Rock Aid

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

With images of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina all over the media, you may find yourself wondering how you could contribute to a local relief effort.  One great way would be to head to the Monterey County Sheriff’s Posse Grounds on Old Natividad Road this Sunday.  There, young musicians from the Salinas area will be congregating for Rock Aid, an all-day music festival with all proceeds going to the Salvation Army’s hurricane relief program.  Fans of local bands will recognize many of the names appearing at Rock Aid, including Cali Nation, Third Eclipse and the recent winners of the Wise Music Battle of the Bands contest, Airman Basic.

The event has been pulled together from scratch by Airman Basic member Rafael Gonzalez and his family.  Gonzalez’s father Alvaro, a professional Mariachi musician who originally conceived the event, explained how the idea was precipitated.  “We all have seen the destruction, the devastation and the misery on the news,” he said.  “I thought that if we asked the young people to help, they would.  A lot of them are too young to remember 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake, and how people from all over the country helped California.  Now it is our chance to do the same thing.  We believe this is a unique opportunity to teach our young people to think of others who need help, to give, to be compassionate and kind.”

The event has been put together entirely through donations, from contractors donating portable toilets and two flatbed trucks to serve  as stages to officers from the Sheriff’s Department donating their time as security.  Gonzalez’s sister Primavera has coordinated the volunteers, who also include groups from local high schools providing food and drinks. 

The musical program itself will feature at least 10 local bands providing continuous music on two stages, similar to Ozzfest and other events.  “We’ve got some rock, some punk, some reggae,” said Gonzalez, “you know, the kind of thing that kids will really relate to.”  Admission is by a minimum donation of $5.  Carmen Gonzalez, Rafael and Primavera’s mother, will be running the gate and explained the pricing thus: “We want it to be an all-ages event, so $5 is something that kids can afford – but people are welcome to contribute more if they want to.”

The Gonzalez family hopes that in addition to raising much-needed funds for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, the event will serve another purpose – to point out the need for a local, all-ages center for music and the arts.  For several years, Mr. and Mrs. Gonzalez allowed local high school bands to play occasional concerts in their back yard in the absence of any other venue.  These events drew up to three hundred people over the course of a day, showing, they said, the demand among Salinas’s teens for live music.

“I really hope that we get a lot of people on Sunday,” said Alvaro Gonzalez.  “It will be good for the bands to get a big audience.  But no matter how much money we raise, it will only be a drop in the bucket of what is needed.”   “But at least,” added his wife Carmen, “it will give the young people an opportunity to feel as though they are doing something to help.”

If you would like to volunteer your time or help in any way, please call Alvaro Gonzalez at (831) 443 - 4247

First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, September 15, 2005

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