Sometimes it’s all about helping others. When the call went out regarding participation in “Phoenix Rising,” a benefit concert to assist the Station Family Fund, plenty of artists came running. What’s the SFF? It’s the group that generates and dispenses monies needed to ease the medical bills of those who survived Rhode Island’s infamous Station nightclub fire, a blaze that killed 100 rock fans and injured another 200 on Feb 20, 2003.
Last Monday, at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, the SFF hosted a multi-artist bash that illustrated the effectiveness of uniting for a cause. Co-organized by the group Tesla, who lost an associate in the tragedy, it was a night full of fun and memories, 5000 fans and 20-plus artists rocking the place silly. VH1 was there, too. An edited version of the four-hour concert will be shown on the channel and VH1 Classic on March 23. It’s entitled Aftermath: The Station Fire Five Years Later.
Twisted Sister, Tesla, Staind’s Aaron Lewis, Winger and several other acts represented the rock side of things. John Rich, Gretchen Wilson, and Dierks Bentley flew up from Nashville for the evening to put on an acoustic show that stressed their high-flying country slant.
“Wear your tee-shirts proud,” bellowed Sister’s Dee Snider, who acted as the program’s MC. “Let people know you were here. I learned a lot about bravery, courage and heart tonight. I recognized the strength of the people who survived. There will be sad moments, but this is a party, and people want to rock. So let’s rock!”
That’s exactly what happened. With family and friends of those affected by the blaze in the audience, a bunch of hard-hitting music went down. Tesla proved the classic cred they have by getting everyone to sing along with their anti-authority hit “Signs.” Winger put on a duel-guitar fireworks show on “Seventeen” and again the crowd went nuts. The Station was known as a house of hard rock and metal, and its audience knows the classics word for word.
They’ve got a good grip on country, too. When Wilson, Rich and Bentley took the stage, they got about as rowdy as you can with acoustic guitars. Rich teased his Gone Country pal Snider (Dee invited the Nashville contingent to participate in the fund-raiser) with an abbreviated romp through “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” and to show how much ground is shared by country and rock these days, knocked out a fierce “You Shook Me All Night Long,” too. Somewhere, Angus Young was cackling. “C’mon, sing it like you’re going to get some later tonight!” bellowed Rich.
The humor continued when Wilson chomped into her “California Girls. “I’d like to start off with a song by Paris Hilton,” she said with a grin, “actually, I’m still p*ssed off she didn’t get a full 45 days [in jail].” By the time she was galloping through the chorus of “Redneck Woman” there were plenty of “HELL YEAH’s” in the air. Bentley proved to be a nice balance, bringing some sentimental and philosophical stuff like “Long Trip Alone” to the table.
Aaron Lewis also chose the acoustic route. He was both subtle and powerful with an unplugged version of the reflective anthem “It’s Been Awhile.” He also had the crowd singing along to a poignant amble through Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page.” Boston’s Tom Scholz hooked up with Stryper for a blast through the “Peace of Mind” and “Reach Out.”
CTA, which is driven by Chicago’s drummer, Danny Seraphine, put an update on the band’s “Make Me Smile” and “25 Or Six to Four” which addressed the sentiment of the night by referencing the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” during a solo section. And Carmine Appice of Vanilla Fudge fame raised the roof with his rhythm-centric percussion ensemble SLAMM!! (pounding everything from toolboxes to gas tanks to racing tires, they just cut a new theme song for Nascar).
WWE wildman (and best-selling author) Mick Foley was chosen to introduce Twisted Sister, and he pumped up the crowd the same way Dee Snider had been doing all evening long. The singer’s energy wasn’t flagging a bit when he went into preacher mode with his “I Want to Rock” chant. As soon as the drums kicked in, the band took their pop metal antics into the red zone.
A benediction began the evening, and each song that came along felt like a prayer of sorts. Fire and police officials, as well stage workers at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, waived their fees to support the Station Family Fund. Over 60 children lost one of their parents in the fire. When he ended “The Price,” Snider reminded the crowd that they were there to take care of their own.
The Station was a blue collar bar and its patrons were proud of their hard rock attitude. Backstage, artists such as Tesla drummer Troy Luccketta spoke fervently of “commitment and community.” Outside the arena audience member Patricia Maher” agreed with the sentiment. “People will need help tomorrow, the day after that, and the day after that,” she said. “We’re all here together, you know? This will continue.”
Make a Donation to the Station Family Fund.