Kings of Leon, Flaming Lips team up for Oklahoma tornado relief

Kings of Leon and Flaming Lips lead an eclectic lineup of musicians to “Rock for Oklahoma” on Tuesday. They have one thing in common: the desire to raise money for tornado victims' relief and help prevent future tragedies in Oklahoma's oft-ravaged Tornado Alley.
BY GENE TRIPLETT etriplett@opubco.com Published: July 19, 2013
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Call it a rock 'n' roll variety show.

How else can you describe an event that features acts as different from one another as Kings of Leon, The Flaming Lips, Jackson Browne and Built To Spill on the same bill? Throw in possible appearances by Ke$ha, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals and additional players to be named later, and you've got what you might call a musical melting pot.

But they've all got one thing in common: the desire to raise money for tornado victims' relief and help prevent future tragedies in Oklahoma's oft-ravaged Tornado Alley.

That's what they'll all be shooting for at the all-star “Rock for Oklahoma” tornado relief benefit at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

It will raise money for victims of the tornadoes that struck Moore, El Reno and the surrounding areas in May.

Of course, the two headlining acts, Kings of Leon and The Flaming Lips, have actual Oklahoma ties.

Half of Kings of Leon — drummer Nathan Followill and his cousin, lead guitarist Matthew Followill — are Oklahoma City natives. They live in Tennessee now. The Lips, as it is well-known, live here.

All of them were touched by May's meteorological violence.

“My dad lives there, and he actually lives in Moore, which is weird I guess,” Matthew Followill said last Saturday from Lisbon, Portugal, where Kings of Leon were preparing to play the Optimus Festival.

“He sent me a video the day of (May 20),” Followill said, “of him driving away from it. He sent me a video of the tornado. Oh, yeah, so scary, you know? And then I couldn't get a hold of him for hours, him and my stepmom. So yeah, it was a hectic time there.

“Everything was fine. He had some debris, but he said it was like three blocks from his house. He just said, kind of like everyone else feels, that the house didn't get blown away. He just said, ‘I'm fine, but my community is definitely not OK.' So you know, everywhere he sees, every day, is a disaster area.

“Yeah, he teared up on the phone,” Followill said. “You know, it was a big deal even for — I mean it affected the people that it didn't even really affect as far as losing a loved one or their house. It was still devastating.

“He told me he hadn't felt that way since the bombing (of Oklahoma City's Murrah Federal Building in 1995). You know, uneasy and everything.”

Storms take, give

Lips leader Coyne, who lives deep in midtown Oklahoma City, personally felt the effects of a second round of storms that hit the metro May 31.

“Well, I was directly affected by it,” Coyne said. “Not that I need any donations and all that sort of stuff, but our house over there in the Plaza District, it has always gotten flooded in the bad storms. Not the first one but the second one. We got completely flooded. It was rough. No one got hurt. We really didn't lose any property or any of that sort of stuff. Didn't really lose anything, but there was a lot of work and a lot of panic and a lot of struggle.”

Coyne did gain something from the disaster, though.

“The storm hits, and in all this flood on my street a dog comes in the water,” he said. “He's floating in the water, into our house and everything, and so I got me a storm dog. I was gonna get a storm dog from Moore, and I got one from somewhere in Oklahoma City that floated in with the water.

“He's kind of this typical Oklahoma City mutt,” Coyne laughed. “You can tell he's got a little pit bull in him and some nice little cute dog, you know, and so perfect for us. We don't care. We take whatever we got, you know? Pretty funny.”

But there's plenty that isn't amusing to Coyne about the disaster.

“I didn't know anybody directly, but of course I knew people that knew people. I didn't know anybody that knew anyone that had gotten killed or anything like that. But, you know, it's pretty devastating when the kids are involved. It's bad no matter what, but when you get the kids involved in the school, I think that pulls at people's hearts pretty hard, you know?”

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