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Big names in music to play benefit for wildfire relief

Peter Mongillo
Ray Benson with Asleep at the Wheel will perform with Willie Nelson, Eric Johnson and other artists at 'Fire Relief: the Concert for Central Texans' at the Erwin Center on Oct. 17. All net proceeds from the concert will go to wildfire survivors.

Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett and the Dixie Chicks are among the artists who have agreed to perform at "Fire Relief: the Concert for Central Texas" on Oct. 17 at the Erwin Center.

The concert, organized by area musicians, the University of Texas, the Erwin Center, Austin concert promoter Louis Messina and the Austin Community Foundation, will raise money for victims of the wildfires that destroyed more than 34,000 acres and 1,600 homes in Bastrop County this month.

Austin-based guitarist Eric Johnson, along with Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, began calling musicians after seeing the extent of the fires' destruction.

"I have some friends that lost property and houses in Bastrop, and I think that one of the really sobering issues is that this particular demographic is the people that barely get by just as it is, they don't have a lot, so it's more than just rebuilding in an easy way," Johnson said.

Bands are donating their time, and others involved with producing the concert, including the university, are offering their services at cost. All net proceeds will go to the Central Texas Wildfire Fund at the Austin Community Foundation, which distributes money to nonprofit organizations providing aid.

Performers include Asleep at the Wheel, Steve Miller, Joe Satriani, Johnson, Shawn Colvin, the Courtyard Hounds and the Texas Tornados .

Actor Kyle Chandler, who won an Emmy Award on Sunday for his portrayal of coach Eric Taylor on "Friday Night Lights," will co-host the benefit with documentary filmmaker Turk Pipkin.

"We're going to do what we can; we're going to try to raise awareness and raise funds to help our Central Texas friends and neighbors," Erwin Center director John Graham said at a news conference Wednesday. "I doubt that there's anyone in the room that has not been affected directly or indirectly by these fires."

Austin Community Foundation Chairman-elect Steve Shook said the organization is focusing on long-term issues such as rebuilding and helping those who lost their livelihoods.

"There is going to be a much longer horizon for this, and our hope is to raise those funds working with community leaders, churches, other nonprofits, the American Red Cross and other folks that are out in those communities to see what we can do to aid them in the long run," Shook said.

Tickets, which will be $25, $35, $100 and $250, go on sale at noon Friday through www.

texasboxoffice.com. Usual service fees will not be charged.

Ticket sales are expected to raise between $450,000 and $500,000, according to Graham, with a silent auction of memorabilia autographed by participating artists and T-shirt sales raising more.

pmongillo@statesman.com