On April 27, 2011, a wave of five tornadoes ripped through Cleveland and Charleston, Tenn., in Bradley County, leaving nine people dead, 135 homes destroyed and another 485 homes with major to minor damage. In the aftermath of the ferocious storms, neighbors, volunteers and rescue and relief personnel were quick to respond, operating with a strong sense of community, but the devastation was so great that the affected communities realized that things would never be the same. With this mindset and determined to raise awareness, Brian Jackson founded Rock the Relief, a nonprofit organization which he envisioned sponsoring live-music events to help the storm victims.
Exactly one year to the day the storm hit, on Friday, April 27, Rock the Relief 2012 will kick off two days of rock ‘n’ roll performed by 13 area bands, with plenty of food, drink and fun. Childrens’ activities will be featured, and camping will be facilitated. Proceeds from the event will go to the Bradley Long-Term Recovery Organization. The two-day festival will be held at Pappy’s in Charleston. A map can be found on the Rock the Relief 2012 website at rocktherelieftn.com.
“Most people will go back to their lives as they were before April 27,” the Rock the Relief 2012 website states. “But for those who lost so much it will never be the same. We want to raise awareness of the needs of those individuals and the agencies serving those families.”
Jackson said the initial plan of festival organizers was to donate all funds to the Long-Term Recovery Organization, but the group has since had its interest sparked by a Habitat for Humanity build. He said funds are allocated on the basis of grant requests and verified individual need.
Two festivals have already been sponsored by Rock the Relief. Both were held in May of last year. The two events raised $2,000 and 1,300 pounds of nonperishable food items. Jackson said that within weeks after the two festivals ended the Long-Term Recovery fund had amassed over $250,000 in donations, validating Jackson’s belief that awareness of the overwhelming extent of the damage was critical to recovery.
Arriving from Los Angeles for the festival will be Steve Watson, a Cleveland native and the host of HGTV’s home-improvement show “Don’t Sweat It.” Watson will serve as emcee for the event, a hat he previously wore for the second Rock the Relief event.
“Steve is a great speaker and knows how to keep the crowd energized,” Jackson said. “He’s definitely an asset to our cause.”
Watson was in Cleveland two days after the storm and said the sight of his stomping grounds ravaged beyond recognition broke his heart.
“This was where I’d grown up,” Watson said via email. “I didn’t recognize it anymore. I got lost in my old neighborhood because all the landmarks were gone. I shed a few tears the first few days, but then I noticed the community coming together in ways I never dreamed possible.”
Watson learned of Rock the Relief after he began making contact with friends and family in Cleveland. He teamed up with three high-school buddies to discuss what they might do to aid the cause. When Watson volunteered to serve as emcee for the second Rock the Relief festival, Jackson said, the festival planners were thrilled. “He ensured that it would be a success,” he said.
Friday’s slate of acts will include One Shot Down, Jamie Higdon, The Collins Brothers, Emily Pate and Kings of the Killerfish. On Saturday, the acts include Old Boy Folklore, Poobah and McClung, Code Blue, Dog and Pony Show, Jared Elledge, Gold Room, Blues Hammer and Robo Sapien.
The list of food vendors includes Dixon’s Dawgs, Diner On 1st, G-Daddy’s BBQ, Kona Ice and Salvation Army coffee.
Single-day tickets are priced at $15 for non-campers. A $25 single-day ticket includes admission to the festival and a camping spot. An all-access ticket costs $75 and includes admission for both days, camping accommodation, four meals from any of the festival’s food vendors and five nonalcoholic drinks. Beer will be sold separately.
Rock the Relief 2012
$15-$75 • April 27-28