July 16, 2009
Well, it happened. My friends threw a concert for me. I still can't even really believe it! The whole thing was a very long, emotional build-up to a frantic, hectic, beautiful, rewarding day.
I hazily remember back in March, as I was lying in a hospital bed, hearing whispers of a benefit concert floating around the room. I dismissed it as a nice gesture of worry over my welfare and ability to take care of the hospital bills. At the time, I don't think I was in any kind of state to be able to process the idea of someone throwing a benefit concert for me.
As the weeks went by, I slowly realized that this was more than just a fleeting notion: people were actually beginning to plan this thing. I heard rumors of meetings being held and ideas being tossed around for bands, venues, and whatnot. Meanwhile, I was still dealing with what had happened to my body—the loss of motion on my left side and loss of feeling in my hands and feet. I didn’t have the capacity to consider what was happening outside of my immediate setting.
Eventually things got better for me. I began to walk normally again after a few weeks and tried my best to stay active. After a couple of months, life started to seem normal again, except for a numb pinky finger and a bit of awkwardness in my gait. I was going out with friends, playing music (sort of), generally engaging in most of the same activities I was before my hospitalization (not all of which were the healthiest of choices, but there is a certain amount of denial that accompanies the diagnosis of a life-altering illness).
As the benefit approached it became clear that this was turning into a pretty significant event. Great bands had been added to the bill; and people all over the place were donating time, energy and resources to make this thing as big as it could be. It was inspiring to see this happen. Wait, inspiring isn't even the right word. On many occasions, contemplating the sheer volume of generosity and love being poured into this endeavor, I was moved to tears.
How is it possible that a community of musicians, artists, lawyers, bartenders and professionals could come together and rally around one person in need? Not just any person, but me? At a certain point it was obvious that I had to become more involved. Although it felt a bit awkward, at times, being directly involved in the organization of an event to benefit myself, I learned to accept that I was not only the beneficiary, but also a catalyst. I wanted this event to be about more than me, especially when I began to see how much people can be moved to help a friend in need. I decided I wanted to direct this energy and momentum back out into the world and make it bigger than me.
That's about when Wanduta came into the picture. Their organization reached out to our benefit committee after one of their interns noticed the We Are the Wiley page on Facebook. They contacted us immediately and asked if they could meet with us. We held a meeting with them only a few weeks before the show, and within half an hour knew that this would be a good partnership.
Wanduta is an organization that is dedicated to making life a little easier for the independent musician. They set up an online concierge service to help guide musicians and artists toward affordable healthcare (as much, anyway, as can be gleaned from the profit-driven, corporate insurance magnates that we are forced to reckon with). They also help musicians establish credit and are working on other ways to help independent musicians remain independent, so as not to sacrifice their talent and goals. It is too early to say for sure, but hopefully, in the not too distant future, we’ll partner to host a benefit concert for another musician in need. I hope that some of you can be involved again.
I want to thank all of you who helped make this happen. First, my mother for coming to my rescue and nursing me back to health in the depths of my illness. I want to thank all of my friends for being there when I was down and out, and for continuing to be there throughout my recovery. I want to thank all on the periphery who reached out, made calls, pulled in favors, and greased your elbows. This never would have happened without you.
I want to thank my dad for making a surprise visit just days before the event. He became the ballast we needed during our days of shopping for the event, helping us lug fans and bins and beer around all day. He also cleaned the bathrooms at the Shank, with a heart of gold, when everyone else kind of avoided the subject.
I want to thank Dev Hynes (Lightspeed Champion) and Adam Green. I’ve had the privilege of touring and recording with both of them, and have become very close to both. I greatly value our friendship and respect the sacrifice they made to bring this event to its full potential.
I want to thank Charilift for coming out and supporting a great cause. I'm so happy to have met all of them and hope that this is not the last time that we will work together, even though it hardly felt like work. You guys are great!!
Thanks to everyone else who made this happen: DJ Johnny Tropical, you played the best music! Joe Jurewicks, you made the best possible poster for this event. People are still talking about it. Sameer Naseem, thanks for your help. Carly James, Sara Copeland, Anastasia Browning, Shea Preuger, Claudia Lopez, Liz Brown, Darren Will, Alexa Aaron (9 months preggers and still took time out to cut up pears and peaches for the sangria), Patrick Bower, Chris Egan, Steven Mertens, Omer Shemesh, Chrissy Barnes, Ryan Duffy, Jin Moon, you are all great, great friends. I want to thank Greg Wilson and Mike Brown of Rubberlip for the design and set up of the beautiful lights. Artistic visual projections were provided by Your Friend Matthew. You guys all enhanced the positive energy of the night with your unique approach to luminosity! Thanks to Death By Audio and Taco Chulo for contributing to the raffle. You have all humbled me with the work and dedication you put in to making this happen. Thanks for being amazing, true friends!!
Yael and Liane, you girls carried this benefit torch for months and never dropped it, even when it seemed too heavy to bear—and at times it did. I want to thank you both from the furthest reaches of my soul. You not only accomplished our financial goals, but you kept hope alive in me, and re-charged my spirit when I was all but drained.
For those of you who don't know, over $10,000 was raised from the night of the benefit and online donations. This is basically a third of my hospital bill, which is paid now because of the hard work and resilience of all of you wonderful people. Beyond that, we organized a beautiful evening that will be remembered by many for a long time to come. Thank you!!