The Lowcountry's (Imaginary) Hurricane Relief Concert

Tim Brennan

Wednesday night’s 12.12.12 concert to aid those affected by Hurricane Sandy was an event seen ‘round the world. Kanye wore a skirt. Bon Jovi sported the '70s deep-thinker turtleneck. Keith Moon appeared from the grave. Paul McCartney stood where Kurt Cobain belonged. Celebrity after celebrity pretended to answer phones from donors (they were really checking their Twitter trending all night). I was torn between enjoying the music and wondering about the hypocrisy.


My favorite Facebook alerts before and after the concert:

“12.12.12: A Concert To Benefit Social Media”


“Between Kanye's skirt and Roger Daltry's chest, hand-stitched leather things are making a big comeback!”


“Getting a kick outta watching the Goldman Sachs Platinum cardholders in the front row pumping their Rolexes in the air to Bon Jovi.”


“While you were sleepin', the music nerds were geekin'.”


“Last night's relief concert changes everything. From now on, Weather Channel hurricane trackers will include predictors of what bands will perform based on a storm's landfall. ‘While this storm could bring out Kanye and Billy Joel again, there is a 30% chance we will see Aerosmith, and Dropkick Murphys, with Adele joining the remaining members of Boston. Stay tuned to News 6 for tips on where to find shelter and get presale tickets.’"


Okay, so the last one was mine. But it got me thinking: what relief concert would we have here in Charleston?


We know there will be a hurricane here someday. In the three years I’ve lived here, the Northeast has had three major storms and we’ve had none, other than Irene redistributing a chunk of Folly Beach. It’s going to happen. We all know it. And when it does, we all have to be prepared. Yes, that means for booking the relief concert.


Within hours of the storm’s passing, even before a Governor or President does the hug-and-frown tour of the damage, a group will assemble to plan the relief concert. They will scout a location and start listing performers. Hootie, of course, will be tagged. How about Band of Horses, Needtobreathe, Edwin McCain? Those with less rooted ties such as Natalie Merchant or Greg Allman? Taylor Swift likes strolling King Street, so maybe she will donate some time. Zac Brown is always good for an annual show here.


Presenters? We have Bill Murray. The cast of Army Wives. That famous actor who married a famous actress at Boone Hall—call him up. It’s a start. Perhaps sponsors and the media can help get the requisite British bands, and a rapper or two. I say, between holograms and old footage, we could have a Beatle reunion right here in the Lowcountry.


Then the committee will start calling the networks to see what time slot will work and how quickly they can get the crews into town. My bet is that they will not get a whole lot of call backs. New York does not sympathize with us too much. We don’t make pizza like they do. We don’t have social icons like Snooki. We don’t have 15 crime dramas telling the stories of roughly 20 murders a week in our town. We simply can’t be worthwhile if we don’t have compelling death stories about our city every night on prime time.


All kidding aside, when a hurricane does come here, it might be devastating. It could be worse than what New York saw. No matter how bad it is, I’m pretty sure we can’t rely on anyone to come and provide hours of entertainment for a national audience.


Take a look at Katrina vs. Sandy. During Katrina 1,833 people died with many others missing. With Sandy, 120 people died. Katrina had $123 billion in costs, while Sandy had $60 billion. Katrina caused so much damage to the New Orleans Superdome, that it was once thought the venue would need to be demolished. Upward of 20,000 displaced residents took shelter in the damaged structure, and some did not leave for months. In New York, the Giants played a game in their stadium five days after Sandy passed. Who had it worse off?


Katrina had an hour long special on a few networks with Harry Connick Jr., Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Aaron Neville, Kanye West, Winton Marsalis, and some B-list celebs. Sandy had a dizzying line-up of artists over six hours on multiple networks. Kanye was an embarrassing presenter for Katrina and an embarrassing entertainer for Sandy. So, that was even. In total, the Katrina concert raised $50 million. The Sandy concert raised over $30 million before it even started, and they haven’t come close to counting the money generated Wednesday night. I bet it will far eclipse the Katrina tally.


Clearly, the damage to New Orleans was greater. But the support came out for New York. Charleston? Don’t expect much. Around here, instead of flashing Rolexes in the front row, people will be out at their neighbor’s house helping to pick the pieces back up.


Still, the 12.12.12 concert was pretty darn cool in a lot of ways. So, I guess this also means that if another storm heads up our way, we should all hope it makes landfall in New York again. Nothing personal, New Yorkers. We’d just really like to see another great concert.