Approaching the one-year anniversary of the April 27 tornado, much has been done to repair, rebuild and renovate affected areas. However, according to those at wellthatscool.com, that work isn’t finished.
This Tuscaloosa-based website, The Tuscaloosa Arts Council and local band The Dexateens, coordinated to create the Tuscaloosa Get Up Tornado Relief Concert, headlined by The Alabama Shakes at the Bama Theatre on March 23. The concert sold out online and at the box offices.
According to Bo Hicks, a member of wellthatscool.com, the concert idea was brought up immediately after the tornado. However, the idea was shelved due to the fact hands-on relief efforts were needed in Tuscaloosa at the time. In December, Hicks contacted The Dexateens lead singer Elliott McPherson again, received the support of The Tuscaloosa Arts Council to use the Bama Theatre, and Tuscaloosa Get Up was born.
“It’s hard to quantify, but music can be a really big healing force,” Hicks said. “It’s something that can bring people together.”
Hicks was determined they would work with Habitat for Humanity in Tuscaloosa, and 100 percent of the proceeds earned would go directly into a fund to rebuild families’ homes lost after the tornado.
According to the Habitat Tuscaloosa website, the Nero family from Alberta City – John, Pam and their son – held themselves together as their house was torn apart around them and they faced life-threatening medical complications. Hicks said he was proud to have them as a supported family and they will be in attendance Friday night.
After the difficult process of choosing a family with the help of Habitat Tuscaloosa, Hicks was then able to gain the support of three Alabama-bred bands: the Alabama Shakes, the Birmingham-based Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires and the veteran Tuscaloosa five-piece, The Dexateens.
McPherson said he felt the involvement of not only The Dexateens and Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, but the Alabama Shakes was a key component to developing the show from what he expected to be a small show of local fans to this large and important showcase in the Bama Theatre.
“We feel like we have a voice. It’s not a huge voice, but it’s a voice,” McPherson said. “We’re not college students anymore. We’re growing up and realizing that our voice can really be used.”
McPherson noted the concert will happen at a good time during Tuscaloosa’s recovery process.
“This might be the best time for this,” McPherson said. “If you drive through town, it’s still gut-wrenching, and though there is that natural ‘life must go on mentality,’ there’s still support we have to give.”
McPherson brought Lee Bains III to the project.
“Right after the storms hit, my friend and I took a bunch of supplies to Hackleburg, Ala.,” Bains said. “Seeing that place torn apart and the people was one of the first times I felt such a palpable sadness for people I didn’t know.”
Bains revisited Hackleburg ten months later while driving through to a show in Florence, Ala., and was shocked by what he saw.
“It was amazing how it was still devastated,” Bains said. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is still an ongoing struggle for these communities.’”
According to Bains, he’s pleased to be a part of recovery efforts this long after the event, ensuring those still feeling the effects of such a tragedy aren’t left by the wayside. He also admitted that it can be difficult to give back to communities and support causes with a traveling schedule and little money, but shows like Tuscaloosa Get Up provide great opportunities.
“I’ve really tried to play benefits whenever possible,” Bains said. “I really like doing them when it’s something I believe in.”
For those who purchased tickets, a link is provided to make a tax-deductible donation directly to Tuscaloosa Habitat for Humanity at wellthatscool.com.
“I think it’ll be a release for a lot of people, and there’s going to be a lot of great original music that all has that southern feel to it,” Hicks said. “It’s something you can tell was born from where we all live, and you’ll be able to feel that.”