Another WesFest Success
WesFest 9, the ninth annual benefit concert in support of the Wes Wehmiller Endowed Scholarship Fund at Berklee, took place at the Baked Potato on March 16, 2014. The concert series serves as the centerpiece of a continuing fundraising drive for the scholarship fund, which honors the legacy of Wehmiller, a 1992 Berklee graduate and highly accomplished bassist, athlete, and photographer who died of thyroid cancer in January 2005. This year’s concert had an intimate family feel in the legendary Studio City club where numerous renowned music legends have performed. WesFest 9 was a superb musical celebration for a packed house that helped raise $23,000.
This year’s headliner was Grammy-winning bassist John Patitucci who has performed and recorded with greats such as Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Wynton Marsalis, B.B. King, Bon Jovi, Queen Latifah, Sting, Carly Simon, Carole King, and countless others. He was accompanied by keyboardist John Beasley (Miles Davis, Chaka Khan) and drumming phenom Jonathan Pinson ’11 (Herbie Hancock). Their set featured amazing solos, an ensemble energy that was world-class, and a spirit that was consistent with all that Wes Wehmiller represented.
In typical WesFest tradition, the 2013 Wehmiller Endowed Scholarship winner, bassist Max McKellar, performed onstage with Danny Mo & the Exciters, showing the capacity crowd exactly what they were supporting. McKellar laid down a deep pocket together with legendary drummer John “JR” Robinson ’75 (Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan, Madonna, Eric Clapton). Led by Wehmiller’s Berklee bass professor and friend Danny Morris ’78 and also including vocalist/keyboardist Kira Small ’93 (Peter Frampton, Martina McBride), saxophonist Scott Gilman ‘80 (Foreigner, Alice Cooper), vocalist Krysta Youngs ’05, and assistant professor Marty Walsh on guitar. The soulful band engaged the crowd and filled the room with love and music.
In a unique WesFest performance, special guest Steve Bailey (chair of Berklee’s Bass Department) joined McKellar and John Patitucci on stage for a bass trio treatment of the Michael Jackson tune “I Can’t Help It.” John “JR” Robinson who had played drums on the original Jackson recording of the song, accompanied them. It was a memorable moment for McKellar to play with three world-class musicians, and demonstrate his impressive musicianship and strong sense of groove.
The event began with a fun set by Joe Travers & Friends, featuring alumni Joe Travers ’91 (drummer for Zappa Plays Zappa), guitarist Griff Peters ’93, and vocalist Colin Keenan ’93. All the group members were close friends with Wehmiller and the sense of connection flowed through their performances.
Paula Wehmiller, Wes’s mother, summed it up by saying WesFest 9 took her to “a life-giving, spirit-soaring, love-abounding place of resonance with the universe.” Everyone at the Baked Potato that evening would agree.