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All These Girls Can Rock Too! Rock And Roll Camp For Girls LA Teaches Young Women More Than Music

Rock N Roll Camp for Girls LA Empowers


Rock N Roll Camp for Girls LA is an empowering experience for young women – campers get to learn music and more from musician mentors. And the mentors in return, learn a lot from the kids.

Rock and Roll Camp for Girls is held in DTLA - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Rock and Roll Camp for Girls is held in DTLA – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Summer Camp and More

Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles was founded in 2010 by the Raining Jane musicians. It started as solely a summer camp and there were 50 campers. But today the group serves two sessions of summer camp, a music video program and a counselor-in-training program. A fundraiser program called Ladies Rock Camp was created as a 3-day session to help build awareness and raise money.

The campers wrap up their session with a performance – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

RCGLA Has Grown

But today the group serves two sessions of summer camp, a music video program and a counselor-in-training program. A fundraiser program called Ladies Rock Camp was created as a 3-day session to help build awareness and raise money.

Immaculate Conception School in downtown L.A. has been the home to RCGLA programs from the very beginning.

Mona Tavakoli, (L) one of the members of Raining Jane, is a coach and mentor – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Confidence and Music Too

RCGLA does it all in the name of building confidence in young women — and of course, it’s done for the fun of learning to play music. Girls break up into separate bands, give their bands an identity and present their music at a popular venue at the end of the camp session. Last year the presenting venue was The Troubadour in West Hollywood.

Each camper joins a band, creates identity and music – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Music Video Program

“I was able to create music videos because I was in the music video program,” said Malia Balancia, who worked in a team to create a music video for the local LA band Wasi. “What is so great about the Rock and Roll Camp for Girls is it builds confidence, you learn how to work in a team to create music and it gives everyone the chance to have a say in their projects.”

Counselors inspire — and perform — during camp – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Sunday Fundays

The program has grown to beyond just summer. RCGLA recently launched its first series of all-ages events outside of Summer Camp, Sunday Fundays.

RCGLA was the first “Girls Rock Camp” to be established in Southern California. It was inspired by the Girls Rock Camp movement taking place around the world and especially by Bay Area Girls Rock Camp, and the first-ever Girls Rock Camp in the world: Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Portland.

Campers screen music videos and perform the music they created during the camp – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

RCGLA is a proud member of the Girls Rock Camp Alliance.

For information go to the Rock N Roll Camp for Girls LA website.

Counselors inspire – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


More information on the camp is available at the RCGLA website – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


The girls show off their projects at the Troubadour last year – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


Girls camp culminates in a performance at a popular LA venue – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Powerman 5000 and the Radioactive Chicken Heads Draw a New Arts Crowd to Our Favorite Bowling Alley

Powerman 5000, Chicken Heads Come to Lucky Strike


It wasn’t exactly the hoi-polloi, but Powerman 5000 and Radioactive Chicken Heads brought fans of the arts and entertainment to Lucky Strike for a special event, Scratch and Sniff.

Powerman 5000 looks a little different when unplugged - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Powerman 5000 looks a little different when unplugged – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Each band did a stripped down version of their acts with Powerman 5000 playing an impressive acoustic set dressed as The Allman Brothers, and Chicken Heads cutting to their most basic calamitous songs.

Spider One, dressed as Greg Allman performs an acoustic set - Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Spider One, dressed as Greg Allman performs an acoustic set – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

Powerman 5000 with its flamboyant frontman Spider One, created the art event coincidentally while ASCAP EXPO was going on next door at the Loews Hotel Hollywood. Say what you will about the topics of the pieces painted by Spider One, but the work is excellent and worth the price tag.

Spider One dressed as Greg Allman with a wig of long, white hair, and a bandana, and the rest of the band kept in genre as well.  It was a little odd seeing them in this costume mode, as opposed to their typical metal-style appearance. The evening was put together by Krsy Fox.

Spider One had an art exhibit in the back room, and his works include several robot paintings — from different eras — a James Bond tribute, as well as his renditions of Bela Lugosi and Frankenstein. The artwork is compelling and has a sense of humor to it, but then, would we expect any less from the brother of Rob Zombie?  I hope for the sake of our own further disappointment, that Spider refrains from drinking the foo-foo double lattes preferred by his renowned hard rock, horror-slinging sibling.

Powerman 5000 puts on a good show no matter what style it is, even if it’s with acoustic guitars and a box as was the case Friday night. The sound in Lucky Strike is excellent, so much so that Powerman 5000 recorded a live EP in there that night.  Not a lot of details yet. The proceeds from the album will go to an animal adoption charity.

The Radioactive Chicken Heads wrapped up the night in typical calamity — chasing each other around the stage, singing punk songs and even falling down.  It’s well worth any cost of admission to see this group and it’s entertaining on several levels.

We especially like that the Radioactive Chicken Heads don’t pull any punches. They know they’re punkers and don’t pretend to be anything else.  Their leader, Carrot Top, runs a tight ship and makes sure good conquers evil in the shows.

There’s a bit where a dancing cheese and a Rat Fink-looking Chucky Cheese come out and Carrot Top brings out a knife to — what else? — cut the cheese of course. Then they perform “Pest Control.” We loved El Pollo Diablo, who jabs Carrot Top with his pitchfork.  It is legend that El Pollo Diablo came from a Deviled Egg. They also do a song “I Looked Into The Mirror,” which Carrot Top does and lo and behold his evil twin appears and they do battle.

Anyway, it’s all in good fun. The Radioactive Chicken Heads have been around since the late 1990s and have gotten their fair share of attention in the press and have built a loyal following. Carrot Top’s imagination fueled this band as he said he always had characters in his brain.  He even wrote comic books on his characters.

Ill Repute, The Grim, to Headline Punk Rock Swap Meet for Charity in Canoga Park Saturday

Punk Rock Swap Meet: Buy, Sell or Slam!


Ill Repute and The Grim headline Punk Rock Swap Meet, the annual charity event tomorrow in Canoga Park.

Attendees are encouraged to “Buy, Sell or Slam” as the Knights of Columbus-hosted bi-annual gig and indoor swap meet celebrates its second year. It’s an all-in-one event open to all ages with seven bands and full bar with ID.


Organized through Knights of Columbus, Council #3601, a seven-band strong showcase of punk rock that has to rival punk rock bowling as strange combination of events will be held at 21433 Strathern St., Canoga Park from 4 p.m. on. All ages are welcome, there will be door prizes and a raffle. Food will be available also.

Ill Repute, Naked Aggression, The Grim, Corrupted Youth, The Shermtones, Mother of Dissension and Bootleg Brigade will perform. Admission price is $10. Advance tickets are $8.

For vendor or general information, contact Bob Oedy at (818) 492-8690 or

‘Gimme Shelter,’ Book of Celebs and Four-Legged Pals, Benefits Pet Orphans Charity at ChristmasTime

Pet Orphans Adorable Photos to Adopt Out Animals


Suzanne Allison Witkin, accomplished rock photographer, lives a double-life as animal advocate and president of the charity Pet Orphans. In time for the holidays, she produced a gorgeous hardbound book of photographs of animals and their human owners called Gimme Shelter. California Rocker asked Suzanne the important questions.

California Rocker: How did you get the idea to take photos of pets to help them get adopted?  

Suzanne Allison Witkin: Four years ago I started volunteering at Pet Orphans of Southern California. I brought my camera and took a few photos and shared them on social media and noticed that it helped the dog or cat look better, healthier and made adopters get a real sense of what the animal was like. After I noticed what an improvement it was, I began taking all the dogs and cats’ photos for the website and from there I just kept adding more. Besides, I get such pleasure from it. 

Gimme Shelter Courtney Cox

Courtney Cox and her daughter Coco – Photo © Suzanne Allison Witkin

CR: When did you decide to do ‘Gimme Shelter,’ your great book of these photos?

SAW: I wanted to do a book before I started taking photos of shelter animals. a few years before I volunteered I had an idea for a coffee table book with celebrities and their pets. But didn’t actually do the book until after I started to volunteer at Pet Orphans and decided to add the rescue pets as well.

Want to Adopt a Pet? Check out Pet Orphans 

Suzanne Allison Witkin, her book and a friend - Photo for California Rocker

Suzanne Allison Witkin, her book and a friend – Photo for California Rocker

CR: What are some of the challenges in photographing pets in a studio setting?

SAW: Getting them to stay still in the right lighting. Outdoor photos are easier but I like the portrait look of the studio photos better sometimes. It captures every bit of detail. I sometimes need an assistant to help. And they get bored quickly as well. Gotta be fast and make really silly noises to get their attention.

CR: What was the funniest thing that ever happened on a shoot?

SAW: I got peed on. 

Marilyn Manson Gimme Shelter

Marilyn Manson and Lily White – Photo © Suzanne Allison Witkin

CR: What was the most amazing thing that ever happened on a shoot?

SAW: A scared and aggressive dog bonded with me. She was shaking so bad and hid but finally came out and smiled and gave me kisses

Johnny Depp Pet Orphans Gimme Shelter

Johnny Depp and painting by Johnny of his Dog Moo – Photo © Suzanne Allison Witkin

CR: Do the photos of the pets actually help them get adopted from Pet Orphans?

SAW: Yes, in fact, more rescues and shelters are trying to get better photos and videos of the animals at the shelters. Lot’s of adopters are afraid of the animal if they look sick, dirty or scary. Or they can’t tell what the animal looks like.

Check Out Pet Orphans’ Facebook Page for Cute Animals

CR: Who are the people behind Pet Orphans, board members of course, but who is the person who started it and why?

SAW: There were three women back in 1973 and one of the women found a dog by the freeway. After that, they started to rescue more and made their homes into a small rescue. A short time later, they raised enough money and wound up getting a facility donated to them. They started a 501c3 charity and 46 years later, Pet Orphans is still around and saving many lives. Sadly the last remaining co founder past away a little over a year ago. She took me under her wing and made I became president 2 1/2 years ago. We have five board members, some new, and some have been with Pet Orphans many years.  The three founders were Diane A. Scripps (1928 – 2015) Virginia M. Haley, and Lorraine Neikirk (1927 – 2002)

Gimme Shelter the book

Gimme Shelter the book is available for the holidays – Photo for

Pet Orphans is open Monday-Friday 12 PM to -4 PM and Saturday and Sunday 12 PM to 5 PM. The address for Pet Orphans is 7720 Gloria Avenue in Van Nuys. Call (818) 901-0190 or visit Pet Orphans online at or at  

To buy a copy of Gimme Shelter go to the Gimme Shelter Book website.

To support Pet Orphans or adopt a pet go here.


Music Producer Jason Cole In Critical Condition After Hit-And-Run With Dump Truck in Hollywood


Music producer Jason Cole remained in critical condition Thursday after he was run over by a dump truck while riding his motorcycle in Hollywood.

The accident happened at around 12:30 p.m. Dec. 2 near the corner of Franklin and Highland in Hollywood.  Cole’s partner, Danielle McCleerey, is asking anyone who has any information to come forward.  The driver is still out there.

Jason Cole, music producer. His family has started a Go Fund Me campaign.

Jason Cole, music producer, who was critically injured in a hit and run accident in Hollywood. His family has started a Go Fund Me campaign.

The family has started a Go Fund Me page and you can contribute or find out more information here. Cole’s injuries are severe and the Go Fund Me goal is $150,000.

Cole, who has worked with musicians including Katy Perry and The Killers, is the father of baby Owen and is an avid motorcycle enthusiast.  The dump truck driver who is still at large, crushed him against a car and ran him over.

The family is asking for help in solving the hit-and-run crime.  Check out the Go Fund Me page for Cole.


Wayne Kramer and Jail Guitar Doors Concert ‘Rock Out 3!’ Bring Humanity Out from Behind Prison Bars

Don Was and Marshall Crenshaw - Donna Balancia California Rocker

Don Was and Marshall Crenshaw – Photo by Donna Balancia


Wayne Kramer still champions the underdog.

Kramer, founder of MC5, the legendary band that started the punk revolution, is still raging — to help those behind bars.

He was joined by Don Was, Marshall Crenshaw, Gilby Clarke and a host of others at The Ford Theatres at a concert called Rock Out 3! to benefit Jail Guitar Doors USA.

The organization brings musical instruments into prisons and youth camps, teaches inmates music, and creates hope for those behind bars.

Wayne Kramer and Marshall Crenshaw - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia for California Rocker

Wayne Kramer and Marshall Crenshaw – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“We give them a guitar to pick up so when they get out they won’t pick up a gun,” Kramer said. “The music takes them out of their surroundings and gives them hope.”

Rock Out! 3, the third annual Benefit Concert for Jail Guitar Doors USA drew fans and rockers alike.

Jail Guitar Doors is a California non-profit organization that provides musical instruments and opportunities to help rehabilitate prisoners.

In 2009, musicians/activists Kramer and Billy Bragg created Jail Guitar Doors USA, which puts on music based prison outreach programs that work to help minimize prison violence and give hope to inmates.

‘Personal Subject’ for Kramer

Wayne Kramer, Alma Robinson and Larry Brewster - California Rocker

Wayne Kramer, Alma Robinson and Larry Brewster – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

It’s a very personal subject to Kramer who was incarcerated on drug charges. In 1977 The Clash recorded “Jail Guitar Doors,” a song detailing the imprisonment of their hero and fellow musician, MC5’s Kramer.

There are devoted volunteers who all showed up at the Ford Theatre event. While there may be a stigma about working with “tough guys,” volunteer Donna Jo Thorndale said when she goes into the prisons she has no preconceived notions.

No Judgment Zone

“The inmates have been judged enough, they don’t need me to judge them.”

Donna Jo says she’s seen progress as a result of the work of Jail Guitar Doors.

Larry Brewster and Donna Jo Thorndale - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Larry Brewster and Donna Jo Thorndale – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“When they focus on the music it helps them to develop self confidence and that’s an ‘inside job.'”

Prof. Larry Brewster said after going into the prisons, he comes away with “new best friends.”

“I’ve made some good friendships,” said Larry, a professor at University of San Francisco.

Teaching volunteer Cody Marks agreed.

“It feels good to get through to the guys,” Cody said. “We form bonds with the prison population and when one guy might be transferred we’ll see sometimes them again at another prison.”

Wayne Kramer: ‘Progress Being Made’

Don Was said he’s been working with Kramer on Jail Guitar Doors for several years.

Wayne Kramer - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Wayne Kramer – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Was gets a great deal of satisfaction out of seeing progress.

“It could be anyone of us in there,” said Don Was, who was a headliner at the event. “We tend to believe that the prison population is some other species, but if one or two things didn’t go the right way, it could just as easily be me or you in there.”

A couple of years ago, we went in to Sing Sing Prison and we played a concert,” Was said. “Some people screw up and people tend to forget that about this population.”

Jail Guitar Doors lobbyies against unjust lengthy prison sentences, the privatization of prisons for profit, and seeks to restore humanity in a forgotten segment of our citizens: Those incarcerated.

Wayne, Cody and Jeff - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Wayne, Cody and Jeff – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Program Growing With Number of Inmates

From 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled, skyrocketing from roughly 500,000, to 2.3 million, according to the US Bureau of Statistics.

Kramer said Jail Guitar Doors is in 65 prisons, there are songwriting workshops in four.

Kramer was joined at the event by Jill Sobule, Elainie Mandel, Crenshaw, Clarke, Keith Morris, Jason Heath and The Greedy Souls and The Wild Reeds.

Bobcat Goldthwait and Matt Pinfield were special guests with Goldthwait as emcee.

Jason Heath, frontman for Jason Heath and The Greedy Souls said he was happy to participate.

Wayne Kramer and friends - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Wayne Kramer and friends – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“It’s important to remember the people who are serving prison terms,” Heath said. “And we’re honored to play this show.”

Highlight of the evening was an all-star version MC5’s “Kick Out The Jams,” with all the musicians doing their own thing up there

“We do this because we care and we want to let them know inside the prison that the people outside care,” Cody said.

No Easy Job

The Jail Guitar Doors is not an easy undertaking.

Cody said that there was an extensive process to bring in musical equipment in to work with the prisoners.

Wayne Kramer and Jill Sobule - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Wayne Kramer and Jill Sobule – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“They check everything,” Cody said. “They even count the strings that you have for the guitars, they look at the picks,” she said. “One time we broke a string, you have to be careful everything is accounted for.”

Songs ranging from The Who cover “We Won’t Get Fooled Again,” by Clarke, to “Television Light,” by Crenshaw, Eleni Mandell’s “I Belong To Someone New,” brought out the best in the evening before the showstopper finale.

For more information, go to



Second Annual Ride For Ronnie Draws ‘United Nations’ of Bike Enthusiasts, Sons of Anarchy Stars

Sean McNabb and Gilby ride on - Photo © 2016 Jesse Silva

Sean McNabb and Gilby ride on – Photo © 2016 Jesse Silva

Emilio Rivera Joins Ride to Support Cancer Research

Photos © 2016 JESSE SILVA; Story by JOHN DALY

The second annual motorcycle ride and concert to benefit cancer research, Ride For Ronnie, drew devoted friends and fans of rocker Ronnie Dio to Los Encinos State park Sunday.

Among the hundreds on hand were celebrities and motorcycle enthusiasts who rode and attended a concert in the late heavy metal rocker’s name, put on by The Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund, which benefits cancer research.

Sons of Anarchy actor Emilio Rivera and rockers Sean McNabb and Gilby Clarke were among the riders, who came together to raise money for cancer research in the name of Ronnie Dio.  Heavy metal rocker Dio fronted Rainbow, Elf, Heaven and Hell and Black Sabbath.

Sponsored by Harley Davidson of Glendale, a good group of celebs, rockers and regulars were on hand to pay tribute with a ride and concert. Rivera frequently rides for charity, see his charity ride here.

“If there was a United Nations of bikers we would totally be in,” said photographer Jesse Silva, who documented the event.

It is the second time the event was put on by The Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund, which supports research and education that furthers early detection, prevention and treatment of prostate, colon and stomach cancer.

The charity says it has raised almost $1 million for research. The money has been been committed to the cancer research work of the T. J. Martell Foundation for Cancer, AIDS and Leukemia Research, the gastric cancer research unit of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where Ronnie was treated for gastric cancer during the last six months of his life, and other cancer research projects.

The Mayans return? Emilio Rivera and friends ride - Photo © 2016 Jesse Silva

The Mayans return? Emilio Rivera and friends ride – Photo © 2016 Jesse Silva

Rock-N-Roll Christmas Show on Dec. 13 Brings Together Musician Friends to Play for MusiCares

Freebo with Chad Watson - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Freebo with Chad Watson – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Freebo, Carnie Wilson and Albert Lee are among the musical stars that headline The Rock-N-Roll Christmas Show to benefit MusiCares at Cal State Northridge on Dec. 13.

The Rock-N-Roll Christmas Show brings together some of the best known names in music and will be held at The Plaza Del Sol Performance Center at Cal State Northridge.


Jim Nelson, the well-known DJ from sponsor station KCSN will emcee the event, which raises money for MusiCares, a charitable giving arm of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.  MusiCares helps connect musicians with health and medical programs.

Carnie Wilson - Photo © Gage Skidmore

Carnie Wilson – Photo © Gage Skidmore

Rock Cellar Magazine is another presenting sponsor. The show is produced by The Get Together Foundation.


Participating musicians include: Debbi Peterson (The Bangles); Albert Lee (Bill Wyman, Emmylou Harris, Everly Brothers, Eric Clapton); Carnie Wilson, Rosemary Butler (Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt); Freebo (Bonnie Raitt); Ken Stacey (Ambrosia, Michael Jackson); John Wicks (The Records); Lois Blaisch (Neil Young, David Foster); Marky Lennon (VENICE – the band); Gary Griffin (Brian Wilson); Rob Bonfiglio (Wilson Phillips); Marc Mann (Jeff Lynne, Concert for George); Kiki Ebsen, The Honeys (Marilyn Wilson); Gary Stockdale (Randy Newman) and MB Gordy (Doobie Brothers); John Pratt (vox); Tom Jacob (vox); Dave Pearlman (pedal steel); Chad Watson (bass & bone); Henry Arias (percussion); Eric Mayron (keys) and John McNeely (vox) among others.

MusiCares® Rock-n-Roll Christmas Show is produced by the Get Together Foundation team: President Kevin Wachs, Michael Stern, Jay Cohen, Lauri Reimer, Gary Griffin (Brian Wilson, Jan & Dean). Organizer and promoter is Irene LoConto.

A similar event held last summer raised more than $20,000.


TICKETS are also available through the Plaza Del Sol box office 818-677-3000

Unity Concert at The Wiltern Combines Nature, Buddz and Healing Reggae

Nature opens the inaugural Unity Concert - Photo © Donna Balancia

Nature opens the inaugural Unity Concert – Photo © Donna Balancia

Roots, Art, Music, Steal the Show at Inaugural Unity Concert for Lovers of People and Reggae

By DONNA BALANCIA — The Unity Concert Series kicked off in grand style at the Wiltern theatre Thursday night, with Collie Buddz and Nature leading off a special night to benefit The Community Healing Gardens of Venice.

Julian Marley and David Hinds of Steel pulse were the headliners in an evening of love and peace. And Bob Marley would have been proud of this evening at the stately Wiltern, which is obviously well cared-for.

Leon with Sandy Simmons- © 2015 Donna Balancia

Leon and Sandy Simmons Photo 2015 Donna Balancia

There were representatives from Live Nation, Universal Music and the press, blogs and magazines.

But more importantly, reggae performer Rocky Dawuni and the fantastic Leon were in attendance.

You can see Dawuni’s latest CD, Branches Of The Same Tree, at the check out aisle of Whole Foods nationwide.  Leon was a fabulous stage presence and is, well of course … Leon.

“All the performers are great and it’s really amazing that everyone has come together like this,” said Lani who came from Northern California. “I hope they do this every year.”

The evening marked the first Unity Concert, and donations went to The Community Healing Gardens.

Nature Ellis, dynamic performer - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Nature Ellis, dynamic performer – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

‘By growing a garden, you can grow community’

“We are so pleased and happy for the support,” said Anita Cymet of Healing Garden.

Cymet was supported on stage by actor Leon, who looked dapper in his stylish hat.  “We want the community to come together.”

The Healing Garden is only two months old and works to install confidence and kindness by putting together arts and hands-on garden work.

By growing a garden, it helps to grow the community, Anita said.

Many people came together in support of the organization.  Many donated their time.

Artists flanked either side of the stage putting together their work to the reggae beat of the music.  The Wiltern was in its glory as a respectful crowd and joyed the peace and good vibes.

Collie Buddz captured the audience at the inaugural Unity Concert at the Wiltern - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Collie Buddz captured the audience at the inaugural Unity Concert at the Wiltern – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The music of the dynamic Nature opened the evening.

There is innate talent here — Nature Ellis runs across the stage as his band plays and engages the audience with his playful, but thought-provoking songs.

Look for Nature to break out to lead the Reggae field in short time.

Collie Buddz, the hip-hop reggae artist, is something to see live.  Hailing from Bermuda, he rallies the crowd to enjoy his show, with audience members waving arms and cheering along with him.

He used an audience member’s cell phone to record the audience and brought another attendee, named Joe, to join him on stage.

Marley and Hinds always put on a nice show and lived up to their names, for the audience on hand.

A special finale marked the evening, as the group came together.


VIDEO: Johnny Depp, Gene Simmons, Gilby Clarke Play for Charity at Lucky Strike

Johnny Depp and Gene Simmons get down at Concert for Mending Kids - Photo © 2015 Melany Sirkedjian

Johnny Depp and Gene Simmons get down at Concert for Mending Kids – Photo © 2015 Melany Sirkedjian

With PHOTO GALLERY Story by DONNA BALANCIA and Photos by MELANY SIRKEDJIAN – HOLLYWOOD — Johnny Depp and Gene Simmons took to the stage at Lucky Strike Live in Hollywood to jam for charity on Sunday night.

The two played “School’s Out,” “Deuce,” and “Rock And Roll All Night,” with Depp dressed in white shirt with vest and Simmons wearing a blue-and-skull collarless shirt.


Others joining the all-star jam were Extreme, which reunited for several songs at least, including their classic “More Than Words.”

During the evening, representatives of Mending Kids and human success stories resulting from the Mending Kids charity took the stage to talk about the importance of its mission.  Mending Kids is a group that performs reconstructive surgery on underpriviliged children around the world.


Johnny Depp - Photo © Melany Sirkedjian

Johnny Depp – Photo © Melany Sirkedjian

Leading up to Depp and Simmons who hit the stage as the last act of the night, there was plenty of entertainment.

Gilby Clarke was a fun master of ceremonies while anchoring the music for the evening. The night started off with a rousing rendition of “It’s Only Rock N Roll,” by The Rolling Stones and “Pump It Up,” by Elvis Costello.

Debby Holiday brought it, with her sassy version of the Rod Stewart and The Faces’ classic “Stay With Me.” Holiday was the surprise powerhouse of the evening.

The audience was a “Who’s Who” of Rock N Roll and celebrity with Christine Devine of Fox News; Ralph Saenz of Steel Panther; Danish Prince Mario-Max and the it couple Jo Hilton and Dr. McCoy Moretz.


[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”17″ gal_title=”Gene Simmons Johnny Depp”]

Mavis Staples is Awarded The Woody Guthrie Prize at LA’s GRAMMY Museum

Mavis-Staples-Photo © Donna Balancia

Mavis Staples performs at GRAMMY Museum – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA — Mavis Staples was awarded the Woody Guthrie Prize at the GRAMMY Museum in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday night.

Among those on hand for the prestigious event were Bob Santelli GRAMMY Museum executive director, and Deana McCloud, executive director of the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Okla.

“Music can be a great tool for social justice,” McCloud said. “We want to change lives and change the world. In this country our history isn’t necessarily pretty but we’re looking for ways to do better.”

Megan Ochs, the daughter of Phil Ochs, accepted the Woody Guthrie Legacy Award on behalf of her father.

“As  patriot it’s not only the right but the responsibility to challenge the government,” Ochs said. “My father found a way to interpret political times through music.”

Staples said she was honored to receive the Woody Guthrie Prize, particularly since The Staples Singers — comprised of patriarch Roebuck “Pops” Staples, Cleotha, Mavis and Pervis Staples — always loved Guthrie’s songs.

Mavis-Staples-Photo © Donna Balancia

Mavis Staples performs at GRAMMY Museum – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“I was a teenager when I heard Peter, Paul and Mary sing “This Land Is Your Land,” and we loved the song so much that we recorded it.”

The lively leader of The Staples Singers, Mavis gave an audience of GRAMMY members and guests insights into her inspiration to sing and record freedom songs.

The Staples Singers had a history of gospel, but it was during the time of the preachings of Dr. Martin Luther King that they found their calling.

She said until the Staples Singers came along, gospel had not previously been blended with blues and it was something that made her family unique — even though their sound was met with a degree of resistance.

Staples said some things have improved, compared to the day and age in which she was raised.  She said her father was 18 and her mother was 16 when they married and that her father was proud of her mother’s cooking.

“My father would invite people over for dinner,” she said. “Ray Charles, Nancy Wilson… Ray tried my mother’s Sweet Potato Pie and said, ‘We should franchise,'” she recalled. “We could make big ones, little ones,'” she recalled. ”  My father would bring sweet potato pie to the disc jockeys,” she said. “They would say, The Staples Singers don’t need payola, they have ‘Pie-ola.”‘

Mavis-Staples-Photo © Donna Balancia

Mavis Staples discusses civil rights at GRAMMY MUSEUM -Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Staples said she was influenced by Guthrie and a host of artists like Joni Mitchell and others who used the guitar.  She told her father she wanted to learn the guitar.

“Pops had me cut my fingernails,” she said. “He gave me three lessons it was too much for him, I wasn’t learning fast enough. I wanted to pick I wanted to strum.”

Staples said she was flattered to be included in the Martin Scorsese film, The Last Waltz.  By the time the film was actually going into production, she had formed a strong bond with Levon Helm and The Band as well as Bob Dylan.  She said Dylan was always close to her brother Pervis.

Pervis is living in their parents’ house in Dalton, Ill., and he’s doing well, Staples said.

“He’s still frisky at 80,” she said. “He thinks he’s a player.”

As far as finding their successful niche, Staples said it was the sermons of Dr. Martin Luther King that influenced the Staples Singers.

“Pops had been hearing Martin Luther King on the radio and said he has a church and he would like to go to the 11 o’clock service,” Staples recalled. “We were ushered in and greeted by Dr. King who said he was glad to have Pops and the Staples.  After service, Dr. King used to shake hands. Pops shook hands and spoke to Dr. King for a while.  When we got home Pops called us in and said listen, y’all, if Dr. King can preach it, we can sing it.”

Staples said she was disappointed there aren’t more singers singing songs of freedom today and said she remains hopeful someone would come forth.

Staples sang a selection of songs and closed out the night with the GRAMMY-winning 1972 hit “I’ll Take You There,” which she said was initially scorned in the church because of its rythmn.

Mavis-Staples-Photo © Donna Balancia

Mavis Staples and GRAMMY Museum’s Bob Santelli discuss her Woody Guthrie Prize – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“They said it was Devil’s music,” she recalled. “I said, ‘The devil ain’t got no music, all music is God’s music.'”

Eventually, when she proved her point and was asked back to the church, she said the first request was “I’ll Take You There.”

Staples said she has felt fortunate to have worked with some of the top names in music.

She joked that after seeing all the memorabiliia in the GRAMMY Museum that’s devoted to Taylor Swift, she decided she would like to sing a duet with the young songstress.  “I would make more friends I think.”

In addition to collaborating with some of the greats, including Ry Cooder, and Curtis Mayfield, Staples said she enjoyed her recent work with Bruce Hornsby and Galactic.  The work won’t stop, she said.

“I’m not retiring as long as I have a voice,” she said.

And the best advice she ever received?  She said it was from her father.

“He said, ‘Sing from your heart, be sincere,” she said. “He said, if you’re singing from your heart, you’ll reach the people.'”

L.A. Guns — And Rock’s Young Guns — Play for Fair Pay at Whisky a Go Go

L.A. Guns Among Bands That Rally for Radio Royalties

L.A. Guns bassist Kenny Kweens, left, Michael Grant, right. - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

L.A. Guns bassist Kenny Kweens, left, Michael Grant, right. – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA — L.A. Guns and a range of bands performed at the Whisky a Go Go Friday night to support the Fair Play Fair Pay Act of 2015.

With a lineup mixed with veteran and young performers, musicians got out the word that radio needs to pay if they play. As things stand now, musicians don’t receive any money from AM-FM radio play.

Sponsored by MusicFirst and artists rep SAG-AFTRA, L.A. Guns headlined the awareness event, supported by bands Vudu Fly; Mr. White; Takin’ Nam3z; The Wyldz; Ithaca; and Ashes Of Eagles.

MusicFirst, with the support of SAG-AFTRA, is promoting and looking for support for a congressional bill that enables musicians and artists to be paid when their music plays on the radio. It also is looking for parity across music platforms via Internet and satellite.

Vudu Fly Featuring Aaron Quick on Washboard Slide Guitar - Photo © Donna Balancia

Vudu Fly Featuring Aaron Quick on home-made Washboard Slide Electric Guitar – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“We have a music economy, if you love music you want people to take a chance and develop,” said Dan Navarro, SAG-AFTRA vice president, recording artists. “They can’t do that if they’re not getting paid.”

The Fair Play Fair Pay bill closes the AM/FM performance rights loophole, makes all radio services pay a fair market rate for all music (including pre-1972 music), and streamlines payments to music producers. Please support the act by signing HERE

Navarro said with so few ways for musicians to earn a living today in view of new technologies, and illegal downloading and file-sharing, radio plays an important component.

“To earn a living from making music is their dream, it’s every artist’s dream to be successful in the art that they love,” Navarro said. “Radio isn’t paying royalties, it’s not promoting the artists any more, this must change.”

Ted Kalo, executive director of MusicFirst said, “We’re asking people to write their congressmen and support this bill that enables artists to earn their fair share when their music is played on the radio.”

Nick Brodeur of the Mr. White band - Photo © Donna Balancia

Nick Brodeur of the Mr. White band – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

For more information go to the MusicFirst website.

As for the rockin’ music on Friday night, the youngsters arguably outshined the veteran musicians at the Whisky.

“We love playing here, we’ve played here a lot,” said middle-schooler Maxx Henry, the drummer for the band Mr. White, a three-piece group from Irvine.

Supported by their parents and friends, the guys really have some talent with lead guitarist Nick Brodeur electrifying the audience, supported by his amazingly composed bassist brother, Will Brodeur and wildly talented drummer, Henry. If you added these guys’ ages together it wouldn’t be more than 45.

Mr. White the band clearly has a story to tell. Stay tuned.

Another young band, Takin’ Names, supported the evening with some rockin’ tunes, some familiar, and some originals, that the audience enjoyed.

Alex Dhee of The Wyldz is among the most compelling international rockers - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Alex Dhee of The Wyldz is among the most compelling international rockers – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The rest of the lineup brought originality, as Ithaca showed off their chops as well as their long hair and toned physiques; Wyldz came all the way from France to show how it’s done, and Ashes of Eagles kept the audience engaged and did it with a smile.

San Diego County-based Vudu Fly has an interesting sound, complete with a lead vocal guy who doubles as a slide guitarist — only this slide is made from a cigar box.

“My dad and I make electric guitars out of cigar boxes,” said Aaron Quick of Vista, Calif. He played one of his prized instruments to close out the Vudu Fly set.

For more information on Vudu Fly, check out their Facebook page.

The Wyldz probably were the most visually compelling of the bands during the night.  That’s not because of creative costuming, but solely because of guitarist Alex Dhee, whose guitar play and wild athletics steal the show. It doesn’t hurt their appeal to the girls that The Wyldz have French accents.

L.A. Guns - Flexibility, Not Mystery is Key to Success - Photo © Donna Balancia

L.A. Guns – Flexibility, Not Mystery is Key to Success – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Headliner L.A. Guns certainly bring the stage presence of a veteran group. With two of the early  members remaining from the 1980s band, guitarist Michael Grant and bassist Kenny Kweens bring a new flavor to a fun act from the past. The band has seen its share of members come and go, and for them, flexibility has been the key to financial longevity.

“As artists, it’s important to have as much control over our music as possible and to be compensated for our work at all times,” L.A. Guns said in a release. “The current AM/FM loophole takes advantage of not only bands like ourselves with deep music catalogs, but also up-and-coming artists who are just entering the industry. By forcing radio stations to step up, this bill levels the playing field. So let’s get it passed in Washington and support the next generation of rockers.”

See more at on the Fair Play Fair Pay Act here.

The current lineup of L.A. Guns consists of Phil Lewis on vocals and Steve Riley on drums as well as Michael Grant on guitar and Kenny Kweens on bass.

## #FairPlayFairPayAct

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CrueFest Hollywood 2015: Metal Shows its Golden Heart at Charity Event

Graham Bonnet Band rockin' at CrueFest - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Graham Bonnet Band rockin’ at CrueFest – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

CrueFest Hollywood Raises Cash to Help People With Cancer

By MALIA BALANCIA – Rock and Roll may never forgive, but it knows how to give back.

The stage at the Whisky A Go-Go was rockin’ at Cruefest Hollywood 2015, featuring bands including Downtown Attraction, L.A. Story, and the Graham Bonnet Band.

Steve Talbott of Gutterboys at CrueFest - Photo © 2015 Donna Balanci

Steve Talbott of Gutterboys at CrueFest – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The event is a charity fundraiser to benefit Letty’s Angels of Hope Foundation. See CrueFest Hollywood for more information.

Steve Talbott of the Gutterboys was emcee and became everyone’s favorite guy, as he threw T-shirts and guitar picks into the all-age audience that came to rock and raise money.  His band is fun and he’s got a hard-charging attitude.

There was too much talent to mention with highlights of the night including Downtown Attraction’s Jack Cash and Matti Jade teaming up with Buckcherry’s Stevie D. in an amazing set that blew out the Whisky.

Cash is remarkably agile and he is practiced at his performance.  Downtown Attraction moves forward in its success in a low-key manner but these guys are bound to break out in a big way.

Frontman Erik Hatchett and L.A. Story at CrueFest - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Frontman Erik Hatchett and L.A. Story at CrueFest – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

L.A. Story is one of the new bands on the scene with a fabulous theatrical appeal.  Frontman Erik Hatchett and his partner in crime, Jason Barajas, are a team for the ages with onstage antics that compel the audience to join in.

L.A. Story puts on an interactive performance, simultaneously taunting and charming the crowd.  The band is headed out on tour throughout the midwest to wrap up the summer.

A highlight of the night was the Graham Bonnet Band.  The guy still cooks along after all these years and brings the audience to a howling pitch and concert-goers cheer on the performance.

CrueFest Daisy DelaHoya and Black Star Electra - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

CrueFest Daisy DelaHoya and Black Star Electra – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

An unlikely if not mezmerising hit was Daisy DelaHoya, the sexy frontgal of Black Star Electra.  She’s best known for her reality TV stints, but this woman can belt it out.  Her moves are amazing and she had more photographers snapping her than bees around honey.  She’s one to watch — on several levels.

CrueFest 2015 was a hit and well worth the $20 admission for an all-day-long affair with plenty of chances for giveaways and live auction.  Appreciation to the Whisky A Go Go and the many who gave donations and product giveaways.[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”14″ gal_title=”CrueFest Hollywood 2015″]

Ladies Rock Show Los Angeles Raises Money to Comp Girls’ Music Camp

Women Play to Raise Money for Raining Jane’s Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles

Ladies Rock Camp - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Ladies Rock Camp – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia


Women of all ages rocked out at at the bootleg in Silverlake to raise money for Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles.

The fourth annual fundraiser, called Ladies Rock Camp Los Angeles, is put on by the members of Jason Mraz’ band, Raining Jane, and several hundred women.

The point is to raise funds to send girls to rock camp this summer.

The lady rock campers took a Memorial Day weekend together in Hollywood putting together seven distinct bands of virtual strangers and they have to write a song and create a logo.  The final step: To perform at the Bootleg.


Most of the women have never even picked up a musical instrument before.

“We all made friends with each other,” said Pegi Hayes of Oceanside, who made the trip from San Diego County and who was in the band called Vintage. “The challenge was to write a song, create a logo and write and perform with people you have never met before. It was really fun.”

Ladies Rock Camp Los Angeles held over Memorial Day weekend, raises funds for girls to go to camp. Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Ladies Rock Camp Los Angeles held over Memorial Day weekend, raises funds for girls to go to camp. Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Changing Girls’ Lives Through Music 

Mona Tavakoli of Raining Jane said the annual fundraiser gives women an idea of how the Rock Camp can change a girl’s life.  

The exercise helps underscore the importance of cooperation and creativity.

“This is an empowerment for women,” Tavakoli said. “It enables women learn to support each other and create together.”

Each of the seven bands were given two coaches. One coach,  Amber Elliott, said: “It’s a fun,  team building exercise that basically brings people together.”

Tavakoli said she and her Raining Jane band members Becky Gebhardt, Chaska Potter and Mai Bloomfield got the idea after volunteering at a girls camp in Portland.

“This is about creating opportunities for women to support each other,” Tavakoli said. “It’s a chance for women to collaborate, and not compete.”

Ladies Rock Camp - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Ladies Rock Camp – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Bands that participated had cool names:

Royal Illusions with Jenifer Roosevelt, Michelle Vogel, Karman Kregloe, Courtney Orsinelli, Sarah Haywood, Kelli Wymore and Nina Kurtz

Vintage with Pegi Hayes, Karen Bates, Cheryl Filipek, Jennie Pierce, Cat Bramhall, Whitney Hogan, and Amber Elliott

We Just Met with Paula Propst, Cheri Herrboldt, Reema Iqbal, Mary Kay Wolfe, Anita Brown and Aly Miguel; Unconditional with Ellen Jannol, Marissa Pittam, Jenni Mischel, Kelsey Kaszas, Olivia Alminiana

Ladies Rock Camp - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Ladies Rock Camp – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Rock-It Boots with Sandy Haasis, Jenny Dickmanm April Trestick, Kristine Kollasch, Celeste Ward and Marisa DeMeglio

Tigermouse with Jennifer von Stauffenberg, Vallie Gilley, Lori Wachter, Miranda Westerman, Phoebe-Marie Brown and Mai Bloomfield

Bad Rabbits with Kristine Surla, Anne Marie Iniguez, Jessica DiPaola, Charlene DiPaola, Myriam MacQuiddy, Dawn Thomas and Kelly Kathleen.

Smokey Robinson Gets His ‘Boots On’ for the Troops Before BET Awards

Motown ‘Mayor’ supports Boot Campaign

Smokey Robinson Boots - Photo courtesy

Smokey Robinson Boots – Photo courtesy

As Smokey Robinson prepares to be honored for his music career at this year’s BET Awards, he shows appreciation for the sacrifices service members make to keep all of us free to achieve our dreams.

“I’m wearing my boots today for all our troops around the world, and especially those who have given their lives and their limbs,” Robinson said. “I feel really good about wearing my boots to give thanks to those who are protecting our nation. I’m honored.”

“Our country has very few living legends in culture, as well as music, such as Smokey,” said Joey Jones, Boot Campaign chief operating officer, retired from the US Marine Corps. “Having him take hours of his day to come to us and put these boots on to show his personal support for our military and veteran communities was really an amazing show of patriotism.”

The BET network will present the legendary artist with a lifetime achievement award at the 15th Annual BET Awards, which airs Sunday.

With a music career spanning 50 years, Robinson is one of the most celebrated artists in music history. He is credited with influencing the development of Motown Records and is believed to have written more than 4,000 songs.

His list of professional accolades is long, including Kennedy Center Honors, the Grammy Living Legend Award and NARAS Achievement Award. He has been inducted into both the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.

For more information go to .

Bonnie Raitt and Musician Friends Celebrate Marty Grebb at Canyon Club

Bonnie Raitt - photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Bonnie Raitt – photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Musicians, Fans, Raise Money for Marty Grebb to Continue His Battle Against Cancer

Story and Photos © DONNA BALANCIA

Who says Rock ‘n Roll doesn’t have a heart?

Bonnie Raitt, Leon Russell, Ivan Neville and a select group of famous band musicians raised spirits — and cash — for their pal Marty Grebb, who is battling cancer.

Some of the finest ’70s and ’80s players — many, appropriately enough, from the heartland — jammed to raise money for Grebb at the Canyon Club, before about 450 concert-goers who paid upwards of $100 a ticket to attend the benefit.

Marty Grebb - photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Marty Grebb – photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Grebb, Raitt’s longtime band member — who has played with everyone from Eric Clapton to J.J. Cale — said he was overwhelmed by the joy and generosity in the room.

There were people there he hadn’t seen in years, and who came from the East Coast and heartland cities like Detroit and Chicago to see him.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Grebb said. “And I want to thank every one of you. Let’s play some music!”


The performances during the night were top rate and the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills proved it’s great venue to see a show.  Its acoustics are enhanced by the cozy wood-and-plush couches and chairs and the carpeted floors and velvet curtains.

Grebb kicked off the night with several tunes including a beautiful version of  “Come Rain or Come Shine.”  His pep and vigor was in full swing, though he admitted he does have to rest between his performances.

Leon Russell

Russell, in his all-white garb, including white hair, suit and cowboy hat, dispelled his apparition-like appearance with a very real performance that included a duet with 15-year-old blues guitar phenom Ray Goren, who blew the house away.  Goren is mentored by Russell and we can expect some great things from this amazing young talent.

Leon Russell - photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Leon Russell – photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Russell’s voice was clear and strong and his eyes are lively.  Included in his setlist were “Delta Lady,” “Back To The Islands,” and “Hummingbird.”

The Buckinghams

The handsome Dennis Tufano, who was in the band The Buckinghams with Grebb, crooned the throwback “Don’t You Care,” made famous by the band.  The Buckinghams influenced a lot of bands including Chicago, which adopted the horn-influenced big band style sound that brought them fame.

Ivan Neville

Grebb and Neville, who came to support his friend, contributed more great performances that incorporated all the band members. Grebb’s daughter, Malibu resident Anna Grebb, and her mom Lolly were also on hand, with Anna singing a few select tunes with her dad and giving a great hug at the end of her performance.

Anna Grebb - photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Anna Grebb – photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Raitt’s Good Friend

Raitt has been playing with Grebb since the 1970s and showed her affection for her longtime pal with a rousing performance of some of her most noteworthy tunes.

She opened with “Thing Called Love,” segued into “Nick of Time” and jammed with the band on “Three-Time Loser,” and “Think.”

“Marty has been a dear friend and musical collaborator since my second album back in ’72,” Raitt said.  “He is one of the most soulful and talented musicians I know…equally gifted and at home on sax, keyboards, a killer singer and songwriter. That kind of versatility is very rare indeed.”

The Benefit Concert

The gal who ran the event, Jennifer Waterhouse Pietro, accomplished a monumental task in arranging accommodations, meals and donations.

She credited her volunteer team, led by Annie Ellis and Leslie Bixler, and expressed her thanks to the donors, benefactors and the musicians.

Bonnie Raitt and band members play for Marty Grebb - photo © Donna Balancia

Bonnie Raitt and band members play for Marty Grebb – photo © Donna Balancia

“The Canyon Club is a great venue and it was fabulous that they donated the venue for Marty,” Pietro said. “We have really received an unbelievable amount of support and of course the musicians are phenomenal. They each have a really big heart.”

Among some of the auction items were a piano, an acoustic guitar donated by McCabe’s that was signed by the musicians, The Wrecking Crew movie gift basket, posters, several paintings and collector items.  Star Wagons and Casa Escobar provided the trailers and food.

While there were donations from many of those present, there is also the opportunity to contribute online. GO HERE for more information on Sweet Relief and its efforts to support Grebb and other artists.

Bonnie Raitt and Group - photo by Matthias von Bank

Bonnie Raitt and Group – photo by Matthias von Bank

Tom Morello Tears Down ‘Velvet Rope’ for Social Justice with Jackson Browne

Tom Morello photo by Donna Balancia

Tom Morello photo © 2015 Donna Balancia


HOLLYWOOD — With veteran rockers like David Crosby and Graham Nash and Jackson Browne, and up-and-comers like La Santa Cecilia and Rocky Dawuni, The Concert For Social Justice was one of the most inspiring concerts of the year.

It wasn’t the encore of “This Land Is Your Land,” that did it, although a concert finale that gathers Melissa Etheridge, Tom Morello and a bevy of actors and audience members to sing a well-known second-grade song is rousing.

The Concert For Social Justice at The Fonda Theatre last Wednesday night brought together a diverse group of people who want to deliver the message through song.  And it’s inspiring that singing out a message isn’t banned in our country yet. 

Jackson Browne - photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Jackson Browne – photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

After all, as our First Amendment rights and every day habits are being taken away by corporate greed and government mismanagement, it’s amazing we are allowed to gather and sing about pretty much whatever we want.  We still have that.

It’s rewarding to know how many people donate their time for a cause.  Billy Ray Cyrus, Martin Sheen, Chad Lowe, Alfre Woodard were among the actors who participated in the show.  The show was produced by RFK Human Rights and The GRAMMY Museum.

Both are both super organizations that do plenty for others, like putting on this concert that benefits the organizations’ joint K-12 education program, Speak Up Sing Out: Songs of Conscience.  The program invites middle-school and high-school students to write songs about social justice issues.

Melissa Etheridge - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Melissa Etheridge – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

And of course, the fans and VIPs who packed The Fonda Theatre and for the most part, it was a nice-looking group of well-heeled Californians.

And to have The Fonda Theatre on a Wednesday night is great, but remember, at the Fonda, you “can’t go in and out,” of the front entrance.  Even if you leave your cell phone in the taxi.  But that’s another story.

The audience was comprised mostly of those who were just old enough to go to the record store and buy Crosby Still Nash and Young’s Deja Vu album.  And since 1970, the year the album was released, many things have changed.  For one thing, while amply capable, the once-foursome is now most often Crosby and songwriter Nash who perform “Teach Your Children.”   In addition to the obvious absences of Neil Young and Stephen Stills, on the original recording, the late, great Jerry Garcia performed steel pedal.

David Crosby - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

David Crosby – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

One original from the album remains the same.  The superbly kind and professional Henry Diltz was on hand to photograph the concert.  Deja Vu is among Diltz’ more than vast portfolio of work dating back to the 1960s.  He is co-owner with Peter Blachley and Rich Horowitz of The Morrison Hotel Galleries in New York City, West Hollywood and the new location at the W Hotel in Hollywood.

Morello riled up the audience telling them to “take down the velvet rope” that separates the audience by class, and ticket price.  It probably isn’t a great feeling to be on stage and see a wall-to-wall 3-foot gap between the photographers in the pit and the adoring audience.  So Morello encouraged the audience to break down at least some barrier in their lives.  Even as a symbolic gesture it caused a rush of people to the front and a lot more happy faces.

La Santa Cecilia photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Students and Actors like Alfre Woodard perform spoken word – photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Etheridge sang some fun ones including her well-known “Bring Me Some Water,” and hosted her own secret confessions, telling the audience that she is a lesbian and she is in favor of legalizing pot.

Produced by RFK Human Rights and The GRAMMY Museum — and sponsored by 88.5 KCSN — The Concert For Social Justice featured veterans, but was really about enabling young musicians to find and create their messages for social change through songwriting.  It’s a wonderful initiative, and Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Bobby Kennedy, is the driving force.

Kennedy — with Bob Santelli, executive director of The GRAMMY Museum, at her side — thanked Browne profusely for his help, his time and his ability to gather like-minded artists to perform for the cause.  Of course, Browne looks great and is going on tour to promote his album Standing In The Breach.  He is a mellow presence among the group of fun rabble rousers.

And while headlined by Browne, Etheridge, Morello, and Crosby and Nash, the spotlight was on young artists like Rocky Dawuni and La Santa Cecilia.

Dawuni was impressive with his friendly demeanor and endearing efforts to get the audience to repeat his reggae chorus.  He is cool and his style is energetic and uplifting.

La Santa Cecilia - photo by Donna Balancia

La Santa Cecilia – photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

La Santa Cecilia is a treat with their colorful performance and up tempo music that combines beats from different regions and a style that mixes jazz, rock, tango and bolero. The band won a GRAMMY Award in 2014 for Best Latin Rock Album.

But the members of La Santa Cecilia were not the youngest people on the stage.

Jade Rhodes from the Brentwood School in Los Angeles was the first winner of the RFK Human Rights Speak Up Sing Out Music Contest and she brought the house to tears with her song, “Invisible.”  Written, and performed at the piano on Wednesday by Rhodes, “Invisible,” is based on how she imagines an immigrant student may feel in a new school.

And after Etheridge, Crosby and Nash, Morello, Browne, Dawuni and La Santa Cecilia and the actors all took the stage for the finale of “This Land Is Your Land,” Rhodes stepped up, front and center, and sang the loudest of them all.

Now that’s inspiring.

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