The stars aligned at the Canyon Sessions fundraiser concert in L.A. for cancer prevention and services on Aug. 11. Headliners included members of the Jackson family, Austin Brown and Paris Jackson, the live debut of music couple Ashlee Simpson and Evan Ross and pop icon Macy Gray.
Brown, the son of Rebbie Jackson and nephew of the late Michael, helped launch Canyon Sessions a year ago as space for new artists to jam and try out tunes among peers and music lovers. Since the first small session, the grassroots get-together has grown and Saturday's event drew the biggest crowd. For the year anniversary, Austin decided to make the latest Canyon Sessions a fundraiser for F**k Cancer, a non-profit organization focused on cancer prevention, early detection and support for those affected by it. Like a mini-music festival, Brown gathered his friends in the industry to perform at the event. "We're fighting back through love and music," he said.
Before getting the show started, Brown asked all those in attendance to raise their hand if they've ever been affected by cancer directly or indirectly and almost everyone, including the performers, had a hand in the air. Austin lost both his father, Nathaniel Brown, in 2013 and recently his grandfather, Jackson patriarch Joe, two months ago to cancer. He kicked things off with a short and sweet acoustic set. Brown had a big grin on his face singing the lovely "Smile," one of the songs from his Canyon Sessions EP that led to the gathering of the same name.
The Canyon Sessions also included performances from up-and-coming artists like the vintage voice of Jennah Bell and Keznamdi's feel-good reggae music. The Soundflowers featuring Michael's daughter Paris and her boyfriend Gabriel Glenn played music as well. Their rustic, rough-around-the-edges sound was charming in songs like "Motion in Space," a song Jackson wrote the day before and "Daisy," a sunny tune the duo hopes to release in the future. Paris was most proud to sing in front of her grandmother, Jackson matriarch Katherine, who was in attendance with Austin's mom, Rebbie.
Ashlee Simpson and her husband Evan Ross, the son of legend Diana Ross, made their live debut together. The two have a TV show coming up on E! next month documenting the recording of their upcoming album. Simpson hadn't performed in years since her 2000s heyday so she got a huge cheer back on the stage. Ashlee and Evan opened with the adorable "I Do" that showcased their love for each other. The couple's folk-pop took on a friskier side with "I Want You." Simpson howled on the microphone as the chemistry between the singers hit hot-and-heavy levels. They're cooking up some promising music.
The show was scheduled to end at 8 p.m. but it went overtime with the loaded line-up. Macy Gray came out close to 9 p.m. and said she was missing a date to perform that night. The Grammy-winning artist sang a haunting cover of Radiohead's "Creep" and then drew the biggest crowd sing-a-long when she followed with a stripped-back rendition of her own classic "I Try." Austin's sister Yashi Brown closed out the event soon after. Across ticket sales, an onsite silent auction and matched donations, the Canyon Sessions ended up raising $50,000 for F**k Cancer.
Brown and co. pulled together a fun day filled with good music and good vibes for a great cause. Check out the Canyon Sessions' Instagram account to see when the next event will pop up.