“Every time I walk in this place, my heart swells with joy,” Flea told the audience of around 400 at the intimate Nov. 2 event, held in the parking lot of the Conservatory.
“If you ever had a good idea, a music school or something else that can uplift people, do it,” he continued. “I’m a dundering moron. If I can do it, anyone can do it.”
Hosted for the third year by comedian Marc Maron, the evening opened with a performance by the Silverlake Conservatory All-Stars, a collection of top students from the school.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers next played a high-octane set of mainly deeper cuts that included “Can’t Stop,” “The Zephyr,” “You Don’t Know My Mind,” “Purple Stain,” “Don’t Forget Me,” “Suck My Kiss,” “Soul to Squeeze” and “By the Way.”
This year’s honoree, leading Los Angeles billionaire and philanthropist Ron Burkle, was a no-show, but RHCP’s Anthony Kiedis feted him from the stage, thanking him for being a “generous motherf–ker,” who hosted two past Conservatory benefits at his home.
“He also gave a shit-ton of money to the school. Wherever you are, we thank you from the bottom of our heart,” Kiedis said.
After a brief stand-up set by Maron, who referred to himself as a “Jewish palette cleanser between two huge rock and roll acts,” Vedder, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, took the stage for a set that veered between tender and raucous. He opened with “Far Behind,” from the 2007 film Into the Wild, for which he wrote the music. Next came Pearl Jam’s delicate “Hearts and Thoughts,” before he turned to music from one of his favorite artists.
“When you lost a great musician, there’s one small blessing … their music remains and when you listen, they live on in the music. The irony is that when I go, the song people will be singing is ‘I’m Still Alive.’”
With that, Vedder launched into a lovely version of Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers.”
Vedder then riffed that he was trying to come up with some advice he could offer the young students at the Conservatory, and the best he could do was a bastardized lyric from Kiss, initially misheard by Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, as “I want to rock and roll all night and part of every day,” as opposed to the correct line of “I want to rock and roll all night and party every day.”
“See kids, you still have to take responsibility. Do some chores,” he said, with a laugh.
Vedder returned to Pearl Jam material with “Wishlist,” which he said “borrowed” the phrase “behind the sun” from the RHCP 1987 track, “Behind the Sun.”
“I’m just getting around to asking Flea and Anthony if I can use it tonight. I guess I’ll be playing this benefit every year now,” he said.
Vedder switched to ukulele for “Can’t Keep,” before bringing up seven students from the Conservatory choir to accompany him on a stirring, poignant version of “Better Man.” RHCP guitarist Josh Klinghoffer then joined Vedder for another Into the Wild track, “Society,” and an intense version of Pearl Jam’s “Corduroy.” Next came Into the Wild’s “Hard Sun,” again with the Silverlake Conservatory choir members, before RHCP joined Vedder for rousing renditions of Prince’s “Purple Rain” and the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.”
The evening drew a number of high-level music execs including last year’s honoree, former Warner Bros. Records chairman Mo Ostin; as well as Universal Music Group Publishing’s Judy Gerson and Marc Cimino; managers Ian Montone and John Silva; attorneys Eric Greenspan and Zia Modabber; Artist Group International’s Marsha Vlasic; Spotify’s Courtney Holt; Azoff MSG Entertainment’s Susan Genco; and Chop Shop’s Alex Patsavas Rosenfeld.
Creatives in attendance included musicians Kim Gordon, Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig and The Kills’ Alison Mosshart, producer Greg Kurstin, director Gus Van Zant, actor Max Greenfield, and artist Shepard Fairey.
The amount raised had not been tallied by press time as money from the silent auction — which included works by preeminent contemporary artists from Ed Ruscha and Raymond Pettibon; photographic prints of Freddie Mercury and Red Hot Chili Peppers; signed Fender guitars and tickets to a courtside Lakers game with Flea — was still being collected.
Last year’s event raised more than $1 million.