EDIE BRICKELL & New Bohemians hadn’t shared an Austin stage in 17 years when Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas Aug. 25, 2017. But as it battered the Gulf Coast and dumped a year’s worth of rain on Houston in days, Dallas native Brickell and her band did what Texans do — they stepped up.
On Sept. 22, 2017, along with Brickell’s husband, Paul Simon, they played Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas: A Benefit Concert for Hurricane Harvey Relief held at the Erwin Center in Austin. Emceed by actor Matthew McConaughey, it was the biggest of many benefit shows. (The Texas Music Office had to create a spreadsheet to track them.) The event, which raised more than $2 million for the Rebuild Texas Fund, also featured James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt and Texans like Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Jimmie Vaughan, Asleep at the Wheel and Ruthie Foster.
New Bohemians bassist Brad Houser, Alpha Rev frontman Casey McPherson and Miranda Lambert also joined rescue efforts. Houser, a Dallas native, wound up shuttling flood victims home to reclaim their belongings. Lambert’s MuttNation Foundation transported Houston-area animal-shelter residents to other shelters to make room for Harvey animals. McPherson and his wife, McCall McPherson, helped engineer a massive rescue effort, and then created an innovative charitable platform dubbed #StrengthInNeighbors.
“I was seeing news stories from Houston, and below every story were 20 to 50 comments from people begging for their lives or the lives of relatives,” McCall explains. Casey headed to Houston, where he helped rescue some 200 people, using an interactive map on which victims or relatives could pin rescue locations. Linked to a Facebook page, it quickly went viral.
Opportunities for musical contributions were numerous. Lovett, who lives outside of Houston, also played George Strait’s Sept. 12 benefit with Lambert, Robert Earl Keen and Chris Stapleton as part of the Hand in Hand telethon/concert, which raised $44 million. Lovett and Don Henley played Clint Black’s sold-out Helping Texans: A Hurricane Harvey Benefit Nov. 28 in Fort Worth. Strait, Stapleton, Carrie Underwood, Garth Brooks and other country stars performed Nov. 12 at Nashville’s Country Rising concert, to benefit areas stricken by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
“It changed our lives, and sent us on a whole new trajectory of what it means to be a community,” McCall McPherson said. “Being a musician, you’re typically focused on yourself; it’s a narcissistic business. But in the floodwaters, nobody cared who you were; they didn’t care who you voted for; they didn’t care about the color of your skin. All they cared about was that you were there to help.”
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