Wednesday, May 18, 2005

from the mij

o benefit nonprofit

By Beth Ashley

ROCK STARS are rock stars, and nonprofit agencies tend to live way out of the spotlight, so it's a happy moment when the two get together.

Bob Weir and Shana Morrison will perform in concert Saturday at the Marin Center to raise money for Community Action Marin.

Weir was led to Community Action Marin by his friend, actor Peter Coyote, who did the voice-over for a video on the agency, which serves Marin's poor.

"I checked it out and it sort of rung my bell," Weir says. As father of children ages 3 and 7, "I was particularly inspired by CAM's child development program."

"People like Bobby get a lot of requests to do benefits," says Morrison, "and usually they have no idea where the money's going to go, so they'll send a contribution instead of saying 'yes.' It's a lot easier."

Weir, a singer and guitarist, agrees that if he said "yes" to all the requests, "I'd never eat, never sleep, never get anything done."

Still, over the years, "I've done a bunch of them," a kind of pay-back for his personal good fortune, he says

"Life has been pretty damn good to me. I'd feel awful if I didn't respect that. I play music because I need to and I want to, and I do benefits because I care."

Morrison, the 35-year-old daughter of rock great Van Morrison and a celebrity draw on her own, will join Weir onstage.

"We hope to make a big chunk of money," says Gail Theller, executive director of CAM - as much as $65,000 after expenses.

Lord knows CAM can use every cent.

"Our money from the state and the feds is being cut way back," she says, and the agency - which runs programs serving needy kids, the mentally ill, people with alcohol problems, those coping with AIDS - is feeling the pinch.

"We have a waiting list for our AIDS food pantry," Theller says. "We have had to close a classroom or two in our child-care programs, which serve 600 kids. And we have a $100,000 debt at the Helen Vine Detox Center."

Not that Theller is gloomy: the money seems to come from somewhere, somehow.

"Gail's not into closing programs," says CAM developent director Ron Hamel. "When there's a shortfall, she sends us into the trenches."

It was Hamel who called Weir, and Weir's agent Cameron Sears, who in turn suggested Morrison,who had opened for him once before.

They're both looking forward to the gig.

Morrison will sing several songs from her 2002 CD, "Seven Wishes," and a couple she has written for her next one, including "Jupiter Jones."

"Women seem to love 'Jupiter Jones,'" Morrison says. "It's about a woman madly in love trying to convince this guy he should be with her."

She'll be accompanied by her own band, Caledonia, which will include Chris Collins on guitar and Austin Dalpne on keyboard, both from Marin.

Weir, who returned last week from a 20-city eastern tour with his band RatDog, says he has no idea what he will play. "We have a terribly large repertoire. On tour we gave a three-hour show every night and it was a couple of weeks before we repeated ourselves."

Weir spoke by phone from his home in Mill Valley, where he has lived for the past 30 years.

He is, of course, vintage Marin, part of the home-grown and perennially popular Grateful Dead, which broke up in 1995 after the death of Jerry Garcia. He is probably the band's most visible survivor, touring regularly and making CDs.

He has always been generous with his talents, and serves on the boards of two charitable foundations - the Rex Foundation and the Further Foundation, which he started to support work on child development and the environment.

Why the interest in child development? "It's the future," he says.

Morrison is also a regular donor to community events. She and Caledonia reguarly raise money for Meals on Wheels in L.A. and a camp for sick kids run by the Taylor Family Foundation in the East Bay.

When she's not performing, she teaches Pilates at two health studios, one in San Francisco, the other (Straight and Narrow) in Mill Valley. She learned about Pilates when she sought treatment for her knees, weakened from ballet and gymnastics when she was a youngster. She practices Pilates now "to keep balance in my life" - away from the rigors of performing.

Between albums now, she performs mostly on weekends.

Morrison began performing 11 years ago, when her famous dad invited her to join his Rhythm and Soul Revue. Her dad, a former Fairfax resident, lives in England now, but visits Mill Valley from time to time, and "sometimes we sing together."

Weir and the other surviving members of the Grateful Dead - Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann - have performed periodically as The Dead.

At Community Action Marin, Theller is thrilled about the concert, which she expects will be a godsend to her agency.

"It's the first time any of the big-name musicians in the county have volunteered to help us out. It feels like we've come of age," she says.

"I grew up listening to the Grateful Dead and Shana's dad, so it's nice to see the circle close."

Tickets for the Saturday concert are selling quickly. Obtainable through the Marin Center Box Office, 472-3500, they cost from $35 to $150. The $150 ticket includes a pre-concert reception with Morrison and musicians from Ratdog and Caledonia, although Weir may not make it on time.

He'll be in Mill Valley before and after the concert, doing a benefit for another charity of his choice: the Waldorf-inspired Greenwood School, which his children attend.

Talk about payback.