The annual City of Hope “Spirit of Life” Award dinner is the music industry’s version of a bar mitzvah for a noble cause, and this year’s event, honoring Red Light Management founder Coran Capshaw, at the Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport, was no different.
After a year of tragic deaths, natural catastrophes, and political turmoil, the record biz took a night off to celebrate the year-long campaign, which raised some $4.8 million for cancer research at the Duarte, Calif., facility, adding to the more than $113 million the Music, Film and Entertainment Industry Group has donated to the hospital over its 44-year history.
Phish’s Trey Anastasio lost a sister to neuroendocrine cancer eight years ago, the same disease that took the life of Paradigm talent agent Chip Hooper in March, 2016, which made the event particularly poignant for him. “We’re here to support the cause and Coran, who is the right guy to raise money for this organization,” the musician, who’d play a brief acoustic set later in the evening, told Variety before the event.
Indeed, Capshaw later announced a donation of $500k to launch a Chip Hooper Memorial Fund to research neuroendocrine cancer.
The normally low-key Capshaw admitted he usually prefers being behind-the-scenes and out of the spotlight, but was attracted by his friendship with Hooper to assist the City of Hope in its stated mission of “Music, Hope & Healing.”
After joking to Irving Azoff about “not having this at the Forum,” Capshaw – who described himself as a Virginia farmer, said, “It’s good to see the music business come together for a common goal after a year of tragedy,” including the violent protests in his company’s home base of Charlottesville.
Dave Matthews — introduced by longtime Red Light employee and the evening’s MC Bruce Flohr as Capshaw’s best friend in one of the evening’s running jokes — told of his future manager meeting his mom, who responded, “I trust him because he has very sad eyes.”
“He’s incredibly generous,” said Matthews, “and one of the few people I can yell at because I’m spineless and he gives me a spine. We both believe in giving money and time away for better things.”
Among the luminaries on hand were UMG boss Sir Lucian Grainge and Amanda Marks; CAA’s Rob Light (“who donated his patio furniture for the night,” joked Flohr); Irving Azoff (“He sprung for the VIP package to get a meet-and-greet with Coran,” cracked Flohr); the Recording Academy’s Neil Portnow; uber-lawyers Donald S. Passman, John Frankenheimer, Elliot Groffman, Jay Cooper, and Gary Gilbert; longtime City of Hope supporters Zach Horowitz and Phil Quartararo; Warner Bros.’ Peter Gray; UMPG’s Jody Gerson and Evan Lamberg; UMe’s Bruce Resnikoff; Live Nation’s Michael Rapino; AEG’s Jay Marciano; SONGS Music Publishing’s Carianne Marshall; iHeartRadio’s Alissa Pollack; and a strong Red Light contingent.
ATO Records female trio Joseph, the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Trey Anastasio performed acoustic sets before Matthews himself took the stage for emotional, event-appropriate renditions of “Don‘t Drink the Water,” “Samurai Cop,” “Bartender,” and “Grey Street,” dedicating the latter to Hooper, calling it “his favorite.”
“Oh, and if I die before my time,” sang Matthews on “Bartender,” the last track on the band’s 2002 album, “Busted Stuff.” “Oh, sweet sister of mine please don’t regret me if I go.”
Said Anastasio, “You could feel Chip in the room.”
It was that kind of night.