Sometimes, certain things fall together in a way that can never be replicated. It could be the energy of a group, a certain strum of a guitar that lights a performer on fire, or a singer hitting an exceptionally long note. Perhaps, it’s a gathering of an extraordinary group of people that have all stumbled upon one another by some stroke of luck or good fortune; or maybe it’s all three that act as a catalyst for something magical. Last night in New York City, that spell was cast at Rockwood Music Hall by a group of exceptional performers to an electrified gathering of fans on an autumn night in the heart of the city.
Fans were excited for a show featuring many of their favorites in a concert put on by Dogwood Events benefiting Misha Collins’ charity Random Acts. Random Acts is an organization born from the simple gesture of performing random acts of kindness. They’ve funded everything from students wanting to give back to their teachers that have gone above and beyond to building schools in San Juan del Sur, along with facilitating the mindset that any thought and action of benevolence, no matter how small, can go a long way.
The evening opened with a special VIP show for ticket holders on Rockwood’s underground Stage 3 featuring The Station Breaks. The band, compromised of singer/songwriters Rob Benedict and Jason Manns, and master of guitar Billy Moran, was back in NYC for the first time together since the previous summer. On their set list included originals “Gone”, “Just Walk Away”, “The Rest”, “Slightest Thing” and a new track we can hope to hear on a new record soon. In addition they did fan favorite covers “Wagon Wheel” — with Billy Moran picking up a verse we hear from Richard Speight, Jr. at conventions and on Jason Manns’ Covering With Friends — and “I Shall Be Released.”
Also joining in for one song was Ruth Connell (in her new leather rockstar pants) with her always entrancing rendition of “Bang Bang.” This time however, it was slowed down and made even more hauntingly stunning with the velvet melodies from only the guitars of Benedict and Moran echoing softly behind her.
The general show filled the room of Rockwood’s Stage 2, excitement buzzing with anticipation for the announced performers and murmurs of surprise guests flitted through the air. We heard from fan favorite convention photographer Chris Schmelke, before Rachel Miner took the microphone for a heartfelt and tear-inducing thank you to the Supernatural Family and everything this fandom has done and continues to do in the fight to bring more kindness into the world and for all of their support of Random Acts through donations, volunteering, and just sharing in the organization’s ideals and spreading them to the world.
Then it was Misha himself’s turn to keep the audience’s heartstrings taut. He followed up on Rachel’s sentiments, thanking everyone from the performers to the audience for their time and support of Random Acts before launching into a reading of an unshared original poem about gratitude and the need for self-love titled “AM”, despite his confession that it was “the only thing more frightening than singing.”
— k a i t y ⍟⃝ (@kaity_bee_) September 30, 2019
Jason, Billy, and Rob then took the stage and tuned their guitars before beginning with The Station Breaks “Free.” Following up with a fitting for the season “Autumn Back”, they then launched into their soul-wrenching version of “Hallelujah.” There’s something incredible about being in any room with these three performing this song, a certain peace overcomes the space as the audience harmonizes with the hymn, the emotions of not only the song, but the entire togetherness of the moment washing over everyone within earshot.
Next up was the incomparable Ruth Connell, joining Billy and Rob onstage for a charming duet of Louden Swain favorite “Cool if I Come Over” that left the room smiling from ear to ear. Jason’s good friend Dr. Nicholas Zork took the stage next to sing and talk about the meaning of life (being a Doctor of Philosophy), replacing Aaron Beaumont who couldn’t make the trip. Zork is one of the songwriters — along with Manns and Beaumont — for the track made popular on Gil McKinney’s debut album, How Was I to Know, “Seventeen.” He treated the crowd to a song co-written with friend Aaron called “Here and Now” and another original, “Setting Sun.”
Emily Swallow and Broadway performer husband Chad Kimball were up next, wowing with a cover of Rihanna’s powerful ballad “Stay.” It was the couple’s first time singing together here in the states and it was a real treat to listen to firsthand. Chad is currently performing in Broadway in Come From Away! Rob Benedict and Billy Moran retook the stage to join with Emily for an incredibly fun version of Shaky Graves’ “Dearly Departed” that had the audience clapping and singing along.
Next were two guests who shocked everyone, including the other stars in attendance, the Padaleckis. Genevieve and Jared took the stage to share their support of Misha Collins and Random Acts; the love for their friend and his tireless work to make the world better one day at a time evident in their words and smiles. Jared introduced the next guest, Justin Guarini, in the most Jared way possible, “This just in … Justin.”
You may recognize Justin from season one of American Idol, who sang us his catchy version of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” complete with some impressive whistling that had the audience envious and an original he wrote for his wife of 10 years, “Keep on Comin’ Home to You.” His performance came complete with some dance moves we can expect in his newest role in The Britney Spears Musical!
Closing out the show, Rob and Billy came back on stage and put on a show only these two can. Veracious guitar rifts and the impassioned croons specific to Benedict echoed through the room as they played “Fare Thee Well”, and Louden Swain’s “Wave” and “Amazing”, along with the US (and Billy’s) debut of Rob’s new solo track “Bring it in.” Similar to “Hallelujah”, it’s always a sight to behold when “Amazing” is played, the audience belting out “So captivating!” along with the song, which Rob has said is one of his favorite moments of performing live. The show closed out with everyone retaking the stage one last time for “Come Together”, a fitting end to a night filled with a transcendent bond of camaraderie.
A show like this is something that happens once. It was an unforgettable time for those in attendance; for one hour it gave everyone a break from the harshness of the world to be surrounded by family, love, and unwavering gratitude. Hours later it was a wondrous thing to look back on and have been a part of — even feeling like it was almost too good to be true. Seeing these longtime friends supporting each other on stage, standing out in the crowd with the audience to enjoy the performances first hand gave the evening the relaxed environment that we don’t get to see some of these artists in very often.
Beautiful things can happen when a group of people band together, put their differences aside and choose to not succumb to the darkness of the world. Whether it’s making music to share and uplift, performing small random acts of kindness for an unsuspecting neighbor, or building schools for those less fortunate, there’s something everyone can do to hep the world around them, and last night proved that.
Finally, we’d like to send a heartfelt thank you to all the performers, the countless volunteers of Random Acts giving their time to try and better the world, and to Pau, who works tirelessly behind the scenes with Random Acts, Dogwood Events, and us here at Nerds and Beyond to bring fans the very best events with these amazing people while raising funds and awareness for good causes.