Erwin Center fills for wildfire relief benefit concert
Willie Nelson, the Dixie Chicks, Asleep at the Wheel, Eric Johnson, Lloyd Maines and Terri Hendrix were among the musicians that came together Monday night at the Erwin Center for Fire Relief: The Concert for Central Texas.
The concert, organized by area musicians, the University of Texas, the Erwin Center, Austin concert promoter Louis Messina and the Austin Community Foundation, raised money for victims of the wildfires that destroyed homes in Bastrop County and elsewhere in Central Texas in September.
"Everything will be OK, we'll get through this, the sun will shine, and we'll be all right," said guitarist Eric Johnson, who, along with Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson, came up with the idea for the event. Asleep at the Wheel performed and backed up Willie Nelson at the show.
A large crowd filed into the Erwin Center as soon as the doors opened at 5:30 p.m. Promoters could not confirm whether the event had sold out, but they said that all but a few tickets in the 16,000-seat venue had been sold in advance .
The night began with Austin singer-songwriter Christopher Cross, who performed his Grammy-winning song "Sailing." Members of the Austin Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of conductor Peter Bay, backed Cross on stage.
"It's been a marvelous experience for everyone involved," Erwin Center Director John Graham said. "Normally something like this takes four to six months to put together, and this came together in five weeks."
Austin-based writer and actor Turk Pipkin and Kyle Chandler, who played coach Eric Taylor on "Friday Night Lights," hosted the concert. Throughout the night, the two encouraged people to donate to the Austin Community Foundation's wildfire relief fund by texting the word "fire" to a designated number shown on screens above the stage (84465). In between acts, videos of the fire damage and aid efforts were shown, with relief efforts drawing cheers from the crowd.
"I want to thank my fellow residents in Bastrop, Texas. We're a tough bunch of people in Bastrop, and we'll be back," said Dallas Wayne, lead singer of Austin band Heybale and a Bastrop resident.
Pipkin said from the stage that 90 percent of production costs for the evening were donated by various parties involved and that net proceeds would go to the Central Texas Wildfire Fund at the Austin Community Foundation, which distributes money to nonprofit organizations providing aid.