By Richard Skanse
A dozen years after headlining the “Tsunami Relief: Austin to South Asia” benefit concert at the old Austin Music Hall, Willie Nelson is set to once again lend his legendary voice to an all-star fund-raiser for disaster relief — this time in a much larger venue and for a cause a lot closer to home. The Red-Headed Stranger’s name tops the heady bill of the just announced “Harvey Can’t Mess with Texas: A Benefit Concert for Hurricane Harvey Relief,” scheduled for Friday, Sept. 23 at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. Tickets, ranging in price from $30 to $199, go on sale at 3 p.m. CT today at www.RebuildTX.org.
In addition to Willie, other luminaries playing the four-hour event, which will be broadcast live on TV stations across Texas and worldwide on YouTube, will include Paul Simon, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, Ryan Bingham, Leon Bridges, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, and Ha*Ash. Asleep at the Wheel will do the honors as the evening’s house band, with Austin native son Charlie Sexton overseeing the whole production as music director. “Multiple special guests” — presumably of the music-playing variety — are also promised, along with mic-turns by actors Matthew McConaughey, Renée Zellweger, and Luke Wilson, Texas-born broadcasting icon Dan Rather, Houston police chief Art Acevedo, and Austin Mayor Steve Adler.
“We got lucky when Hurricane Harvey avoided Austin, but though it missed us, it hit our neighbors hard,” the mayor said in a statement issued with Wednesday morning’s announcement of the concert. “Now we have an opportunity to do good by being our best, and that means putting on a show and having a good time. Let’s show the world what it means to be the Live Music Capital of the World in the greatest state in the Union.”
While there have already been scores of other benefit shows for hurricane relief across the state over the last month, including George Strait’s concert at San Antonio’s Majestic Theatre (part of which was broadcasted during Tuesday night’s national “Hand-in-Hand” telethon for Harvey and Irma relief), the concert at the Frank Erwin Center next Friday looks to be the biggest one yet in Texas since Harvey first made landfall in Rockport on Aug. 26 and went on to cause catastrophic flooding throughout the greater Gulf Coast and Southeast Texas Texas region. Among the many parties banding together to make “Harvey Can’t Mess with Texas” possible are local event production company C3 Presents (best known for helming the massive Austin City Limits Music Festival and Lollapalooza), the Virgina-based broadcasting company TENGA (whose Texas stations including Austin’s KVUE, San Antonio’s KENS, Houston’s KHOU, Dallas’ WFAA, Beaumont’s KBMT, and Corpus Christi’s KIII will air the concert commercial free), and Google, which will livestream the show at YouTube.com/TexasStrong in addition to matching the first half-million dollars of pledge donations.
Proceeds from both ticket sales and donations made through www.RebuildTX.org will benefit the Rebuild Texas Fund, a joint creation of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and the OneStar Foundation. In the words of Houston native Michael Dell, a native of Houston, the Rebuild Texas Fund “was created to help rebuild all of the communities — big and small — that have been devastated by Hurricane Harvey. We will be rebuilding for years to come.”