By Tricia Witkower
Presented by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, this year’s Concert for Autism is back and gets better each year. Josh Heinz, board member of the Desert Autism Foundation (the great organizations for which funds are raised through this event), has been there since its inception and talks about how it’s evolved. “The first year, we held it at Red Barn and there were 3 or 4 bands.” Heinz says. “Now, between the 4 events (there are musical events each weekend leading up to the concert for a month) there are about 37 different bands. The obvious answer is that it’s bigger with more music.” With every passing year, the concert has gained more traction with not only attendees and sponsors, but with musicians and bands who want to play. Some have a relative who has been diagnosed on the autism spectrum and some don’t have a close connection to the cause but want to support it – in both cases it’s meaningful to them to play this concert.
For Heinz, the cause hits home because he and his wife Linda both have adult children with severe autism from previous marriages. Heinz says, “Early intervention is vital. There are people who are scared of the diagnosis: they think maybe their child will grow out of it. They don’t want labels. But there are therapies that could help them as they grow. My first wife and I didn’t know what to do. Linda’s son Christopher had in-home therapy for years and as a result, Chris has more speech capabilities. We didn’t know. We could’ve gotten that for Harrison (their son) if we’d known.” The concert helps to raise awareness for that crucial early intervention and gives parents an opportunity to learn more and provides resources for them to talk to about it. According to Randy Corti, Founder of Desert Autism Foundation, they’ve been getting many more calls than they ever have. These talks with families allow them to recommend therapies and to help families get a diagnosis. The dialogue is out there, and Heinz states that whether the concert raises money or not, it raises awareness, and that is crucial.
The vibe at this concert every year is one of joy. Everyone who plays, does so for free because they want to share their talent for a great cause. There are also many volunteers who give their time, and many who go far beyond every year. Greg Little runs the sound and his wife, Laura, runs the silent auction and shoots photos of the event. Jeff Mazer helps with sound. Rod Van Buren donates a lot of the gear that they use: truss sound board, lights, cabling, and more. Doug Phillips donates the main PA system. According to Heinz, the concert is almost like a family reunion (and indeed, many actual family members do come from far and wide to support).
The show is all ages until 10 pm. There are activities for kids, there’s a sensory tent, for anyone who wants to chill out, which therapist Beth Nelson of Desert Occupational Therapy bring sensory items for the tent. Lots of families with kids on the spectrum don’t get to attend events like this, as it can be overwhelming. So it’s special for families to attend a concert together and have a good time. The whole event is accepting, kids get to experience a music show which they may never get to experience. There are 17 performances – 9 bands, 8 acoustic acts spread out on two different stages.
There is a $10 suggested donation at the door. The Tack Room has a full kitchen for attendees wanting to grab a bite, and there is also the Polo Pizza Company on-site with pizza for those dancing their calories off. There will be a big Silent Auction and raffle as part of the program. Some of the auction items include: guitars (3), hotel stays, restaurant gift cards, Living Desert passes, Air Museum passes, an outdoor stove, and much more.
The bands playing will be: Fever Dog, The Hellions, Blasting Echo, Elektric Lucie, Pescaterritory, Krystofer Do, Crucial Culture, Both Ways Uphill, Academy of Musical Performance, Michael Keeth, Jetta King, Matt Davin, Kelsey Manning, Rick Shelley, Lance Riebsomer, David Saba, and David Heinz.
This is the first year there is a presenting sponsor, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, who do a lot of philanthropy. The Concert for Autism is endlessly grateful for their contributions. 3M Studios, a new studio location opened by Mark Gregg and his musical partners, is also a sponsor, as is Visit Greater Palm Springs. Many local businesses have given in-kind donations and sponsorships, such as CV Weekly, Xpress Graphics, Impression Design, Road Radios, Circulation Media, all their venues, 93.7 and ALT 101.5.
The concert is on Saturday, October 22 from 3 to midnight at the Tack Room in Indio. If you can’t attend and would like to donate, visit concertforautism.com for more info.