Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Teen Cancer America Benefit: Private Residence, Pacific Palisades, CA, May 29, 2016

As you may well know, Roger and Pete have started Teenage Cancer Trust in the UK, and Teen Cancer America in North America. At every show some work is done to contribute to funding and awareness; VIP seating, booths, CDs sold, posters given away, etc etc. Lots of volunteer work, and the word does get out, with some good funds being generated.

Once in a while special events happen as well, as with Roger’s week-long events at the Royal Albert Hall. Recently, we did the show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire with guest artists singing in front of The Who stage band. Tonight we have another special event in Los Angeles: Teen Cancer America’s fund-raising event.

Today is a special one, as The Who will be performing – in a backyard! It’s a large estate home, not small, but we have such large setup to bring in. The area is called Pacific Palisades, which is adjacent to Beverly Hills and Brentwood – all three among the most upscale Los Angeles neighborhoods. Each home here cost in the multiple-million$, and has beautiful landscaping, enormous properties, and (hopefully) generous charity-supporting good people.

As if The Who were not enough for your backyard party, two significant supporting acts will also appear: Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Eddie Vedder. Our team love both artists and their support staff; they are like family to us now, having spent many hours together at shows. Great to see them all again and catch up.

The day started early, with trucks rolling into this gorgeous neighborhood, a team organized to load it in as quickly as possible. However, this is nothing like a normal day; it’s lacking all the usual amenities needed to make a rock show work: loading docks, places to store empty cases, and… space!! There is a big stage already set up here, but it’s about 2/3 (or less) of our normal size. Sadly, we don’t know exactly what songs will be played tonight, so we have to set up ALL the gear that goes on our full-size stage. Damn hard to do, and everything is rammed right up against the next thing, with cables everywhere, and not much time to get it right. It would be far easier if it were just The WHO, but we also have to leave room for two other acts to set up on this small stage!! Ouch.

We have a hard-working team, and despite our constant complaining, nearly everything got done in just time. Luckily for us, Ed Vedder was thoughtful and brought himself and a small set of acoustic instruments (guitar, mandolin, ukulele) to play. He has a new ukulele album which is cool, so the staging is appropriate anyway.

Howie Mandel and David Spade took turns onstage, telling jokes and guiding the audience throughout the stages of this big show. Dustin Hoffman, Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow and Cindy Crawford were seen walking around excited for the show. Joan Jett came out and . . . ROCKS, as she does . . . and I see this general-public audience realizing how many of her songs they already know. Eddie Vedder came up afterward, did his bit for the evening, and was joined by Simon Townshend for one song.

Beside the 650+ attendees’ ticket prices (which were $3000, plus sponsorship package groups) there was a nice display of various auction items to raise needed money. Some were general items like holiday getaways, spa treatments, sports events, weekend passes to the coming Coachella Fall concert, etc. The real items of interest were the specifically unique things being offered: a Bally pinball “Wizard” machine, the classic from 1975, released originally to coincide with the Tommy film. Featuring images of Roger Daltrey and Ann-Margaret on the back glass. What makes this one ultra-special is that it is signed: Daltrey, Townshend, Ann-Margaret, Jack Nicholson, Tina Turner and Elton John! Wow. Quite the amazing Who artifact, this piece – only more amazing was, as it passed the $50,000 price tag, they offered a second one as well, which had been held in reserve!

There was a Premier Drums replica of Keith Moon’s earlier sparkle red drum kit, with a perfect Who logo on the front. A framed print of George Martin’s string quartet score for The Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ was offered, signed by both Paul McCartney and George himself (R.I.P.) A rehearsal day with KISS, including two guitars, a bass and snare drum, donated by Paul Stanley – who auctioned the item himself to push up the value.

Fascinating to see a group outing to meet and spend time with boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard who was there (nice guy too). Ray boosted his own auction from the stage, offering for an extra $10k that he would hit someone so they could “see how it feels” – and it got a bid! (Also stay tuned for TCA auction of the nearly one-of-a-kind early Who memorabilia we were given during this tour.) An artist Jamie Durrant print rendering of ‘The Acid Queen’ (the chrome coffin mentioned here before a week or so ago) which was quite nicely done. There was a signed Fender Stratocaster, with an aged roundel theme: This was signed by Pete, Eddie Vedder, Joan Jett, Rick Nielsen and Joe Walsh at our charity event last year. Some serious rock names – credible, and all wonderful people.

It is nice that those who live with expendable income can gather, have some fun, get a few cool things, but REALLY turn it into a win for the Teen Cancer work. Those who have to deal with this know it is a life-event, it affects nearly everyone at some point, and is often the most serious thing a family has to face. These are indulgent parties, tons of money being spent, luxury items being offered and bought – but the cause is so great, these dollars really do work miracles in others’ lives.

Yes, The Who played. It was about an hour, a shortened version of the show you may have seen this year or last. Eddie Vedder came out and joined on ‘The Real Me’. Despite the lack of video screens and lights, it had a great visual look to it, as you’ll see in the photos. Pretty impressive. It was a fun night, difficult in many ways, but not difficult compared to those lives who are dealing with cancer and its effects. Job well-done by all, with results to come. I know many items sold for tens of thousands, and this adds up quickly. I know there was a LOT of money raised, and many great memories were made. Imagine, The Who at a backyard party . . .

THIS tells the story best . . .

And the good news: Over $3 million raised to be divided (after costs) between Teen Cancer America and UCLA Health Autism Treatment Program. Superb work, everyone, it was worth the effort!!

We have some shows coming up at Isle of Wight, France and Spain which will be covered. People seem to enjoy reading the Backstage Blog, so during our summer vacation we may put up some stories about the making of this big tour.

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