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Musicians unite to pay tribute to Chris Cornell

Proceeds from Rickshaw benefit gig going to the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of B.C.
Songs penned by the late Chris Cornell will be performed at the Rickshaw Theatre on Friday, July 7
Songs penned by the late Chris Cornell will be performed at the Rickshaw Theatre on Friday, July 7

The Rickshaw Theatre has become something of an unofficial bastion for those commemorating fallen musicians.

The lives of Prince and David Bowie were celebrated through song at the Hastings Street venue over the past two years, while a celebration of life for Vancouver music scene-lifer Paul Leahy was in January. A benefit gig was organized last fall after word of Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie’s cancer diagnosis. 

That tradition of solace, sadness and song continues Friday, July 7 when musicians and mourners gather to celebrate the career of former Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell, whose death in mid-May was ruled as a suicide.

More than a dozen acts are playing the show for free and the Rickshaw’s nightly room fee is being waived. Proceeds from the show are being donated to the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of B.C.

“I’ve lost some people due to suicide, mental illness and addiction and I know I’m not the only one to go through this,” show organizer Matt Girvan told the Courier. “It’s affected me both with family and friends and I’ve been connected with some really good people about those very topics.”

The gig format will see each group perform three songs from over the course of Cornell’s career, which saw him win two Grammies and sell more than 30 million albums worldwide. Pieces of art will also be auctioned off over the course of the evening.

The night’s end will feature close to 20 musicians getting together for an all-star jam rendition of the gig’s namesake and Temple of the Dog song, “Say Hello 2 Heaven.” Cornell penned the song as a tribute to former Mother Love Bone vocalist Andrew Wood, who died of a heroin overdose in 1990.

Like Wood, Cornell struggled with addiction in his life.

“It’s unfortunate that in the last few years that we’ve had to do a number of tribute shows,” Girvan said. “Some of the people helping me out with this event — aside from being huge fans of Chris Cornell and devastated by his loss — the cause is very important to them as well.”

Having been to the vast majority of the previous tributes at the Rickshaw, Girvan expects a range of emotions at Friday’s gig.

“Everyone is super sad, but when you get in the building it turns into a mixture with complete happiness,” he said. “Everyone is there to be with each other, have a good time and enjoy what is left for you here.”

Some of the acts on the bill include Bog, the Waning Light, Left Spine Down, Dirty Debbie and more. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door, while the show kicks off at 8 p.m.

For resources and information around depression, crisis or suicide, log on to www.crisiscentre.bc.ca. The group also runs a 24/7 phone service that can be reached by calling 1-800-784-2433.

@JohnKurucz