It most likely won't take Steve Gleason's hearing. That's the thing about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the incurable neurological disease also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. It takes everything away slowly — movement, swallowing, talking and eventually breathing ability — but the five senses generally remain. For the third annual Gleason Fest, the former NFL, Washington State University and Gonzaga Prep football star will be in attendance, employing those senses to experience the lineup of eight local and national acts.
Steve and his brother Kyle Gleason have always been fans of live music, checking out bands like Delbert (who reunited for last year's Gleason Fest) and Black Happy while growing up in Spokane.
"Spokane made us the men we are today. The people there just continue to show us so much support," says Kyle from his home in San Francisco.
When Steve was officially diagnosed with ALS in 2011, Kyle wanted to create an event that would not only raise awareness for ALS but also give back to their hometown, where their father still lives (their mother works at WSU as an academic advisor).
After the success of Gleason Gras at the Superdome in New Orleans, Kyle wondered if they could do something similar on the streets of downtown Spokane.
"What if we could really use rock 'n' roll to save the world?" Kyle asks, tongue in cheek.
Like last December's Spokane Arena Pearl Jam concert, when Steve — who uses eye-tracking technology to communicate — picked the setlist. He also has a hand in selecting bands for Gleason Fest. The search process involves Steve, Kyle and Gleason Fest event coordinator and promoter John Blakesley, who also books the Elk Fest lineup, brainstorming the perfect list of bands.
"We did well this year," says Blakesley of the lineup, headlined by Willie Nelson's son Lukas.
Things are growing. Last year's attendance doubled to 1,000 people and there's a committee now. The coordinators want this to become a marquee family event, something that will run after they're all gone.
Gleason Fest is Kyle's big homecoming party; he says the event is one of the most important days of the year for him. Music is something that still brings Steve so much joy, and now it's Kyle's turn to give back to a brother who has provided him with so many opportunities.
"From the Rose Bowl to NFL games, getting me into things that otherwise I would never have been, places I didn't belong, he always took me with him," Kyle says. ♦
Gleason Fest feat. Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real and more • Sat, Aug. 23, 2-11 pm • $20 • All-ages • Division and Main • gleasonfest.org
2 pm: Pine League
2:45 pm: The Rustics
3:30 pm: Hey! is for Horses
4:15 pm: Mama Doll
5:30 pm: Tango Alpha Tango
6:45 pm: Old Man Canyon
8 pm: The Grizzled Mighty
9:15 pm: Lukas Nelson (Willie Nelson's son) & Promise of the Real
The event includes two beer gardens and various food trucks and vendors.
The Ice Bucket Challenge Craze
No doubt you've seen various videos of celebrities and normal folks alike dumping freezing water over their heads. The act may be blowing up your Facebook and Twitter feeds, but the Ice Bucket Challenge is more than just a chance to cool down on a hot day. Its real platform is to spread ALS awareness. Steve Gleason recently did the challenge naked, to up the ante. At the end of his video, he smiled. The push has raised $15.6 million nationwide, compared to $1.8 million over the same period last year, according to the ALS Association. Find out more at teamgleason.org. (LJ)