Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Ben Folds' Saltair show to benefit villagers in Cambodia

By David Burger
The Salt Lake Tribune


It's not unusual for musicians to sign on to do benefit concerts in far-flung places such a Ethiopia, Indonesia and Bangladesh and to profess lifelong support for those distressed regions, although they probably would have difficulty finding them on a map.

And that's why it's refreshing to hear pianist Ben Folds admit his initial reaction to being asked to do a benefit concert for Cambodia that takes place Wednesday at Saltair in Magna.

"There's a lot of things to be passionate about, and that's not one of them," he told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Before you accuse him of being uncaring, he added that the benefit "sounded like a good idea to me" after his agent booked him and he learned more about the cause.

The concert, presented by Rock Star Shows and the Salt Lake Rotaract Club, is for Care for Cambodia, a charity founded by the family of Rotaract Club member Jack Stringham, a pre-med student at the University of Utah, said Lindsay Hadley, president of the club.

The Rotaract Club is affiliated with the service-oriented Rotary Club, and is for young adults 18 to 30.

The Stringhams set up the charity after Jack finished an LDS mission in Long Beach, Calif., where he met many Cambodian immigrants. He and his family traveled to the Kravanh district, in the western part of the country near the Thailand border, to perform humanitarian projects in the impoverished community.

Money raised will be used to build water wells in the district, a place where one in five children die before the age of 5 from waterborne diseases. Twenty-eight wells have already been drilled with the help of the charity in that area, according to Paul Stringham, Jack's father.

A thousand dollars will purchase one well, which would serve about 70 people for a lifetime, Jack said. Because the charity has no overhead, all net proceeds from the concert will go to Cambodia.
The Saltair stop is in the midst of a college tour Folds and his band are doing. He is premiering new material because his studio follow-up to 2005's "Songs for Silverman" will be released in September, he said. It will be his third studio album since the split with Ben Folds Five, a guitar-less trio that unexpectedly found success with 1988's "Brick."

Folds called his music "punk rock for sissies" as the trio blended hard-edged yet jazzy piano-based songs with alternating serious and smart-alecky lyrics.

"[The new album] is much more of the uptempo side of [2001 album] 'Rockin' the Suburbs,' " he said. "It is more lyrically akin to [Ben Folds Five's 1999 album "The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner"]."

Folds said that after he learned about the charity, he liked the idea of an organization with a very specific mission. That group is better than one his 8-year-old daughter asked him to support, he said. He sent $15 to some African organization, and supposedly a tiger is now sponsored by the Folds family.

"We got a pin with a tiger on it," he said.

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