Brian Kehew's Backstage Blog

Teen Cancer America Backyard Benefit, Pacific Palisades, CA, October 25, 2019

Another tricky day – for a good cause.

Not more than a few hours after we load out from the last show of the tour (The Hollywood Bowl #3 show) we are back in action, loading some of the equipment back into . . . a backyard.

Jordan Kaplan with Rebecca Rothstein of Teen Cancer America and Dave Grohl

We’ve been here before, a few times. The site is the home of Jordan Kaplan, who hosts an annual event to raise money for Teen Cancer America (TCA, the North American facet of the TCT charity in the UK.) As the crew, we’re not always in on the details of things, but several people have said it’s a $10,000 ticket to get in. Serious money, and that does include your food and drink – but we’re all here to raise more money than that.

The house is a mansion, fairly modern, and the grounds qualify as an estate. Pacific Palisades is right on the bluffs over the Pacific Ocean. The situation has improved over the years, we remember loading in heavy flight cases over gardens and plants (trying to set up Roger’s first show here) and more recently a Who show a couple of years ago. Part of our effort is made easier in that we don’t have the whole touring light show – and the PA system is not ours; it’s one hired for the event. Yet, it’s a smallish space – even though we have no orchestra.

Kenny Loggins opening the show

Today there are FOUR bands playing! Opening tonight is Kenny Loggins, a legend since the Loggins & Messina days, but leaning most-heavily on the big, big hits of the ’80s tonight. Hits always resonate with a general audience, so they were all Footloose-ing and Danger-Zone-ing with abandon.

The amazing Pink

Pink and bass guitarist Eva Gardner

Next up is Pink and her band. Without question, a real talent, for voice alone. But she also has style, presence and a rather honest approach onstage. She normally does aerial and silk acrobatics far above the stage, but no room for that tonight. All the usual “staging” tricks have to be left behind. Her band is packed with exceptional players, and we are all quite impressed with what they did tonight. Afterward, I found out they thought that it wasn’t quite a good night for them, but we could not tell – we were instant fans. Likely, tonight is “no one’s best show” – too many compromises – but it’s always great to rein in a new audience with whatever you can pull off, despite the limitations. It’s a real test of the serious performers vs. those who are reliant on trickery. Pink is a serious one, and damn good.

Foo Fighters!

Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins

Next up – headliners on their own anywhere in the world – Foo Fighters. They are old friends, and a good bridge between the new-and-old styles of music out there. They have a solid rock-band approach, which translates well to smaller stages like this – although they hold enormous shows (like two sold-out shows at Wembley Stadium!) elsewhere due to popular demand. They know the game here, and stick mainly to the hits (‘Everlong’, ‘Learning to Fly’, ‘There Goes My Hero’, etc) with a few newer ones (‘The Sky is a Neighborhood’) thrown in to keep it fresh. Many of us backstage and offstage watched Taylor Hawkins their drummer; he’s impossible to ignore, truly a musical drummer and physically a driving force for the band. (Taylor’s also a big Who fan, and afterward came up to our manager Bill Curbishley saying “You’re a legend!” not something every manager hears from a newly-met rockstar.

Backstage with Pink, Perry Farrell and Roger

Like the others, the Foos kept their setlist short – nearly an hour. It’s tough as everyone wants to see as much as possible, but four major acts is tricky to handle in one evening! PLUS – between the acts there are auctions being held live to raise more money. Among the cool auction options tonight:

• A one-off print of the new WHO album cover, by artist Sir Pete Blake.

• Two backstage experiences with KISS, a signed guitar, a trip on their jet

• Courtside seats for a Lakers game, photos with the Laker Girls squad, extra tickets for Training and another home game

• Robb Reports “Car of the Year” judge position, where the winner gets to test and rate 12 of the greatest luxury sport cars on offer, plus two nights’ hotel rooms in Napa, including meals.

• Four dugout seats to a Dodgers game, with parking pass, dinner before game, first pitch and PA system announcement options, Jac Pedersen jersery, signed Sandy Koufax jersey, batting practice for 10 at the Dodger batting cages.

• One-of-a-kind Bremont wristwatch hand-painted by guitarist Ronnie Wood specifically for this event.

Following this, The Who set was brief and fun . . .

I Can See for Miles
The Seeker
Won’t Get Fooled Again (acoustic)
Behind Blue Eyes (with Audrey and Katie on strings)
The Kids Are Alright
Who Are You
Baba O’Riley

And finally . . . ‘Pinball Wizard’.

For this, the band are joined by a “guest drummer” – an attendee who paid (reputedly) $250,000 to play drums with The Who on one song. We are all quickly introduced to “Ken” who is a drummer himself, playing covers with his own band back home. ‘Pinball’ starts out, and gets a little “loose” at time, but Ken is trying hard, and doing pretty well at times. Pete introduces him – saying how he’d paid so much, but repeatedly emphasized the guy must be a “total f*ing idiot!” over and over, but then explained the situation to the audience: This is not his own drum set, it’s Zak’s. Zak has a bizarre setup for most drummers, and has learned to play this well, not too easy for an outsider. They also explain that Zak’s kit is electronic, triggering real sounds, the hi-hat cymbal is off to the right, which is highly unusual, but not that hard to play.

Drummer Ken with his new band

During ‘Pinball Wizard’, Ken did some really cool fills. Basically, small achievements here are rewarded with significant hooting and yelling from this crowd. In the end, he did well, considering the difficulty and pressure. Pete recognized him as the “bravest man I know . . .” Well done, Ken!

Introductions and thanks abound tonight, and Pete tells everyone Roger is the leader here, the most-involved and active of anyone here. He also says he once used the term “kids” to describe some younger people, and Roger corrected him: it’s not OK to call teens “kids” anymore, but they’re not really adult nor a child. They are their own category, and this charity will look after them wherever possible.

Toward the end, it was getting late and likely pushing into overtime for some. Roger called “an audible” call to eliminate ‘You Better You Bet’ from this show. Rather than a drawback, it made more and more sense as things were moving quickly and it was almost time to get home.

‘Baba O’Riley’ closes the night with Katie and her magnificent violin solo bringing it all home

All in all, it was not a great show, but a simple and fun one. The band played sans-orchestra for the first show in ages. Most importantly, we’re told between four to five million dollars was raised on the night. What a long day, a bit of trouble just to put it on the day after a major, full show. However, all complaints pale in comparison to the money raised for a superb cause!

Now . . . time for a good long break (we’ve all earned it) and then we’ll see where this goes. Photographs here by our good buddy William Snyder.