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Dead & Company Raise More Than $1 Million at Backyard Benefit For Oceana

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John Mayer and Bob Weir perform at the Oceana Rock Under the Stars 2018 in Los Angeles on July 8, 2018. 

'Musicians should give back,' says Dead drummer Mickey Hart

On Saturday night (July 7), Dead & Company played to 30,000 fans at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium. Less than 24 hours later, they played to 200 equally passionate fans at a backyard benefit Sunday night (July 8) high in the Hollywood Hills for Oceana, an environmental organization dedicated to preserving the world’s oceans.

“Going from a stadium to a house party is a very interesting dynamic, but the point is a musician is privileged to be a musician and musicians should give back that privilege,” said drummer Mickey Hart immediately after Dead & Co.’s 65-minute show. “In general, you gotta defend the treasures. One of them is the oceans and you have to defend it however you can. You have to fight the evil that’s in the White House now with everything you have. So any night I can raise a million dollars is a good night.”   

To be more precise, the evening, dubbed "Rock Under the Stars," raised more than $1.1 million and drew more than 120 Deadheads from all over the world, who paid $5,000 each to see the former members of the Grateful Dead play their smallest gig in decades, as well as actors Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley Jr. and Dean Norris, actress Kelly Lynch, Academy Award-nominated composer Thomas Newman, film producer Roger Birnbaum, producer/screenwriter Mitch Glazer, and the band’s attorney Eric Greenspan, who promoted a Grateful Dead show when he was in college in the ‘70s. 

Not everyone in attendance quite qualified as a Deadhead. “I love that song, ‘Satin Doll’,” joked Goldblum. “Maybe I’m mixing them up with someone else. They do a lot of mellow Brazilian tunes, don’t they?… I know I have to take LSD at some point.” 

Though he was unable to attend, Seth MacFarlane donated $250,000 and Len Blavatnik, head of Access Industries (which owns Warner Music Group) and his family gave $50,000, said longtime manager Keith Addis, who hosted the event as his home — previous "Rock Under the Stars" featured Sting in 2016 and Don Henley last year. Addis, who is president of Oceana’s board of directors, has been involved with the environmental cause for more than 25 years, ever since his client Ted Danson formed American Oceans Campaign. Oceana, which launched in 2001 and merged with AOC a year later, has gone from a $4 million annual budget to $40 million. “We want to make sure that for the next 100 years, there’s enough wild protein in the healthy oceans to feed the one billion people everyday who depend on it for their sustenance and for the 400 million jobs that depend on healthy oceans,” Addis said. “It’s a big job to do it,” he added, especially with an administration that has been cutting regulations that protect the environment. “Do I wish we had the wind at our back and it was a different world? Of course I do, but this is what we’re dealing with and [our work] feels more important now than ever before.”  

Addis snagged Dead & Co. after one call to Bernie Cahill, who manages the band with Irving Azoff and Steve Moir. “Normally it takes me three months to get a band to commit to do this based on their busy schedules and all the other puzzle pieces,” Addis said.

“We get asked to do a million of these things,” Cahill said, adding that "Rock Under the Stars" was Dead & Co.’s first private charity event since forming in 2015. In addition to the Grateful Dead’s Hart, guitarist Bob Weir and drummer Bill Kreutzmann, Dead & Company includes guitarist John Mayer, bassist Oteil Burbridge and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti. “They’ve very focused on the health of our oceans,” Cahill continued. “Bill lives in Hawaii, Bob lives on the water. Oceana really resonated with them.” 

“We don’t do that many [benefits],” especially house parties. It seemed like the right thing to do at the right time. The oceans are really in need,” Hart said, adding that Dead & Co. have voter registration booths at every show and through that effort, the notoriously philanthropic band hopes to register thousands of people for the 2018 mid-term elections and beyond. “We’ve been registering people at every show for years,” he said. “The kids, everybody, just have to realize how important it is. You’ve got to get up off your asses and pull that lever.” 

Dead & Company’s Oceana set:

“Dark Star” v. 1
“Samson & Delilah”
“Dark Star” jam
“Brown-Eyed Women”
“When I Paint My Masterpiece”
“Franklin’s Tower”
“Dark Star” v. 2
“Shakedown Street”
“Touch of Grey”