In response to the Tohoku earthquake, community initiative Southlake Working As a Team (S.W.A.T.) joined forces with Southlake Sister Cities, the City of Southlake, and the Carroll Independent School District to form Southlake 4 Japan. The organization dedicated itself to helping the town’s sister city, Tome, which suffered damage to its buildings and roads and struggled to accommodate the evacuees from neighboring cities. Southlake’s relationship with Japan began in 1991, long before Toyoma and neighboring towns merged to form the city of Tome. Since then, the two cities have engaged in cultural and education exchange programs.
Southlake Sister Cities had already set up an earthquake relief fund and collected messages for a scrapbook, but more needed to be done to raise awareness within the community. Carroll Senior High School students Harrison Edwards and Carter Humphrey proposed the idea of a benefit concert.
Edwards felt a connection with Tome as a former student ambassador of the Sister Cities exchange program. He and Humphrey already had experience organizing such an event, having been the masterminds behind last year’s Rock for Haiti earthquake relief concert. Southlake 4 Japan was quick to help with providing a venue, publicity, and volunteers. S.W.A.T. founder and Southlake Baptist Church Lead Pastor Clayton Reed was in charge of the event programming while Edwards and Humphrey sought out bands to fill the line-up.
The concert was held on May 7 in Southlake Town Square. Attendees were encouraged to donate at least $5, which got them a wristband and a cell phone screen protector. There was an origami booth with bumper stickers for sale and food supplied by Qdoba Mexican Grill. Southlake Sister Cities provided information about Tome and collected signatures for a banner being sent to Tome’s mayor.
Alternative metal band Quoth the Raven opened the event. They played all original songs with the exception of a cover of Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine”. Despite being only high school students, Quoth the Raven impressed even the non-rock fans of the audience with their complex melodies and Aubrey’s strong yet vulnerable vocals.
The next band, Don Cabo, was made up of students. They were less serious, as the frontman read his lyrics off a sheet of paper and cracked jokes between sets. Nonetheless, the band demonstrated creativity as they combined African beats with their idiosyncratic rap lyrics (one song was about lobsters) and threw in a jazz-inspired number for variety.
Edwards’ band, Vibe Zoo, was a crowd favorite. Their fusion of funk, blues, and hard rock was reminiscent of Red Hot Chili Peppers, whom they covered, and 311. However, they also acknowledged old school influences with a rendition of “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix.
Before the final band took the stage, Reed and Edwards spoke, along with members of Southlake Sister Cities. Then Event Horizon put on an explosive performance. Founded by father and son/guitarist and drummer Marty and Zak Hanan, the cover band strictly plays for charity events. Kevin Richards got the crowd on their feet with his soulful and energetic vocals while Zak proved once again that a teenager could play classic rock solos (Event Horizon also played “Purple Haze”).
The night ended on a somber note. After being informed of the benefit concert, Tome’s Mayor Fuse sent a video message thanking the citizens of Southlake for their efforts and updating everyone on the situation in Tome. It served as a reminder that Japan was still struggling.
Nevertheless, hope lives. The benefit concert proved to be a tremendous success. Qdoba Mexican Grill donated all their earnings. $2,144 was made from on-sight donations, making the total (which included wristband pre-sales) near $3000. Although Southlake Sister Cities may have begun as a way to obtain cultural exchange opportunities, Southlake used the relationship it formed with Japan to make a difference.
Listening to: “Sympathia” by Versailles