There are benefit concerts for any number of worthy causes, but one group that has seemingly gotten lost in the shuffle over the years is veterans.
Thankfully, others have noticed and there has been an emergence of late when it comes to concerts to benefit our nation’s veterans. There’s Vets Rock, which took place on Veterans Day at Mohegan Sun and featured Trace Adkins and Dropkick Murphys.
Closer to home, Devens Rock 4 Warriors takes place on Saturday night at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley. It features GE Smith, the former bandleader of the Saturday Night Live Band; Bill Kirchen, formerly of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen; The Persuasions, a legendary a cappella group from New York City; and Vetted, America’s first Wounded Warrior band.
I chatted with Alison Tocci of the Bull Run last week about the event, which was originally scheduled to take place the weekend before Memorial Day weekend at Fort Devens (hence the name), and how it came about.
“My friend Taylor Barton is a musician who happens to be married to GE Smith,” Tocci told me. “Together, they have been very active in supporting wounded veterans and their families. She invited me to a concert in New York City in support of returning veterans and I was very moved by the stories I heard. The struggle veterans face both physically and psychologically after serving is truly overwhelming. Music, it turns out, can be a big part of the healing process.”
Another interesting part of the Devens Rock 4 Warriors concert is that ticket-holders are encouraged to bring gently used musical instruments, which will be passed along to recovering veterans at Walter Reed Medical Center and other hospitals.
Tocci told me that some special guests have been invited to the concert, including the new commander of the Army base at Fort Devens, LTC Charlette Woodard, who Tocci said may be the first female ever in charge at Fort Devens.
“We’ll also have guest veterans in uniform from World War II to today. We’ll be selling commemorative bracelets as well as collecting the musical instruments.”
Tocci also thanked the local sponsors, including Bemis and Fidelity Bank in Shirley, Gervais Ford, Emerson Hospital, Aubuchon Hardware and Workers Credit Union. “They all stepped up to make it happen.”
Though the event was supposed to take place in May, Tocci explained why it was pushed back to November.
“When the idea first came up, I thought of the open space at Devens and doing an outdoor event. As it turned out, the logistics and cost of producing that meant very little of the proceeds would actually go to the non-profit itself. So we decided to launch this at the Bull Run, where we have a machine in place for producing concerts, a core audience, and weather is not an issue. It’s also Veterans Day weekend, so it’s a great way for people to show their support.”
Tocci said she still envisions putting on an outdoor concert, but said she would need sponsors to help underwrite the cost.
In the meantime, Saturday night’s event will start with the Persuasions (“I’m really looking forward to seeing them live,” Tocci says.) followed by the “Masters of the Telecaster” with Smith and Kirchen. “These guys are both monsters on guitar,” Tocci said.
Joining them on stage will be Vetted, the first all-Wounded Warrior band. “Vetted started the ball rolling with collecting gently used musical instruments for veterans.” A finale jam with all the musicians on stage will close the event.
Tocci’s goals for the event are modest and straightforward.
“This is not about anyone’s politics. There are people who served and got hurt, either psychologically or they came back with missing limbs or worse. Their lives are not the same. Their families are struggling. This is a small thing we can do to help and we’d love to make it a recurring event. If your kid played trombone for one year in high school and that instrument is still sitting in your garage, please buy a ticket to the show and we’ll take the trombone off your hands!”
Devens Rock 4 Warriors takes place on Saturday, Nov. 14 at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the concert begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $50, with 50 percent of ticket sales going to the Wounded Warrior Project. Children 7 and under are admitted free. Tickets can be purchased at devensrock4warriors.com.