HEART & JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS HEADLINE HISTORIC EARTH DAY CONCERT AT EMP MUSEUM TO BENEFIT WILD ORCA RESEARCH AND ADVOCACY
With all the recent controversy surrounding captive orcas, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart decided it was high time to celebrate the wild ones.
Heart and fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Joan Jett & The Blackhearts will headline an historic concert at EMP Museum’s spectacular “Sky Church” this Earth Day, April 22nd, to benefit wild orca research and advocacy. Joining Heart and Joan Jett will be Seattle’s own Grammy Award-winning recording artist and producer Sir Mix-a-Lot, Country Joe McDonald of “Woodstock” fame, and New York-based musician and activist Andrew Morse. Also on the bill for “Kiss the Sky! The Orca Freedom Concert” is an extraordinary up-and-coming LA-based singer/songwriter and guitar virtuoso Arielle, a protégé of Queen’s Brian May. The event will be emceed by legendary Seattle radio personality Norman B.
The Earth Day concert and subsequent hour-long broadcast special are being produced by Seattle-based network journalist (ABC News and others) and wildlife filmmaker Michael Harris, together with EMP Museum Public Programming Producer Andrew McKeag. The sponsors are Guitar Center, and the Pacific Whale Watch Association.
“Ann and Nancy and I worked together several years ago on a syndicated series for young people entitled ‘Baby Wild Films Presents,’ with Nancy hosting and narrating,” remembers Harris. “One of those specials we did was called ‘The Killer Whale People,’ and so I had the pleasure of taking Nancy out with our wild orcas. I think it was her first time seeing them in the wild, and she was hooked.”
So much so, in fact, that the Wilsons teamed up with longtime songwriting partner Sue Ennis and wrote a song about orcas called “Baby Wild,” which Nancy performed in a wonderful beach campfire scene that ends the special, and then later recorded in studio with seven-time ASCAP Award-winning Hollywood composer and Baby Wild Films Executive Producer Tim Truman. The show went on to win several Emmy Awards.
“I’ve been doing network television for over 25 years now and that experience still tops the list,” Harris continues. “I’ve spent a good part of my life amongst whales and wildlife, but watching Nancy see these wild orcas for the first time was a kick. It was like I was seeing them for the first time too, through her eyes. This legendary rock-and-roller, this power chord guitar slinger, suddenly became a kid again. You could see the transformation, as I’ve seen with so many others who experience orcas in the wild. But most importantly, Nancy immediately made the connection that this isn’t Shamu – this is the real SeaWorld, this is where orcas belong. As she says in the show, ‘this is where orcas reach for the sky, but not on command.’ When I was asked to approach Ann and Nancy about doing this benefit, I think I got a ‘yes’ from them in about five minutes.”
Other artists also were quick to sign on. Sir Mix-a-Lot, an artist not often approached to do benefits for orcas, didn’t hesitate when asked to participate. Country Joe McDonald, who delivered one of the most enduring performances at Woodstock (“I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag”), is coming up from San Francisco, lending the event a distinctive connection to music activism of the past. And longtime animal advocate Joan Jett, who doesn’t usually do benefit shows, jumped at the invitation – for the whales, of course, but also for an opportunity to share the bill with Ann and Nancy Wilson, whom Joan credits with taking her under her wing early in her career, dating back to an early ‘80s gig with Heart and Queen, an experience that otherwise would have been nerve-wracking for a young rocker like her.
“Joan also feels like Seattle has adopted her,” explains her producer Kenny Laguna. “Back in the grunge days, all the great bands there embraced Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. The did a bunch of shows together. She loves Seattle, loves Ann and Nancy, loves Experience Music Project, and is thrilled to be a part of this event.”
The venue is “Sky Church,” the main performance space at Paul Allen’s spectacular Frank Gehry-designed EMP Museum at the base of Seattle’s Space Needle. With a 65-foot ceiling, 33′ x 60′ LED screen behind the stage, and amazing acoustics, it’s unlike any venue in the world, and in fact is the embodiment of Jimi Hendrix’s writings in his journal – some of his last, in fact – where he envisions a place where people of all ages, interests and backgrounds could come together to experience music. It’s central to the concept for EMP Museum, and quite a fitting theme for this benefit show.
“Kiss the Sky! The Orca Freedom Concert” will be a night of music. There are no major speeches slated in the program. The evening is going to be an extremely positive, forward-thinking event that celebrates the totem species of the Pacific Northwest, and encourages people to support the groups who are working so hard to recover these endangered orcas and advocate for their well-being and freedom. Beneficiaries for the show are The Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island, OrcaLab on BC’s Hanson Island, and Berkeley-based Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project, through the “Orca Trust Fund” of Seattle-based 501(c)(3) non-profit Orca Conservancy, a longtime advocate for the Pacific Northwest’s wild – and endangered – orcas.
Tickets are on sale now through the EMP Museum. General admission/donation is $100, with a limited number of VIP tickets at $500, which include special-access passes, a whale watch trip with any of the 32 member operators of the Pacific Whale Watch Association in Washington and British Columbia, and a very special gray whale watch cruise with some of the artists the next morning aboard the beautiful 101-foot Island Explorer 3, donated for the day by Island Adventures Whale Watching.
“Kiss the Sky! The Orca Freedom Concert” will be an amazing event – great music, awesome venue, and “top of the food chain” beneficiaries, our killer whales.
For more info:
EMP Museum Events / http://www.empmuseum.org/visit/private-events.aspx
Kiss the Sky! The Orca Freedom Concert / www.orcafreedomconcert.org
Baby Wild Films / www.babywildfilms.com
The Center for Whale Research / www.whaleresearch.com
OrcaLab / www.orcalab.org
Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project / www.immp.eii.org
Orca Conservancy / www.orcaconservancy.org
Pacific Whale Watch Association / www.pacificwhalewatchassociation.org