“…that’s the dream, that together we can do amazing stuff for the right reasons!” Author and event organizer Kelly Corrigan was left nearly speechless on stage as she reflected back on the amazing evening that closed with Coldplay’s Chris Martin and performers from the Oakland School for the Arts covering David Bowie’s “Life On Mars?”. All part of the annual Notes & Words: Benefit For UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland at Fox Theater on Saturday night. The sold out crowd of sponsors, donors and attendees took in a wide ranging selection of entertainment that also included a rocking performance from The Stone Foxes and readings from B.J. Novak and Dave Eggers. There was a lot of emotion throughout the night, though the majority of it was good humor and contagious joyfulness.
What: Notes & Words: Benefit For UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland at Fox Theater
Artist: Chris Martin from Coldplay
Artist: The Stone Foxes
Artist: B.J. Novak
Artist: Dave Eggers
Artist: Kelly Corrigan
Artist (After Party): MC Hammer
Artist: Oakland School for the Arts
Venue: Fox Theater
Where: Oakland, California
When: April 30, 2016
Notes & Words is an annual benefit event featuring music performances and readings, created to support the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland; the Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland provide the highest quality medical care to children throughout California.
About UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland :
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland (formerly Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland) is a premier, not-for-profit medical center for children in Northern California, and is the only hospital in the East Bay 100% devoted to pediatrics. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland affiliated with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco on January 1, 2014. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland is a national leader in many pediatric specialties including cardiology, hematology/oncology, neonatology, neurosurgery, orthopedics, and sports medicine. The hospital is one of only five ACS Pediatric Level I Trauma Centers in the state, and has one of largest pediatric intensive care units in Northern California. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland has 190 licensed beds, over 500 physicians in 43 specialties, more than 2,600 employees, and a consolidated annual operating budget of more than $500 million. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland is also a leading teaching hospital with an outstanding pediatric residency program and a number of unique pediatric subspecialty fellowship programs.
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland’s research arm, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), is internationally known for its basic and clinical research. CHORI is at the forefront of translating research into interventions for treating and preventing human diseases. CHORI has 250 members of its investigative staff, a budget of about $50 million, and is ranked among the nation’s top ten research centers for National Institutes of Health funding to children’s hospitals. For more information, go to www.childrenshospitaloakland.org and www.chori.org.
The event at the Fox Theater this weekend raised $1.5 million dollars, three times what was raised last year.
Things kicked off with a pre-party set up in a huge tent on 19th Street, then moved into the adjacent Fox Theater at about 7:30.
Inside, the floor in front of the stage that would be general admission standing at most shows at the venue was filled with white linen-covered round tables with chairs, as well as candlelight to set a different sort of mood for the evening. Though it was created as a fundraiser, there was still very affordable seating up in the balcony above the stage.
The “Notes” portion of the show began with Kay Sibal with accompaniment by Olivia Williams from Oakland School for the Arts and members of Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir, who provided a musical performance…
Host and organizer Kelly Corrigan next took the stage to introduce the “Words” element of the event, opening a dialogue with nurse Bertha Wright, who in 1912 along with social worker Mabel Weed founded the institution in order to provide special care for infants. The mission continues to this day – to never turn away services because of a family’s inability to pay.
She talked about how much things have changed since 1912 (“nurses don’t wear chef’s hats anymore!”), and talked about the history of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and recent progress. She provided some statistics that underscore how important the institution is to the community and members of the community, as well as statistics about the evening itself – talking before 1,633 people in attendance who helped to raise $1,513,000 via this event. They are currently running 497 clinical trials… They treat children from countries all over the world… They speak 52 languages… their work could not be more impressive.
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland is part of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), which is one of the world’s leading health sciences universities, itself founded in 1864.
Per the official website, “UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland—formerly Children’s Hospital Oakland—builds on over a century of excellence by bringing genuine passion to the care of every child, and to the laboratories where scientists and physicians partner in transformative research that paves the way for tomorrow’s pediatric medicine“.
Kelly said that “we launch generations of sound bodies and mind” and that children are our “national asset”.
Below is the overview of Dave Eggers and his accomplishments from the official Notes & Words site:
His list of literary and humanitarian awards would keep you scrolling down this website for ages. Dave Eggers is a novelist, screenwriter, founder of 826 Valencia and McSweeney’s publishing. Eggers shot onto the literary scene with his memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and followed up with acclaimed titles like What Is The What, Zeitoun, and Hologram for the King. He seems to move effortlessly from fiction to non-fiction, page to screen. Between his writing and his non-profit work, it’s no surprise that Eggers was named one of “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing the World”.
He opened by talking about how UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland has impacted the families of close friends in recent years for lifesaving care.
His reading required two people, so B.J. Novak joined him on stage as his counterpart, who he works with on their own non-profit (and did his own performance later in the evening).
The reading was of his work, Understanding The Sky, which I found super funny and clever, and the two of them reading the two parts made it that much richer.
The Stone Foxes
- Shannon Koehler (vocals, drums, harmonica)
- Elliott Peltzman (keyboards)
- Vince Dewald (vocals, guitar, bass)
- Ben Andrews (guitar, violin)
- Brian Bakalian (drums, bass)
- Spence Koehler (vocals, guitar) [not present at this event]
The Stone Foxes are a San Francisco-based blues/rock band that was formed in 2005 by brothers Shannon and Spence Koehler. They have released four albums to date, with last year’s Twelve Spells being the newest.
This was my first time seeing them live and I came away extremely impressed. A really original sound and high energy performance. The guitar work and vocals really go hand in hand in creating catchy and infectious riffs and sounds that won’t allow you to just sit or stand motionless… it’s like they tap right into your brainwaves and transport you away from your weighty thoughts to a space that is cool and hip. If that doesn’t overpower you, the harmonica work of Shannon won’t let you escape…
Overall, the band has all the bases covered, but also possess that elusive “it factor” that can propel an artist into the mass consciousness. A ton of talent waiting for the rest of the world to catch up.
They opened with the super catchy “Everybody Knows”, with the hooky riffs, sing along vocals and signature harmonica, as well as the stomp worthy beats.
They quickly followed up with “Eye For Love”, with that throwback yet garage sound with some real sonic drama that builds up right to the end.
Third up was “I’m A King Bee”, which brought me back to a feeling I had the first time I saw The Black Keys live, which makes perfect sense since The Stone Foxes were tapped to tour with them in the past. That sort of unrelenting and unforgiving guitar that just drives forward with purpose and intention… sucking in the crowd and taking them on a high octane journey, with a slowdown tease at the end… just to build back up into a frenzy.
The guys seem more collaborative than most, like they really feed off of each others’ energy, and even change around their instruments and roles during the set.
Before closing out, Shannon addressed the crowd expressing how much it meant to them to be there saying, “It really does mean so much to us… I was born with congenital heart disease, so I know what it means to be in a children’s hospital for a long time… what you guys do is the work of angels. I don’t know if everyone’s been in a children’s hospital, but they’re magical places”.
They ended their set by bringing out the children from the Oakland School for the Arts to perform Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young”.
Below is their setlist from the night:
- Everybody Knows
- Eye For Love
- I’m A King Bee
- Forever Young (Bob Dylan cover)
Below are some photos of The Stone Foxes performing on stage (click any image to open a virtual lightroom with higher resolution versions of each photo):
Below is the overview for B.J. Novak from the official Notes & Words site:
Witty and wise, BJ Novak brings considerable gifts to our stage. Novak is an actor, comedian, screenwriter and director. He is also the New York Times best-selling author of One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories and #1 bestselling children’s book, The Book With No Pictures. Multi-tasker Novak may be best known as the force behind The Office. In addition to a stint on the small screen with Kelly Corrigan, BJ will be back on the big screen later this year, starring alongside Michael Keaton in The Founder.
I first became aware of B.J. Novak via his work on The Office (having been a fan of the UK original, I started watching the U.S. show from the outset). I always loved his character on the show, on which he also eventually served as an executive producer and director.
Obviously, he is one of those creative forces that finds outlets via many different media. I’ve always felt that the funnier the person, the smarter they probably are in general, so… I have a sense that Mr. Novak highly intelligent.
For his portion of the program, he read “No One Goes To Heaven To See Dan Fogelberg”, a story from his New York Times bestseller One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories. Hilarious reading and what a treat to hear it read by the man himself. Loved it.
Kelly came back on stage for her own reading. I didn’t want to give away the ending to B.J. Novak’s story, but Kelly’s comment was a funny reaction, saying “I’m totally down with the fact that my daughters are upstairs [in the balcony]… I don’t need to like, check everything…”
She gave acknowledgement to the people who have come and contributed year after year and thanked B.J. for getting them 5,000 copies of his new children’s book, The Book With No Pictures.
She talked about her two daughters needing UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland in just the past two weeks.
She did her own reading about the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU).
Chris Martin / The Raindrops
Chris Martin wrote his own introduction for the evening, read by Kelly Corrigan… “The son of a tiger trainer and a lap dancer, this man has been playing music since the age of 7, often in return for fruits and vegetables. He was not accepted into NSYNC, and therefore formed Coldplay. He understands at least one language and is very happy to be here…”
Always humble and gracious (and funny), Chris immediately gave a shout out to “the cheaper seats” above. He said he didn’t remember how he came to be invited to play; “I was available… there’s no bar mitzvah or weddings…”
He then went into a beautiful cover of Prince’s “Raspberry Beret” on piano. It had special meaning for me, as I had taken my wife Shelley on our first “concert date” at Fox Theater in early 2014 to see Prince perform on that very stage. “Raspberry Beret” was also one of the songs Prince played with 3RDEYEGIRL and the NPG horn section toward the end of their encore. So it was interesting for me to see one great artist pay tribute to another, and underscored how precious life really is (another theme for the night). So with just the first song, I was already knocked a bit off kilter with emotion.
Coldplay is one of my all-time favorite bands… I’ve actually traveled to see them perform not just in the U.S. but in England, France, Spain… I’ve met Chris Martin a few times and he’s one of the most down to Earth “super stars” I’ve ever met. One of the most modest and kind people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Funny enough, I even shared a train cab with him going from London to Liverpool and neither I nor anyone else even noticed him for hours. He just blends in with the rest of us.
I know that children and helping children is an important mission in his life, judging by his efforts through works of charity. Coldplay was a huge supporter of Kids Company in the UK. I visited Kids Company back in 2012, and spent a little time at their offices with their events director and she told me about how Chris would come in basically anonymously and with no fanfare to work with the children, and I think that really paints a vivid picture of the kind of person he is and how he truly cares about helping others, either through large scale charity events or just helping a single individual, one on one.
Consequently, I was so pleased to hear that Chris Martin was going to be part of the line-up of artists making such an awesome event for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland this year.
Of course, Chris Martin and Coldplay have been pretty busy in the past few years, with new albums (2014’s Ghost Stories and 2015’s A Head Full of Dreams), headlining the recent Superbowl halftime show, and conducting a huge worldwide arena and stadium tour, which is happening throughout 2016.
I’ve seen all manner of Coldplay shows, from small and intimate to massive and blazing, but I’d never seen a solo Chris Martin performance before, so this was new territory for me as well; I was really looking forward to it.
Chris Martin often pays tribute to other musical artists who pass to soon. I’ve seen Coldplay perform Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”, so I expected something related to Prince at this show.
The unexpected loss of Prince really had an impact on me, as I loved his music and my wife and I just recently saw him do his own piano acoustic show at the Paramount Theatre, only a few blocks down the street from Fox Theater. I’m 43 years old, so I grew up in the 80 and felt like I went on a journey with Prince as he rose up from humble beginnings to become, in my opinion, the most gifted musical artist of my generation.
I always wondered what it was like for those who lived in the time of Shakespeare, and as best as I could relate, it shared some of what we had with Prince. But I now find myself in constant celebration of his life and his work, and I feel fortunate that my own path in life intersected his as beautifully as it did, growing up with his music.
I actually began an editorial about the loss of Prince, but couldn’t bring myself to finish it, so some of those feelings are spilling over into this feature. I actually recorded the audio of his recent acoustic show in Oakland a few months ago (I do this for my review purposes to recreate setlists, get artist quotes, etc). Prince was in Oakland at the end of March for Vanity’s funeral, and he was very emotional about the loss at that concert that followed. Listening back to this show, following his passing, it takes on a whole new meaning for me. In one sequence, Prince said the following:
“Listen to me and listen to me good… whatever I have, you got too, you understand? It’s you and I together now in this new story. I’m gonna take care of me, and I’m gonna take care of you too.”
You can listen to this audio snippet from that Prince concert here:
His words and the delivery almost made it sound like he had some idea.. that he had a sense of what was coming, and his comment about sharing what he has I took to mean about his music and art. And since his passing, there has been a resurgence of celebration of his work and new tributes to this music, which is wonderful. He created all of these things to make our lives a little richer, a little happier, and a little more hip and cool. He created this space and world for us to escape to via his music, and reflect on our own lives. An amazing legacy that will outlast us all.
As Chris Martin opened with his beautiful, gentle, slower rendition of Prince’s “Raspberry Berry” on piano, he transitioned into “Viva La Vida”, one of Coldplay’s biggest hits.
I remember listening to an interview with Metric, talking about a concept that they employ in which they believe that if a song can’t be played on an acoustic instrument, that there is probably something wrong with the song. That their songs had to pass “the campfire test”. Well, that is how I imagine most of Coldplay’s songs are created (some of this in evidence in the 60 Minutes interview from years ago), and “Viva La Vida” on piano is the perfect example. And it also features that catchy “whoah-along” chorus that crowds find themselves joining in on without even thinking.
Afterwards, Hoppy (Chris Martin’s guitar tech) came on stage with an acoustic guitar and Chris explained who he was and how he came from England to help him with this show.
With all of the new music fresh in Chris Martin’s mind, I was surprised that the next song he performed, now on acoustic guitar, was “See You Soon”, one of my all-time favorite songs of theirs… this was featured on The Blue Room, their second EP released way back in 1999. As he introduced the song, he said it was “written before some of you were born” and in his self-deprecating manner, “I don’t expect you to know this one… if you’ve got calls to make, now is the time.”
Such an amazing song, and so happy it is still “alive” with him. There is a brilliant live version on their Live 2003 DVD concert film. This DVD and this song specifically was actually the thing that made Coldplay one of my favorite bands. The song is just so earnest and moving and magical. What a thrill to have a chance to see and hear it performed in a setting such as this one.
Chris then recorded acoustic guitar riffs in order to “play two instruments at once”. He brought up a woman from the audience to start and stop the recorded guitar riff on cue as he played and performed “Clocks” on piano. Probably the “signature” Coldplay song, if there is such a thing. It contains all of their key elements. Brilliant song, and incredible rendition with this show.
Next was a newer song, “Everglow”. Chris Martin prefaced the performance by explaining that it’s about having “a good feeling about someone who’s not around anymore.”
The song was a perfect fit, given the lament and celebration of Prince and his work that was the theme of his set. From the lyrics of the song, “this particular diamond was extra special… still I see you, celestial…” And, somewhat prescient, “like an eagle you circled, in perfect purple…”
Fittingly, the next song played was “Purple Rain”.
Before starting that next song, Chris addressed the crowd:
“I’m very happy to do these events when it means so much and it’s going to such a great cause… But I don’t really like doing things on my own. I’m from a band, and a band is a very special thing you have to protect, and its precious and the chemistry is everything. So, given that my “normal band” is on holiday… I thought, well I’d better form another band in San Francisco and Oakland, and so I have. And so the band I’ve formed is with the very special group of young singers and together, we’re called “The Raindrops” and here they come right now, the rest of The Raindrops…”
The children from the Oakland School for the Arts then joined Chris Martin on stage to perform “Purple Rain”.
This was the highlight of the entire event for me. Chris Martin played piano and let the chorus of children sing the most beautiful rendition of the song I’d ever heard. It was just brilliant.
The lead vocals were handled by truly gifted young women that completely blew me away. AMAZING. Just stunning.
Just this one performance of this one song is what it is all about for me… music can make us feel things like nothing else can, and just taps into the soul.
This is strictly speculation, but I feel that if Chris Martin went into the studio with these gifted young singers and recorded this song and put it on iTunes as a fundraiser, I believe they would make over $1 million dollars in just one day. I would buy it in a heartbeat, so there’s $1 to get started…
Seriously, it was an epic moment. Just brilliant.
You can see Chris and the children rehearsing the song in this video:
Following “Purple Rain”, Chris and the children sang Coldplay’s “A Sky Full Of Stars”, in a fantastic transition on this emotional roller coaster.
The set was filled with a lot of funny little moments, as is the way usually with Chris Martin, and in the midst of “A Sky Full Of Stars”, one of the young women who was tapped to take over the lead vocals midway through the song didn’t step forward and so Chris stopped the song to personally escort her up front to shine with her vocal gifts.
With just one live performance, I became a huge fan of The Raindrops. Brilliant band.
The Raindrops closed out the set with a cover of David Bowie’s “Life On Mars?”. Chris said he threw it at the other members of The Raindrops at 6:00 PM that evening, and they still pulled it off beautifully. Amazing, amazing, amazing…
Below is a summary of the setlist from Chris Martin’s performance:
- Raspberry Beret (Prince cover)
- Viva La Vida
- See You Soon
- Purple Rain (Prince cover) [with The Raindrops]
- A Sky Full Of Stars [with The Raindrops]
- Life On Mars? (David Bowie cover) [with The Raindrops]
All in all just an amazing performance. Loved it.
Below are some photos of Chris Martin and The Raindrops performing on stage (click any image to open a virtual lightroom with higher resolution versions of each photo)… PLEASE DO NOT SHARE THESE IMAGES OUTSIDE OF THIS ARTICLE, PER MY PHOTO RELEASE AGREEMENT – THANK YOU!
Following the pre-party and the main event, the organizers held an after party in the tent adjacent to the Fox Theater, with DJs including none other than MC Hammer!
Using HUSHconcerts technology, only those wearing the special headphones could actually hear the music, so walking in, you see people dancing but hear no music whatsoever! Pretty different!
Anyway, MC Hammer blew up when I was in high school, so I was kind of just in awe of watching him do his thing… A real music icon. Who’d ever imagine you’d see Chris Martin and MC Hammer at the same show?
In any event, the whole thing was just awesome, and for such an amazing cause – helping people help children. I really can’t recommend enough supporting UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. Be sure to check out their website at: www.childrenshospitaloakland.org
Below are a few recent patient photos sent to me from the Children’s Hospital so you can have a sense of the real lives that they touch via their work (note photo credit to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland for the photos below):