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Musicians gather for night ‘bigger than themselves’

Published: Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 20:01


Caitlin Bush

A couple songs into his set at the House of Blues Saturday night, Damion Suomi admitted he had just gone through the hardest week of his life.

Suomi, an acoustic artist who hails from Cocoa Beach, lost his father — whose poster-size portraits were placed all over the stage — one week prior to the concert, appropriately dubbed "Heavy and Light: An Evening of Songs, Conversation and Hope."

To Write Love on Her Arms is an Orlando-based non-profit organization that aims to support people struggling with suicide, depression and addiction by helping them find and afford the treatments they need. TWLOHA sponsored the show for the second year in a row and gave the hundreds of teens and 20-somethings in attendance messages of hope.

"All of us in this room can relate to pain, can relate to questions," Jamie Tworkowski, Suomi's former roommate and founder of TWLOHA, said. "It's important to know that you're not alone."

As he described the concept behind the event, Tworkowski shared what it was like to spend the beginning of last week offering condolences to Suomi and then congratulating friends who had just announced their engagement at the end of the week.

 "This is heavy and light," he said. "We mourned a death and then celebrated with our friends."

Anis Mojgani, the spoken word poet who opened the show and continued to perform between acoustic sets and TWLOHA speakers, helped reinforce the message that sometimes life doesn't make sense, but it goes on - and you have to make the best of it.

 "Rock out like somebody's got a barrel pointed at your temple saying, ‘Rock out like your life depended on it, fool,' because it does," he said.

Each of the numerous musicians — including Suomi, Zach Williams, Aaron Marsh of Copeland, Stephen Christian of Anberlin, Bryce Avary of The Rocket Summer, Mat Kearney, and Aaron Gillespie of Underoath and The Almost — laced the evening together by playing an acoustic set that was fun and laid back, despite the vulnerability surrounding the night's discussions.

They collaborated on a number of one another's songs throughout the night and the crowd thoroughly enjoyed the playful camaraderie that existed between them.

The best musical partnerships occurred on cover songs like U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" performed by Gillespie and Williams, and Patty Griffin's "When It Don't Come Easy," performed by Williams and Joely Pittman.

When every single musician graced the stage for two encore performances, covers of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" and U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," almost everyone in the crowd was clapping and singing along.

UCF freshmen Kayla Bartley and Briana Ford said they enjoyed Gillespie's set the most, which ended with his own rendition of "Amazing Grace" that merged into the popular worship song "You Won't Relent."

"I loved it," Ford said. "I've been following TWLOHA for three or four years now and it's just a really nice organization."

Bartley, an environmental science major, said Ford recently introduced her to the cause and was glad she invited her to the show.

"It was just a great night for a great cause," she said.

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