Photo 3: Navarro, Black; Photo 4: Morrison, Vai
Photo credit: Jim Donnelly
The second annual “ABOVE GROUND” benefit concert, organized by Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction) and Billy Morrison (Billy Idol), was truly a night to remember. Taking place last week (September 16) at the packed Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, the star-studded event was an immersive evening of art and music celebrating the vinyl album as an art form, and at the same time raising awareness and funds for the treatment of mental health, with the profits being donated to MusiCares®, a charity of the Recording Academy™ that was established to safeguard the health and well-being of all music people. *Read an exclusive Q&A with Navarro and Morrison below.*
With one standout performance and collaboration after another (*see media pull quotes below*), the musical guests saluted two of the greatest albums of all time, which were performed in their glorious entirety: David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and the Stooges’ self-titled debut album (celebrating its 50th anniversary this year), on which the world was introduced to Iggy Pop.
And what a line-up (below) guitarists Navarro and Morrison welcomed to the Fonda stage with Tom Arnold hosting the evening.
“ABOVE GROUND” was produced with assistance from Law Rocks, which promotes music education programs. During the intermission between performances, there were speeches from people in the mental health field including Dr. Drew Pinsky along with art items for auction, live graffiti from prominent street artists including @Teachr1, @PlasticJesus, @VYALone and @MegZany, and information booths.
Q&A WITH DAVE NAVARRO AND BILLY MORRISONABOUT “ABOVE GROUND”
How do you feel this year’s event differed from last year’s show? The energy in the room felt even more intense this year.
BILLY: The energy was drastically higher this year and I think that’s a direct result of pursuing a goal that is NOT based on self. That positive loving energy for change is contagious and if we ALL try to channel that, imagine what would happen.
DAVE: I think there might be a couple of factors. For one I think that there has been a broader conversation about mental health since last year, and I also think that we followed through on something we started almost two years ago which tends to have more weight and validity. Not just another jam night, but an actual movement. Billy and I have been playing Hollywood with so many different artists for so many years that I think doing it a second time was key in contrasting the difference between this event versus other gigs. I also think that our selection of albums to highlight may have been more generally known, but that doesn’t mean we will straighten out and ever go down the center. We choose albums that shaped us musically and that carry artistic merit beyond musicality.
Anyone who witnessed the concert could easily feel your dedication to MusiCares with your personal comments onstage about how the organization helps musicians in crisis. Can you give us some comments about this dedication?
DAVE: My dedication to the cause comes deep from within as I have personally suffered in ways that I could not possibly explain. The only ones who would understand in any capacity are the ones that I am speaking to. I know firsthand how isolating depression and mental illness can be and I feel I have a responsibility to share hope as I have found so much peace within the process of giving back.
BILLY: The dedication comes from deep personal experience, both with our own traumas and with our direct experience with MusiCares. Again, I think if you come from a place of truth and love, you cannot help but be passionate and dedicated.
Will there be an Above Ground 3 next year and if so, perhaps you can talk about how your minds are already reeling with the possibilities of which albums to present?
BILLY: Yes, we are talking about Above Ground 3 already, but there is NO way I’m going to talk about what albums are in my head! That is a personal process that Dave and I enjoy for months…discussing, listening, and finding two records that mean that much to BOTH of us!!
DAVE: This is something we have become incredibly passionate about and intend to continue as long as possible. It’s going to take a lot of work and luckily for us there is no shortage of amazing artists and material that we can utilize in carrying this message further!”
Here’s a sampling of what the press had to say about the event:
“For an industry that has seen so many talented artists, and friends to many, from Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell to Avicii and Prodigy’s Keith Flint, succumb to battles with depression and addiction in recent years, just holding an open forum like this is so important. And it’s easy to see why it is so embraced by the music community. In two years Above Ground has quickly established itself as a night that can help people while delivering some unbelievable musical moments.”