Mavis Staples and Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes will headline a benefit concert Nov. 1 for Tulane University in New Orleans, an event conceived to engage alumni and connect with the school’s musically rich home city.
With its frontline talent, the concert during Tulane’s homecoming weekend also marks a new model in higher education fundraising, organizers say.
Staples and Robinson will be joined by on the bill by Larkin Poe, Amy Helm, Anders Osborne, Jimmy Vivino and Tash Neal. With comedian Jeff Garlin as emcee, the show will feature an all-star New Orleans house band, directed by Eric Krasno and featuring Ivan Neville, Cyril Neville, George Porter Jr, Tony Hall, Raymond Webber and Mark Mullins and The Levee Horns. Tickets are available to both the Tulane community and the public.
The firm tapped as the executive producer of Tipping Point is the New York-based UpperWest Music Group, whose founders Greg Williamson and Nicole Rechter also co-produce — along with fashion icon John Varvatos — Love Rocks NYC, the annual benefit concert for God’s Love We Deliver at New York’s Beacon Theatre; this year’s edition of Love Rocks is set for March 12, 2020.
With the support of UpperWest Music Group, Tulane is believed to be the first college in the U.S. to present an annual concert series on this level to benefit the school. During the past two years, previous Tipping Point concerts have featured Ziggy Marley, Billy F Gibbons of ZZ Top, Ani Di Franco, Taj Mahal and Michael McDonald.
Williamson says his wife Kate Yulman is a Tulane alumna. “She had an incredible experience there,” he says, “and she introduced me to the senior leadership of the school. “They saw what UpperWest Music Group and John Varvatos were doing in New York City for God’s Love We Deliver. They saw our passion with bringing people together for great causes and wanted to engage us,” says Williamson.
After launching in 2017 at the famed Tipitina’s club, at the corner of Napoleon Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street — less than three miles from the Tulane campus — Tipping Point moves this year to the edge of the French Quarter and the 2,200-capacity, state-of-the-art Fillmore New Orleans, a Live Nation venue that carries the storied Fillmore name.
“I don’t think there’s another city in America with as rich of a musical tradition as New Orleans,” says Williamson. He notes that three great pioneers of New Orleans music — Dr. John, Dave Bartholomew and Art Neville — have passed away this year “which brings the urgency of celebrating the city and its rich culture into an even sharper focus.”
The Tipping Point benefit “is a powerful tool for engaging alumni and solidifying the connections with alumni that are already active,” says Williamson.
“To my knowledge, this is one of the only universities in the country doing a benefit concert, at this level with this type of talent and star power, on an annual basis,” he adds. “The concert really gives us an opportunity to celebrate so much of American culture while at the same time raising money for a terrific school and thanking their alumni for being such great supporters of the school and the city.”
Williamson and Rechter have worked with bandleader Krasno to curate both the artists and songs for the show. As UpperWest Music Group has done with the Love Rocks NYC shows, Williamson says their goal is to create a “musical community, so that not only are the fans having fun, the artists are having fun as well.” For Tipping Point, the backing band of stellar New Orleans players has been “a constant every year,” he adds.
“The idea of the roster is to have a show that rocks from beginning to end and infuses New Orleans music throughout,” he says. UpperWest Music Group is gaining notice as concert producers “because we’re coming at it the right way,” suggests Williamson, from both a philanthropic and musical perspective.
The company, he says, “was an organic expansion and outgrowth of Love Rocks NYC. I realized after a few years of working on Love Rocks that nothing gave us greater satisfaction than putting together concerts for great causes. “We believe that live music and entertainment, when embraced the right way and used strategically, can deliver big, measurable results, especially over the long term, for universities, charities and corporations
“UpperWest will now produce all types of live music events that are both for-profit and not-for-profit” organizations, says Williamson. “The core of who we are as a company is [that we] deeply believe in giving back and making the world a better place through great live music.”