So, I went to the second annual Rob Machado Benefit Concert. I’d also attended the first.
Before the concert began, VIPs were let into the Belly Up an hour before everybody else. Last year, it looked like VIPs were herded backstage for their M&G. This year, the M&G took place in the main part of the Belly Up. From my place in line, I could see that a small backdrop (with the name of Machado’s foundation printed on it) had been temporarily set up near one of the bars. Machado, John, and each VIP got their photos taken in front of it. Even from several yards away, I could see that John was chomping away on his usual gum!
I could also see that John was wearing a cheery red plaid shirt instead of his usual black. Last year, Machado had worn a plaid shirt. He wore a plaid shirt this year, too, and I wondered if John had decided to wear plaid this year in honor of the event’s host.
Getting back to the VIPs: last year, it seemed like most of the VIPs were seated off to the side of the stage. This year, because the VIP event took place in the main area, they were able to grab the best spots in front of the stage before the rest of us were allowed in. (Lucky them!)
Nevertheless, I wound up in the row front, at a far corner of the stage. It turned out to be a terrific spot. When super nice guy Rob Machado was standing next to the stage, I was able to congratulate him on the fact that his show had sold out, and I got a very big, sincere smile and a “thank you” from him, in reply. Also, Jason Mraz kept walking by my spot and wound up standing about six inches away from me, eating an energy bar or something, during the auction. (More on that later.)
The night’s first performer was a young local named Austin Burns. He’s a very good guitar player with a very sweet personality that reminded me of a young Jimmy Stewart. Unpretentious and sincere.
Run River North played next. (At one point, I thought they were scheduled to open for the GGD on NYE, but I don’t know if that’s still true.) There’s something about their sound, vocally, that reminds me of 1950s folk music -- kind of a Kingston Trio vibe. Throw in a little hint of 1960s pop, a couple of violins, and a female who softly harmonizes with the lead singer (who is very good), and you can kind of imagine what their sound is like.
John performed third. Before he came out, the stage was stripped. I’ve been to four concerts there (three featuring John), and I’ve never seen the space so bare. It was pretty much just John, the mic stand, and a wooden stool with a metal water bottle on it. I liked that the focus was on HIM, sans clutter.
Here’s the set list:
Broadway, Black Balloon, Rebel Beat, Come To Me, Sympathy, Can’t Let It Go, Name, Iris, Slide.
(Disclaimer: I’m terrible at remembering songs, but I was able to get one of the set lists as a souvenir, so this is DEFINITELY what he performed!)
John did a great job of singing, was really powerful in the way he attacked his various guitars during each song, and moved around his mic area a lot.
Unfortunately, there was a fight in the audience during one song, and John had to stop singing while security dealt with some female who had done who-knows-what. He eventually finished the song, but to me the interruption put an uncomfortable pall over the rest of his set.
Later, a woman standing near me insisted on handing John a handful of cash to donate to Machado’s cause. She could have just put it in the jar at the back of the venue – but, of course, then she wouldn’t have gotten to talk to John in the middle of his set. While stunts like this always annoy me, it got the gal a lot of repeat attention from John AND she was given an autographed water bottle and a signed set list.
Last year, at the end of John’s performance, he spontaneously decided to auction off his guitar. HE was the one urging people to bid more and more money and it was exciting and fun. This year, it was obvious that he was going to auction off the guitar he used for SLIDE because he’d already signed it before coming onstage. (I think Machado had autographed it, too – and Jason Mraz came out later to sign it, as well.)
Instead of just letting John do the auctioning, some local DJ climbed up onstage and took over, forcing John to step back and watch. Although $11,000 was raised for the cause, it seemed unfair to me that John’s generous gesture was taken out of his control – and it made the auction less fun. John, Machado, and Mraz posed with the wealthy bidder onstage.
At some point (can’t remember exactly when), the DJ said something to John – it sounded like he pointed out that his radio station had played NAME, in the early days?? – so that John pretty much had to say “thank you” to him. This made me even more annoyed with the DJ, because apparently it wasn’t enough that he'd taken the auctioning away from John, he THEN had to force John to express gratitude to him for something that had taken place years ago??? Ugh.
After John’s guitar was sold off, there were two more auctions: one was for a surfboard made by Machado and the other was for four snowboards signed by Green Day. Altogether, if my math and memory are right, the three auctions raised almost $40,000.
SIDE NOTE: it seemed kind of sad to me that John didn’t get to leave the stage to a round of applause after his part of the show. His set just kind of ended and was forgotten in the wake of all those auctions.
Jason Mraz performed last, and had an enthusiastic bunch of fans cheering him and singing along with many of his songs. He has a strong, pure voice, but I only stayed because I was hoping that John would return to the stage one last time.
Last year, John and Jon Foreman (the two main performers) and Machado teamed up for an exciting grand finale. There was such a sense of camaraderie and fun during their performance – but this year, when headliner Mraz finished his last song, that was that. The show was over. It was a wonderful night, but some of the magic that happened last year was missing. Oh well. At least Machado raised a lot of money for his cause. And that’s what matters most.