For most, the earthquake that devastated Japan in March has fallen off the radar. The plight of the Japanese people, however, still weighs heavy in the hearts and minds of the residents of San Juan Capistrano, Calif., a small community near the ocean located half way between San Diego and Los Angeles. In fact, community and business leaders from San Juan Capistrano and neighboring communities hosted a concert with a portion of the proceeds going toward Japanese relief.
Billed as a Concert for Japan, the fundraiser was co-sponsored by San Juan Capistrano’s Camino Real Playhouse and Fyne Tune Events, and which took place at the city’s historic Town Center Park. Its 700 attendees enjoyed music by West Coast Strayz (country rock), 1st Rodeo (country), Ugly Paint (pop, punk, metal and indie) and Martin Gerschwitz & Friends (rock). Local restaurants provided beer, wine and everything from pizza to scallops and shrimp.
The fundraising concert was the brainchild of Martin Gerschwitz, a German-born musician and vocalist and former member of the iconic rock bands “Eric Burdon & The (New) Animals and Iron Buttterfly: https://martingerschwitz.com
“I always want to help people in need, and the Japanese people need help,” said Gerschwitz, whose hair is as long today as it was in the 70s.
Gerschwitz approached local business owners with his idea for the fundraiser and found most were eager to participate.
“Martin and I were sharing a pint, and he said he needed someone to provide high-end food for the event,” said David Biber, owner of Two Guys Grilling, a local caterer specializing in California-Style cuisine and barbeque. “I said, ‘I’m your guy.’”
Biber saw the event as not only a fundraiser but also a platform for raising awareness about the threat of earthquakes and nuclear power plant accidents. San Juan Capistrano is about 10 miles from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in neighboring San Clemente.
“I feel strongly that what happened to Japan is a wake-up call for this planet,” said Biber. “What happens there can happen right here. Southern California sits on a fault line, and we have the nuclear power plant just down the highway. I wanted to help the people who helped raise awareness to the threat in our own backyard.”Meanwhile, in New York, Emi Mimura, a graphic designer at Design Lab, started a volunteer organization called Solid Ground Initiative.
“After the disaster, I was watching the news from Japan and feeling helpless until my younger sister said, ‘You are thousands of miles away while people are suffering and live in a safe place, so think of something you can do for them and stop crying.’”
Mimura went into action. With the help of her boss, Todd Cooper, and volunteers, Solid Ground Initiative gathered artists from Japan and the United States to create a limited edition of t-shirts and prints to raise money for relief efforts in Japan. Each design relates a specific story or individual response to the earthquake, the tsunami and its aftermath. So far, they have raised $10,000.
“We believe it’s important to remind people, especially in the States, about the disaster nowadays.”