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  • Marian Hubler

Rockin' The Roses Spring Benefit Concert: An Exceptional Night of Music

Rockin’ the Roses Spring Benefit Concert on May 18, brought to us by Jeff & Laurie Ubben, was an exceptional night of music in a spectacular venue. From our earliest benefit concert in 1977 at the legendary Greek Theatre in Berkeley to our latest sold-out success at San Francisco’s grandly elegant Great American Music Hall, Bread & Roses Presents knows how to throw an incredible fundraiser in a special setting.

Headliner Hozier, the revered singer-songwriter/guitarist who hails from County Wicklow in Ireland, gave a mesmerizing performance inspiring all who heard his rare, solo acoustic set. Known for his humanity as well as his artistry, the international star gave a touching tribute from the stage saying how honored he was to be part of the great legacy of artists who have performed for Bread & Roses through the years. He then performed a fine cover of "Sweet Thing" by Van Morrison, who played at an early Bread & Roses Festival of Music. His encore of the traditional Irish song "The Parting Glass," “was the standout, goosebump-inducing song that showcased Hozier’s unaccompanied voice,” according to fan group Hozier’s Guitars.


Lukas Nelson and his top-notch band Promise of the Real warmed up the crowd for Hozier with Lukas singing irreverent ballads like the title song from his recent release Something Real, recorded in San Francisco. The powerhouse group, with Lukas as their energetic front man, performed highlights from their repertoire of great roadhouse rock ‘n’ roll songs like their crowd pleasing cover version of JJ Cale’s "I’ll Make Love to You Any Ol’ Time."


The musical duo HoneyHoney, featuring Suzanne Santo and Benjamin Jaffe, played a compelling set earlier in the night captivating the crowd with their lively banter and crystalline sound with alternating vocals and instrumental leads on banjo and violin. A high point of the night was when they sat in with Hozier on his original tune called "Work Song" bringing down the house with three-part harmonies that they had just rehearsed for the first time backstage. Emcee Jonny Fritz set the tone for the evening with his zany persona and fun take on life.


Executive Director Dave Perron welcomed guests, thanking all for their incredible support. He introduced Bread & Roses board and staff giving special recognition to Event Committee Co-Chairs Stacy Nelson and Phillip Pillsbury III, as well as members Adam Fells, Simone Haas, Stephanie Mellin, Lane Murchison and Alex Wellins.

Bread & Roses Board Chair Jay Silverberg put into words what many of us felt in the after glow of that spectacular evening. “It was an extraordinary benefit and historic occasion. There is a serendipitous nature to Bread & Roses; it’s the magic that keeps us going undeterred for so many years. It is rare to see such a connection to each other among all our dedicated supporters and in the way we tell the stories of our work.”

An engaging new short film “Bread & Roses Presents” was shown for the first time with moving testimonials about the benefits of our program from facility staff at Timothy Murphy School and the Canal Family Support Program in San Rafael, Center for Elders Independence in Oakland and the Father Alfred Center in San Francisco as well as volunteer performers Matt Jaffe, Circus of Smiles, Tammy Hall and The Lemonhammer. Narrated by Advisory Circle member Peter Coyote, the film was directed by Dan Foldes of Pint of Soul Productions and co-produced by Bread & Roses Producer Francesca Lee.


Proceeds from this amazing night of music support our ongoing program of over 600 concerts a year -- more than one show a day -- for audiences around the Bay that are isolated and in need of the healing power of music. The benefit concerts that we present allow us to “set the stage” together. When we celebrate as a community the magic that live music provides, we share the impact of the generous and dedicated support from all of our board members, friends, sponsors and other contributors.


A particular story came to light when guest Jess Angell Grace, a Hozier fan who came from Boise, Idaho, got permission from staff to share her ticket with a guy she found on the sidewalk in front of the venue. He told her that he was a huge Lukas Nelson fan and had come to the benefit in the hope of getting in to hear a few of his songs. He said he had been the beneficiary of Bread & Roses institutional shows at three different facilities we serve including New Bridge, a recovery center in Berkeley, as well as a prison and a homeless shelter.

At the end of the night, Jess told staff how magical the evening was and “more than she could ever imagine.” She said the experience was important as she had once been confined for a long time in a hospital and that the best part of her stay was when the janitor came by in the evening whistling Bob Marley’s "Three Little Birds." She shared that the healing power of music really meant something to her recovery. We are glad to see that she is now another voice telling the story of our work to a larger audience on Twitter.

Post by Marian Hubler

Photos by Ken Friedman, Peter Merts and Michael Zagaris in slide show

Photo Captions:

1) Hozier, photo by Ken Friedman

2) Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real take a bow, photo by Ken Friedman

3) HoneyHoney, photo by Ken Friedman

4) Executive Director Dave Perron welcomes guests, photo by Ken Friedman

5) Rockin The Roses guests at The Great American Music Hall, photo by Ken Friedman

6) Jess Angel Grace with performer Corrine West, photo by Ken Friedman

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