Flood Aid '04 draws waves of support
Roll over Beethoven. Tell Tchaikovsky the news.
Rock 'n' roll came to staid Heinz Hall Thursday night in the form of Flood Aid '04, a benefit for victims of the Sept. 17 flood in Western Pennsylvania.
Who better to shake up the echoes than Bruce Springsteen, who was enlisted by longtime pal Joe Grushecky for the sold-out show.
Springsteen first made an appearance introducing Johnny Grushecky, Joe's son, saying he was the "de facto emcee" for the evening. Many were startled to see The Boss so early, and there were cries of "Bruuuce" echoing through the hall.
He then came out when Exit 105, a band from his home state of New Jersey, made an unannounced appearance. Exit 105's' comic-book metal was ratcheted up about 50 notches when Springsteen joined them for Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," which started out menacingly, then ended in a glorious, noisy epiphany of rock.
But it was Springsteen playing with Grushecky that had the audience waiting with anticipation most of the night. The duo has a history that dates back to the early 1970s, when Grushecky was a rising local star and Springsteen had not yet been anointed as one of the great voices in rock music.
Their relationship has endured, and every time Springsteen plays venues in Pittsburgh he has invited Grushecky to join him.
After stalwart sets by Bill Deasy and Rob James of the Clarks (who were joined by the Houserockers for a rousing version of Deasy's "Lost in America"), and B.E. Taylor and Donnie Iris, Springsteen finally emerged from the wings, launching into a solo acoustic version of "If I Should Fall Behind."
He followed that with "Land of Hope and Dreams," before inciting the first sing-along of the evening with "For You."
Grushecky and the Houserockers would later join Springsteen onstage to really test the hall's acoustics.
That Flood Aid '04 happened at all was due to Grushecky, who approached Springsteen at the Light of Day benefit concert in early November at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.
Springsteen immediately agreed, and Grushecky and J. Larry Kuzmanko, director of special events for Allegheny County, began soliciting local musicians and the staff at Heinz Hall, Downtown.
"Once Bruce got in, we had a lot more clout," Grushecky said this week.
Tickets, which went on sale Nov. 23, sold out in less than an hour. All proceeds, announced last night at around $250,000, will go to Salvation Army flood-relief efforts.