Flaming Lips, Built to Spill, Kings of Leon to Rock For Oklahoma Tornado Recovery

Part 3 – Artists Reach Out

Musicians are helping recovery in Moore, Oklahoma by releasing benefit recordings, hosting relief concerts and – in the case of The Flaming Lips – redirecting funds from a T-shirt contest.  The latest effort is the just announced “Rock for Oklahoma” all-age concert to be held at Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Arena on July 23 featuring Kings of Leon, Built to Spill, the Lips’ good friend Jackson Browne, the Lips themselves and special guests.  $35 and $50 tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. via ticketmaster.com or 800-745-3000.  All proceeds go to central Oklahoma community organizations and charities.

Shakespeare said ‘It is not enough to help the needy up, but to support them after,’” Wayne Coyne says in a media statement (via Tulsa World).  “In our small way we are trying to not just be here at the moment of immediate need, but to stay and help with the rebuilding. After all, this is our home and they are us and we are them.

May 29th’s “Music For Moore Concert” hosted three stages-worth of music at the Bricktown Events Center – including Deerpeople, The Evangelicals, Colourmusic, Beau Jennings, JD McPherson, rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson and many more.  All proceeds from the $25 ticket sales are being donated to Red Cross OKC.  Also that night, Blake Shelton’s “Healing in the Heartland” raised $6 million for United Way of Central Oklahoma.  The sold-out, televised concert featured Blake, Usher, Miranda Lambert, Vince Gill, Reba McEntire and Rascal Flatts, Darius Rucker and Luke Bryan.

Last month Deerpeople, Gentle Ghost, New Fumes and 19 other artists – including the latter’s new side project,  Bird Flower – quickly assembled Reaching Out: A Relief Album By Oklahoma Artists.  Released on May 27th as a bandcamp download, the compilation dedicates all money “directly to the Red Cross tornado relief fund.”  Likewise, Sugar Free Allstars – another local group – have written, recorded and issued a new single in response to the damage, “(Look for the) Good People.”100% of the proceeds from the download of this song will go to the American Red Cross of Central and Western Oklahoma to aid in the disaster relief from the tornados,” they pledge on their bandcamp page.  Depth & Current have released a new download, a cover of the Bee Gees’ track “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.” All profits go to one of their fans “who lost everything in the May 20 tornado that struck Moore.”  Click on any of the above links to download these new releases and help the cause.


On May 13th – before the tornado struck – The Flaming Lips announced a T-shirt contest.  In the aftermath of the storm the band redirected the profits from that project, promising “25% of sales from the Threadless pre-sale tee will go to the Oklahoma Red Cross” on May 23rd.  The next day the benefit was upgraded to donate “100% of net proceeds” (the site currently reads “$10 [of $24.50] for every t-shirt sold” – it’s unclear if this is the amount the net profit totals per shirt, the rate has been changed again, or the site info is simply outdated).

To pre-order the winning helping the Red Cross visit here.

The May 20th tornado hit close to home for The Flaming Lips, though – lucky for them – they were away on tour at the time.  Between songs during the band’s London’s Roundhouse concert the next night Wayne Coyne addressed the tragedy with an “impassioned 10-minute speech,” according to NME.  “This is a ridiculous thing we do, this show… if anybody in our band or crew had been affected by [the tornado] we would’ve had no problem with stopping to help them.”

Two days later the band played “You Have To Be Joking” in recognition of the 23 lives lost in Moore at a special Maida Vale studios BBC radio broadcasted concert.  “There was this terrible tornado that came through a couple of days ago,” Coyne relayed at the start of the song.  “You start to get this story that these children are trapped in this school and you don’t know how this is going to play out but your mind can’t help but go to the worst.  And this song has that in it – it’s almost as though you can’t believe what the person is saying...”  Except for a brief reappearance in the Lips’ setlists at their 2006 Hammerstein Ballroom shows, “You Have To Be Joking” hadn’t been played since 1995 (when Wayne related it to another famous tragedy that hit close to home, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing earlier that year in downtown Oklahoma City).

That same day Coyne spoke at length to Marlow Stern of The Daily Beast: “I was at a hotel right in the middle of London on Camden Street. We were playing a show here and I had the flu, so I had been sleeping all day Monday. My phone was lying there on the bed and I started getting hundreds of texts. After I woke up from whatever cold medicine I was on, it was around 10 p.m. in London, so 4 p.m. in Oklahoma City. I turned on the news and watched. As the night went on, you don’t know if you’re going to hear from someone who says, “Oh my god” this-and-that, and you do your best to check in on people as quickly as you can. That’s the marvel of cellphones, I guess.

In fact, the top news story over here in London was the Oklahoma City tornado. Reports said up to 75 people were dead because of a storm—and I say storm because all the other top news stories from around the world involved a lot of people dead, but from bombs and people hating each other. The only slight comfort is that these were just good people trying to go to school and go to work, and the universe comes down on them.”

“My sister lives in Moore, close enough to Plaza Towers Elementary School to think, ‘Oh my god, there’s kids just down the road from me who are trapped in there.’ Her own daughter was not at that school but a nearby school, and it went on lockdown. My sister, her husband, mother-in-law, and pets all jumped into their shelter. You can try to imagine what they went through: Their daughter’s at a school, they’re in their tornado shelter, and you know the tornado’s there and you don’t know what’s going to happen. And then you come out of the shelter, and you’re still separated. They’re all OK and their home didn’t suffer any damage. Thankfully, there’s nobody that I’m deeply connected with who’s going through a lot of pain right now…. I live in Oklahoma City and Plaza Towers Elementary School is in Moore, so it’s close. I know where the damage is. It’s on the highway between Oklahoma City and Norman, Oklahoma, which we go to a lot—Moore is right in between there. You look over there, and things that you’ve seen for years are now just a pile of rubble . . . Some of my really good friends also grew up in Moore.”

Upon returning from tour, Wayne visited Moore – where the local news KJRH 2 caught up with him.  “It’s a powerful, powerful scene,” Coyne reflected to KJRH while surveying the wreckage at Plaza Towers Elementary. “You know that people lost their lives here. I mean it’s just — if you’re standing here, it’s a moving scene for sure.”

A second tornado Oklahoma City on May 31st, damaging Wayne Coyne’s property and flooding the Lips’ Pink Floor Studios.  Coyne and co. tweeted and instagrammed updates that night – taking shelter underground, watching the water rise, a neighbor’s home catching fire – and the next day’s cleanup.  Coyne is also one of many artists who expressed concern on social media for the Moore tornado.

Part 2 – Artists And Okies React



Part 1 – Tornado Devastates Oklahoman Suburbs

On May 20th an EF-5 twister struck a 17-mile stretch of the Moore, Oklahoma area, affecting 33,000 people and killing 23 – including seven children.  With peak winds estimated at 210 miles per hour, between 12,000 to 13,000 homes were destroyed.  Briarwood Elementary School and Plaza Towers Elementary School were two of the hardest hit locations.  Moore Medical Center was also massively damaged.  In all, insurance claims are estimated to surpass $1 billion according to The Oklahoma Department of Insurance.


Part 4 – You Can Help

I think the people of Oklahoma City are resilient, but I think it always happens in communities—people have the desire to help,” Coyne told The Daily Beast. “They have a sense that even though you may not know each other, we’re all one. I saw this happen in Boston, too, because I have friends there. If you’re even a person sitting at home, you’re compelled to do something. People forget that you could donate $10 to the Red Cross, and that’s all you need to do. If you could do that, that’s a beautiful way to help.  But we can always help each other, and it shouldn’t always take a tragedy to make us realize this. If you can’t help the people of Moore, see how the people on your street are doing.”

Pre-order a Flaming Lips T-shirt here.

Buy tickets this Friday at 10 a.m. here.

Download songs from Reaching Out here.


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