pixies (only Kim Deal was absent), as well as friends including the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, David J and Kevin Haskins of Love and Rockets, Michael Penn, Kim Shattuck of the Muffs, She Wants Revenge, and the aforementioned Yankovic, Tenacious D, and OK Go for a concert intended to raise funds for Winston’s care.
The highlights were plentiful: 20 minutes of musical hilarity from Tenacious D’s Jack Black and Kyle Gass. Black joining David J for two numbers, “Monkey Gone to Heaven” and a cover of “All the Young Dudes” orchestrated with stand-up bass, mandolin, and violin.
And Black’s solo rendition of his own “Los Angeles.” Later, he and Pixies bandmates David Lovering and Joey Santiago did three numbers without a bassist before Shattuck, Clark, and Flea traded low-end duties for the rest of the show, with the latter’s energized leaps during “Where Is My Mind” creating one of the nights most memorable images.
But it was Penn who best captured the spirit of the show, when he said, “God bless Winston.” And God bless people who care.