TEXARKANA, Ark. — Alternative rock band Blue October's lead singer Justin Furstenfeld has been tapped to perform for a global streaming fundraiser at the Arkansas Municipal Auditorium, officials say.
The fundraiser will raise money for the Wisconsin-based nonprofit group Generations Against Bullying. It will be held 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 28.
Video of Furstenfeld's show will be edited and streamed at a later date, but tickets will be available for the local, live performance. On Monday, tickets go on sale at arkansasmunicipalauditorium.com for this concert in an intimate theater setting. This past year brought the return of concert events at the AMA and the venue can now seat 200 people.
Furstenfeld will perform his solo Open Book Tour for this performance. In addition to his appearance, the event will feature a panel discussion where experts in child psychology, addiction recovery, academia, film, music and law enforcement will talk, joined by GAB board members.
John Vutech, board member of the Arkansas Municipal Auditorium Commission, and Katherine McClerkin, a Texarkana native, have worked for months to make it all happen.
Vutech said that in this show Furstenfeld discusses the issues of addiction, recovery and suicide in between songs, all topics that align with the message of Generations Against Bullying. "He went down the rabbit hole and came out," Vutech said of the singer telling this tale.
The reason they pursued the Blue October singer is because of their songs like "Fear," Vutech said. They're songs about how Furstenfeld redirected his life and made it to the other side after his struggles with depression.
In his private set of songs, Vutech said, Furstenfeld sings powerfully of redemption and recovery. "He talks about that in between each song," he said. He'll discuss why he wrote these songs and how they affect his life.
Because of GAB's talk with local groups here in Texarkana, the organization decided to add experts in education and child psychology, people who can speak to the issues, said Vutech. "Local experts speaking to a national problem," he said.
The idea is to engage in real conversations about issues connected to bullying, McClerkin said.
As Vutech puts it, schools are fighting for their lives to deal with the issue of bullying. Furstenfeld will participate in the panel discussion after the concert.
"GAB is truly committed to doing the tough work. It's not pretty and it's not nice to talk about," McClerkin said. "They're committed to doing it because they're committed to saving lives and improving the quality of the life of kids — giving them options of how to deal and cope with a really tough social world right now."
Vutech said GAB wants to offer solutions to bullying by emphasizing peer-to-peer intervention. "This is all about changing bystanders into upstanders," he said.
By holding a streaming event like this and employing this technology, GAB can meet youth where they are, said McClerkin, who's worked on streaming events before.
"To me, kids these days, we've got to meet them where they are with technology," she said, "and where they are with entertainment." She points out that it's where social damage from bullying is done — through technology. "So we're going to fight it with technology, too. With messaging and entertainment combined, making it cool to want to live clean and helpful, and productive and positive."
She appreciates that the AMA served as a pioneer for social change through music back in the 1950s, hosting an integrated band and the likes of Elvis Presley.
"Using this historical platform is such an exciting opportunity both for the auditorium, for Texarkana, and to speak for social change in what is now a social issue of the time," McClerkin said.
Vutech said Furstenfeld is participating because he wants to speak about these issues — "the bullying crisis that's going on in our schools." Not only will youth be engaged, but also the parents, who are in the demographic that are fans of Blue October. "That's who needs to hear this," Vutech said.
Five cameras will be used to shoot the event. The concert will be first, followed by the panel discussion.
Blue October have released an array of Top 40 singles with hits like "Hate Me" and "Into the Ocean," plus studio albums that found success on the rock charts: "Foiled," "Approaching Normal," "Any Man in America," "Sway," "Home" and, most recently in 2018, "I Hope You're Happy."
(Tickets and more information will be available through the AMA website at ArkansasMunicipalAuditorium.com. More info is also available at GABNOW.org.)