Folk music is about life’s experiences, the good and the bad. The genre’s best singer-songwriters like Joan Baez, Brandi Carlile, Steve Earle, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Dave Matthews, Lucinda Williams, and many more have come together for the Lampedusa Concerts for Refugees, raising awareness for the displaced refugees of Northern Africa. The eight-show tour runs up and down the west coast, and reaches out into Texas, featuring a round-table musical experience.
Los Angeles’ historic Wiltern Theatre was host to the fourth of the eight concerts and featured the talents of Steve Earle, Joan Baez, Brandi Carlile, Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin, The Mastersons, and Alynda Segarra. This unique and intimate show allows fans to enjoy music from their favorite artists, and learn about the refugee crisis. Each artist takes a turn singing, allowing for the others to join in if they feel inspired. The songs build and take on lives of their own. The theatre filled with overwhelming emotion. I found myself many times wiping tears from my eyes. It was touching to see a legendary artist like Joan Baez completely enthralled with Brandi Carlile, or Lucinda Williams get emotional as Baez offered up harmonies. Musicians who are still music fans, refreshing.
Steve Earle doubled as MC last night, and the show kicked off with a cover of Tom Petty’s “Refugee.” Poignant and befitting. Lucinda Williams took to her mic first, followed by Baez, Carlile who brought us to tears many times with “The Story” and “The Mother,” Earle, and then Griffin who did an amazing cover of Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks’ “Insider.” The rotation continued this way until Griffin welcomed Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Alynda Segarra. The night was full of emotion, not just for the songs being played but for the reason we were all gathered — emotions for all displaced people. Each artist explained why the cause was so important to them, with the common bottom line being human decency.
The numbers of displaced refugees are the highest they have been since World War II. Nearly 20 people are displaced from their homes every minute. The Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) and The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) are two organizations fighting for those affected by the growing issue. Both work tirelessly to raise money for healthcare, education, and psychological needs of refugees and other displaced people. The JRS formed 37 years ago in response to the Boat People crisis in Indochina, when one or more million people were sent to “re-education” camps in an attempt to destroy private enterprise. Now they are working to help the people of Northern Africa fleeing to the Italian island of Lampedusa. This is the first year the UNHCR has join the “concerts for refugees” tour. Established in the late 1950s by the UN General Assembly, the UNHCR works as a safeguard to the rights of refugees. The organization has helped tens of millions of displaced people restart their lives. And have been working on the front lines of the world largest refugee crisis including Syria and Iraq.
For the rest of the concert dates visit concertsforrefugees.org and for more information about JRS visit jrsusa.org