By Noe Gutierrez

Twelve years of anything nowadays is a mighty accomplishment. When you consider the longevity of Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival or Stagecoach Festival you think of polished coordination and world-class talent. The same can be said for the Concert for Autism.

In its 12th year, the two-day concert will take place at Tack Room Tavern at the Empire Polo Grounds at 81-800 51st Ave. Indio, California on Friday 10/18 starting at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday 10/19 at 4:30 p.m. and includes performances from John Garcia and the Band of Gold, Giselle Woo and the Night Owls, 5th Town, Blasting Echo and Courtney Chambers to name a few. There is a suggested $10 donation at the door and the event is all-ages until 10 p.m.

In addition to the main feature, several more events will take place over five days and three venues. The Oktoberfest Acoustic Afternoon for the Concert for Autism kick-off event took place this past Sunday, at Coachella Valley Brewing Co. and featured performances from The Sieve & the Saddle, Krystofer Do, Rob Lawrence, Five Acre Dream, Tim & Val, Matt Hunkins and event founder Josh Heinz.


The second event is Open Mic for the Concert for Autism at The Hood Bar & Pizza on Wednesday 10/16 from 8-10 p.m. and is all-ages. The open mic will be hosted by Matthew Claborn and there is no cover charge.

The official Concert for Autism Pre-Show Party is also at The Hood and will be held on Thursday 10/17. The line-up includes ORMUS, The After Lashes, Instigator, Plastic Ruby, Desert Roots and Cody White and the Easy Ride. The show starts at 7 p.m. and is all ages until 10 p.m. with a suggested donation of $5.

Coachella Valley Weekly contacted Heinz as he continued to strategize for the event.

CVW: After 11 years of the Concert for Autism please share with us some of your personal highlights.

Heinz: “Wow! Kind of hard to say! Musically, there have been a ton of great performances. I couldn’t single any out. Ultimately I think the highlight is that it even happens each year. That so many people; friends, volunteers, the music community, generous sponsors and donors; all of these people come together to make it happen. It’s pretty awesome that so many different people care what the event is about and want to give so much.”

CVW: Tell us more about your relationship with Desert Autism Foundation & the services they offer. 

Heinz: “I met Randy Corti, the founder of the Desert Autism Foundation, when I met my wife, Linda Lemke Heinz. She taught his son, Danny, who is on the Autism spectrum, piano. DAF helps families that have children on the spectrum receive therapies by supplementing what it cost to get them. For example, one hour of speech therapy may cost $100. The foundation will take care of $80 of that cost so the family only has a $20 co-pay. That allows the child to go more often. This is important because early intervention therapies are vital for young children with Autism.”

CVW: From the beginning, you, Linda & Armando (Flores) have worked hard to educate the public about the benefit as well as Autism. What is the importance of each & how have they complemented each other? 

Heinz: “Educating the public about Autism is probably the more important thing. I can remember, in the earlier years of the benefit, talking with other musicians in the community about Autism. Some people weren’t that aware of the disability; of what it is, the effects of it, its broad spectrum and how it impacts the child and the family. It’s important to have some understanding about Autism. The benefit is a small way that us musicians can get together, play a show and make a contribution to help the Autism community by doing what we love.”

CVW: The 2019 bill is the best ever. How excited are you for this year’s line-up? 

Heinz: “Very excited for sure. Every year we are fortunate to get so many talented musicians to be a part of the event. I’m excited about everyone playing. Certainly it is a treat to have John Garcia and the Band of Gold be our headliner on Saturday night. His place in the history of desert music with Kyuss is something special and his voice, his delivery and his style are iconic. So I’m definitely looking forward to their set.

But I’m also looking forward to the younger musicians playing the benefit. Mikayla Fazzone, Pescaterritory and FrankEatstheFloor have talent and drive. They are the future of our music scene. It’s a thrill to watch them grow.

I’m excited that for the first year we added some Hip-Hop to the show with two fantastic MCs, Willdabeast and Versastyle. They are super-talented and express positivity through their music.

I’m looking forward to everyone, on both stages; Giselle Woo and the Night Owls, Courtney Chambers, Michael Keeth, Vinny Berry, Matthew Claborn. Captain Ghost is a fairly new band and I enjoy their album very much. Black Water Gospel has great songs. Rick Shelley has great songs. David Saba is great. I really enjoy the stylings of Richard Finn and his passion for the cause. Right On, Right On and Unity Frenzy have such great vibes. The Blues Rock of Feisty Joe with one of our great guitarists in Tom Edwards. And for sure, The Hellions, the only band to have played every benefit. I love that band not only for the music, but also because they are super stand-up guys.

Hardly anyone knows that as the benefit started to grow, and the stress of it increased each year, I would doubt that I could get it together. Bob Llamas, drummer for The Hellions, would encourage me every time I saw him at a show. This was in the early years. He really gave me some confidence when I needed it. The reunion of Edith & Alice is going to be exciting. Two of my good friends, Rob Peterson and Charlie Ellis, who have both been pillars in this music community, wanted to get together with their old band and play for the first time in 25 years for the show! I can’t wait to see and hear it.”

CVW: This year you’ve expanded to several events & venues. Tell us more about how that came about. 

Heinz: “I’ve tried for years to convince Linda to let this be a three day festival and she rightfully has said, ‘No way! We have four kids and you have a day job!’ I would love for this to be my day job, raising money to help kids with Autism year-round. That being said, last year, Brad Guth, The Hood Bar & Pizza owner, and Wesley Gainey, Tap Room Manager of Coachella Valley Brewing Co., both asked if they could partner up with the event for this year. Every year I’m approached by so many bands and artists that want to play the event, but we don’t have enough space to fit them in. So I decided to use the generosity of both venues and all the musicians to have lead-up events. It’s great; more people get to be a part of helping kids with Autism.”

CVW: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 59 children are identified as being on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). What more needs to be done to address awareness, education & treatment? 

Heinz: “I would say that what needs to be addressed is that a good number of these children will grow up to need assistance, in one way or another, as they become adults. It’s a conversation that needs to be had. As well as the conversation about the impact of having a special needs child in a household. Especially in the more severe cases, it can have some serious effects on parents and other siblings. We need to be able to address these issues openly and honestly.”

CVW: How is your son & Linda’s son doing? What can you share about their successes/challenges? 

Heinz: “My son, Harrison, lives in a home in Arizona with two other boys that have disabilities. He now goes to a work program and is doing very well. Christopher, Linda’s son, is in one of the classrooms for Autistic children at Palm Desert High School. For both of our boys, the successes are in the little things. The things that parents with typical children may take for granted. Some of these successes take time to manifest, but it is always encouraging to see them achieve things that we never would have thought possible.”

CVW: What more can the Coachella Valley community do to help support DAF throughout the year. 

Heinz: DAF is always taking donations. So that’s for sure one way people can help. They have some small events throughout the year, such as a dinner and wine tasting at a local restaurant. But their major fundraiser for the year is the DAF Scramble for Autism Golf Tournament. It takes place in the spring. You can go to their website to find more information.”

CVW: Over the years you have had so many volunteers helping you. What message would you like to send to them in anticipation of events? 

Heinz: “Our volunteers are amazing! Many have been supporting the benefit for several years, giving their time and energy for this. We can’t express our appreciation enough. So I would say to all of our volunteers, thank you, thank you, thank you! What you do to pull this off is amazing. The cause was mine and all of you have made it yours as well. I’m eternally grateful.”

CVW: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our CV Weekly readers?

Heinz: “We hope everyone can come out, enjoy the bands and atmosphere, and donate by purchasing raffle tickets and bid on some items at the silent auction. If you can’t make it out, but would still like to give, please go to our website to donate. Thank you!”

Go to the websites below to donate:

The Hood:

Thursday, October 17th

7:00 – 7:35 – Desert Roots Band

7:55 – 8:30 – Plastic Ruby

8:50 – 9:25 – Cody White and the Easy Ride

9:45 – 10:20 – Instigator

10:40 – 11:15 – The After Lashes

11:35 – 12:10 – Ormus


The Tack Room Tavern:

Friday, October 18th

6:00 – 6:35 – FrankEatstheFloor (main stage)

6:35 – 6:55 – Richard Finn (2nd Stage)

6:55 – 7:00 – Announcements

7:00 – 7:15 – Performance by Autistic student

7:15 – 7:50 – Unity Frenzy (main stage)

7:50 – 8:10 – Rick Shelley (2nd stage)

8:10 – 8:15 – Announcements

8:15 – 8:50 – Black Water Gospel (main stage)

8:50 – 9:10 – Jetta King (2nd stage)

9:10 – 9:15 – Announcements

 9:15 – 9:50 – Giselle Woo and the Night Owls (main stage)

9:50 – 10:10 – Michael Keeth (2nd stage)

10:10 – 10:15 – Announcements

10:15 – 10:50 – Blasting Echo (main stage)

10:50 – 11:10 – Willdabeast (2nd stage)

11:10 – 11:15 – Announcements

11:15 – 12:00 – 5th Town (main stage)


Saturday, October 19th

5:00 – 5:35 – Pescaterritory (main stage)

5:35 – 5:55 – Mikayla Fazzone (2nd stage)

5:55 – 6:00 – Announcements

6:00 – 6:35 – Feisty Joe (main stage)

6:35 – 6:55 – David Saba (2nd Stage)

6:55 – 7:00 – Announcements

7:00 – 7:15 – Performance by Autistic student

7:15 – 7:50 – Right On Right On (main stage)

7:50 – 8:10 – Matthew Claborn (2nd stage)

8:10 – 8:15 – Announcements

8:15 – 8:50 – Captain Ghost (main stage)

8:50 – 9:10 – Vinny Berry (2nd stage)

9:10 – 9:15 – Announcements

9:15 – 9:50 – Edith & Alice (main stage)

9:50 – 10:10 – Courtney Chambers (2nd stage)

10:10 – 10:15 – Announcements

10:15 – 10:50 – The Hellions (main stage)

10:50 – 11:10 – Versastyle (2nd stage)

11:10 – 11:15 – Announcements

11:15 – 12:00 – John Garcia and the Band of Gold (main stage)

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