On March 10, 2022, Keith Richards took the stage at the Beacon Theater in New York City. The Rolling Stones guitarist and his band the X-Pensive Winos, along with Stones drummer Steve Jordan, keyboardist Ivan Neville, guitarist Waddy Watchel and bassist Will Lee, went through a three-song set, including the most recent ” You Got the Money” and the Certain girls track, “Before The Make Me Run”, closing the sixth annual Love Rocks NYC charity concert.
The culmination of five years of Love Rocks NYC charity concerts, the annual event, supporting God’s Love We Deliver, which provides meals for those too sick to cook or shop, has been complemented by an evening full of performances – Mavis Staples with his 1974 Staples Sisters classic “I’ll Take You There”, as well as poignant sets from Alison Russell, Larkin Poe, Anders Osborne and Ben Harper, who was joined by famed photographer and rock musician Danny Clinch for a rendition of Led Zepellin’s 1971 cover of “When the Levee Breaks” by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy.
Closing out the sixth annual All-Star Concert in 2022, Love Rocks NYC has raised more than $25 million and funded nearly three million meals for New Yorkers since its inaugural concert in 2017 and has been supported by performances from all the world of Robert Plant, Jon Bon Jovi, Sheryl Crow, Joe Walsh, Gary Clark Jr. and many more since its inception.
Love Rocks was the ambitious brain of New York real estate broker Greg Williamson, veteran global event planner Nicole Rechter, who founded RWE Partners, and designer and philanthropist John Varvatos, and one of many music events and charities the team cultivates for causes centered around everything from social justice and poverty, to supporting veterans, raising awareness and helping provide resources for mental health, and more.
Their growing collection of projects has always been fueled by a passion to engage, educate and help others with needed resources from the moment they began their Love Rocks journey.
“It shows that we have a lot of passion,” said Rechter. American songwriter. “When you do something out of love and joy, it doesn’t look like work. We just do it because we believe in the mission and we love what we do.
For Rechter and Williamson, Love Rocks and several other musical charity events they have already produced, along with Varvatos, are just the tip of an ever-growing catalog of charity events. Recent participation in CBS Primetime specials Play On: Celebrating the Power of Music to Make a DifferenceWilliamson and Rechtner along with Varvatos, Kevin Bacon, LL Cool J and CBS reporter Anthony Mason produced a televised benefit concert to benefit WhyHunger and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense Fund.
Growing up in Amagansett, New York, Williamson has always loved his local musical theatre, The Stephen Talkhouse, and his musical lineage with everyone from Buddy Guy, Paul Simon, Patti Smith, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel and other icons producing in the Hall of 200 seats. After taking Rechter to his hometown, his first-ever visit to the Hamptons, and past the famous venue, the couple decided to launch The Talkhouse Jam summer concert series.
“I grew up in Amagansett, and Talkhouse is a really special place for a lot of people, including me, because it’s this iconic little place where so many legendary artists have played,” Williamson said, “so we we’re like, ‘why don’t we start a summer series here.
The annual Hamptons-based concert series, which began in 2021 with featured artist Marcus King and its second installment in July 2022 centered on eight-piece New Orleans ensemble The Revivalists, supports USA Warrior Stories, a organization designed to record, archive and share veteran story videos online and is linked to the Amazon Prime series United States Warrior Stories, led by filmmakers Matt Hindra and Nick Kraus who help document the stories of American veterans in the military and living as civilians.
Between their growing list of events, in 2021 Williamson and Rechter also produced a more intimate gathering in New York City to help raise awareness and support for mental health and addiction. Housed in a small SoHo loft designed by Varvatos, its walls lined with photos of Danny Clinch’s iconic rock photographs, the invite-only series has previously featured artists and special guests including Marcus King, Joe Bonamassa, Ricky Lee Jones, Paul Shaffer, Joe Bonamassa, Taj Mahal, Lisa Fischer, Tash Neal, among other artists.
As the city began to recover from the pandemic and there was a return to live music, the idea was to create something small and intimate, a throwback to some of the most vintage nights in the world. Downtown Manhattan’s bygone era, with a choreographed cast of artists sharing a stage, plus a curated guest list of artists, actors, chefs, CEOs, and music lovers.
“The vibe we’re looking for is that it feels really spontaneous,” Williamson said. “It’s about having a large group of people in the room with similar sensibilities. It’s about bringing together great people who want to see something they couldn’t afford because you can’t buy that kind of experience.
For Williamson, who has been sober for eight years, raising awareness about addiction and mental health through the sessions was essential, especially after the recent pandemic. “It’s not part of the ethos of who we are if we didn’t have an organization and a cause that we shine a light on,” Williamson said. “And the mental health and addictions — coming out of the pandemic — couldn’t be more pronounced these days.”
On October 21, Williamson and Rechter will also lead The Tipping Point, a live music charity event featuring performances by Stephen Marley, Lukas Nelson, Jimmie Vaugh, Marc Broussard and others to help raise money for scholarships. Studies for Tulane University Students and for the City of New Orleans. Also launched in 2017, The Tipping Point also marks the first time a university has held an annual benefit concert in the United States.
“It’s been a really inspiring and unusual project because there’s no other event of this caliber that happens on an annual basis for a university anywhere in the country,” Williamson said. “I can’t speak globally, but it’s definitely not happening in America.”
Also on track is the seventh edition of Love Rocks NYC, scheduled for March 9, 2023, one that requires year-round planning, and one Williamson insists it will surpass its 2022 installment.
“We want to keep pushing the envelope with the amount of money we raise for New York City and the love of God we deliver. Each one has been such a hit,” Williamson said. “When you have such success like that, I think you just want to keep maintaining it and keep delivering at the same level. Every year when we finish, we tell ourselves that the goal is to make it that good again.
While there aren’t any rumored performers, artists like Ringo Starr, who recently donned the Love Rocks t-shirt showing his support, are definitely on their wishlist. “It’s such an amazing cause to support,” added Rechter. “Musicians love doing it, they’re having the best time, so if the sun and the stars align, you never know who’s gonna be on stage.”
She added: “It really is the result of tons of love and passion from literally all sides – from the charity, from us, from the artists, from the public and from our partners. I’ve been doing global events all my life, for over 20 years, and I’ve never been part of a project that has that feeling from year 1. There’s just that certain magic that it has.
Another part of the magic around their growing collection of charity music events, which have already raised nearly $50 million, collectively, to date, is that they are truly one of a kind.
“The most interesting thing about what we do is nobody does what we do,” Williamson said. “We are privileged and lucky to be able to do what we do, and it works, because there are the same sensibilities, there is friendship and there is trust. Everyone comes from the right place. … We couldn’t get away from it if we wanted to.
Love Rocks NYC Photos: Marc Millman / The Press House / RWE Partners