By D. Arment
Back in 2008, local musician Josh Heinz was lead singer and songwriter for the band Dufreign. As a father of an autistic son, he wanted to combine his love for playing live music with his need to spread awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder. He decided that the best way he could do that was to have a benefit concert with a few local bands and artists and raise funds to donate to the Coachella Valley Autism Society. That first show was held at the Red Barn in Palm Desert. Donations were taken at the door and collected in a huge jug that was passed around the bar. Heinz was surprised at the response this first benefit concert received.
A year later, Dufreign had ended and Heinz started a new band with Armando Flores and Jeff Fortson called Blasting Echo. Both Flores and Fortson also had sons on the autism spectrum. Autism was not the reason the new band mates came together, but they soon would find out that they had much more in common than music. This special bond prompted the three to continue with another benefit concert in 2009 and also in 2010.
Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder that affects 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys in the US (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Autistic individuals may have difficulties and deficits in speech and language development, motor skills, and social behaviors. It is considered a spectrum disorder, which can be very severe in some children and milder in others. Early intervention and therapies have been proven vital for children on the autism spectrum.
Last year, Heinz and his band mates, which by that time included keyboardist Linda Lemke, who is also the mother of an autistic son, decided that it was time to expand to a larger venue. “I have to give the credit to Ray Phillips, Marc Gentry, and my band mate Mando Flores,” said Heinz, ”who collectively said that the best move would be to the IPAC.” The Indio Performing Arts Center allowed for professional sound and lighting, a larger stage, and room for raffle and silent auction. It also had the room for more bands and an acoustic stage. IPAC CEO, David Clinton Reid, graciously agreed and the 2011 Concert for Autism was a rousing success.
The 5th Annual Concert for Autism is this Saturday, May 19th. It promises to be bigger and better than in years before. It will again be held at the Indio Performing Arts Center. Local bands Caxton, Waxy, Odyssey 9, The Hellions, and Blasting Echo will perform on the main stage, along with local acoustic artists Giselle Woo, Michael Keeth, and Johnny Elsewhere on the acoustic stage. Joe Kidd and the Gash of Santa Maria will also be playing. “Many of these bands and artists have an autism connection, which makes it even more special that they are part of this show,” said Heinz. Sound and lights will again be generously provided by D.J. Ray Phillips.
This year, the proceeds from the concert will go to the Lumpy’s Foundation for Autism, which will disperse the funds to help families afford vital therapies like speech and occupational therapy and also support programs provided by the Coachella Valley Autism Society. A $5.00 donation at the door is suggested but more is welcome. Silent auction and raffle prizes have been generously donated by Best Buy, River Theatre, Flemings, Lumpy’s Golf, La Quinta Resort, Karl Vasquez Salon, My Gym, Brent Cooper of El Paseo Children’s Center, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Record Alley, Musicians Outlet, Ernie Ball, Certified Auto Detailing, Ben and Jerry’s, Kaiser Grille, Mountain View Tire, Bed Bath and Beyond, Desert Willow Golf Resort, Outback Steakhouse, Miracle Springs Resort and Spa, Red Carpet Car Wash, Olive Garden, Islands, Cava, Master Pool and Spa, and more to be announced that night. Donations can also be made through PayPal to the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Doors open at 7pm. All ages welcome. Music starts at 7:30pm and goes until 1am. “Putting on a show of this size is a lot of hard work and I have a lot of people to thank,” stated Heinz. “So many generous businesses and individuals have donated merchandise, money, and time to help us make this show a success and to enable us to help local families affected by autism.”