Once a year, Steve Earle holds his John Henry’s Friends benefit at New York’s Town Hall, raising money for children diagnosed with autism. Earle always gets some big names to play the show; in 2021, Bruce Springsteen opened for him. Last night, Earle did something different with the benefit. Rather than a bunch of separate acts, he had four great singer-songwriters all sharing the stage all night: Earle himself, David Byrne, Kurt Vile, and Terry Allen.
What a crew! Steve Earle and Terry Allen are both grizzled outlaw-country veterans. David Byrne and Kurt Vile have different backgrounds, but they’ve all intersected in different ways over the years. Vile and Allen are mutual admirers, and they covered Townes Van Zandt together in Santa Fe last year. Byrne and Allen also played together at Wilco’s Solid Sound festival last year.
At last night’s show, all four headliners sat onstage together, with a backing band. They traded off their own songs and covers, and the atmosphere sure looks convivial. Below, watch some fan-made videos of them playing songs like Earle’s “Copperhead Road,” Vile’s “Bassackwards,” Talking Heads’ “(Nothing But) Flowers,” and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Teach Your Children.”