Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea and Anthony Kiedis Host Music Conservatory Benefit, Bruno Mars Performs

"Music shouldn't be defined by the zip code you're in," said Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti at an event held at Ron Burkle's Beverly Hills estate
Gary Leonard
Bruno Mars

“I did go to music school,” Rufus Wainwright professed Saturday night at the fourth annual benefit for the Silverlake Conservatory of Music, hosted by the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea and Anthony Kiedis. “I actually dropped out. But I think it’s important to have a music school to drop out of.”

Wainwright performed an eight-song set following dinner on the lawn of Ron Burkle’s Beverly Hills estate. The musician, seated behind a grand piano, offered a selection from his various releases, including his requisite cover of “Hallelujah” and “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk.” He kicked off the set with 2004’s “The Art Teacher,” a song that felt appropriate to the event’s intent.

The benefit's mission was to raise funds for the music school, which launched 13 years ago and currently counts 700 students, 200 of which attend for free. In his introduction, Flea noted that the school is presently constructing a new, larger building that will allow it to double its enrollment. He told the crowd that the original intention of the school still stands: simply to teach music. “I’m an Angeleno,” Flea said. “I love this community, and I just want to serve this community.”

Kiedis then brought Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti onstage, musing that the evening felt like “just a win-win situation.” Garcetti, who also spoke at 2013’s benefit event, recounted a story of how he moved a piano into his office because he felt like something was missing. “I sit down and I play the piano,” he said of searching for inspiration. “I have that gift because my mother was a musician and raised me playing the piano. Because music has permeated our lives, I know what it does to you as a person.”

Garcetti added, “Music shouldn’t be defined by the zip code you’re in. We need music in every school in this city, and we won’t stop until we get there.” He called Los Angeles “the creative capital of the world” and toasted “to music, to our souls and to the greatest city on Earth.”

Bruno Mars was next to take the stage and, like Wainwright, recounted a similar music school dropout tale. Mars, who grew up in Hawaii, said he took a Polynesian music class as a kid, where he learned classics on the ukulele. “I remember watching the Chili Peppers on Woodstock ’99 and they played this Jimi Hendrix song, and it blew me a way,” Mars told the crowd, which had gathered around the base of the stage to dance during his set. “I went into my class and tried to teach everyone the [chord] changes, and my teacher kicked me out of my Polynesian music class.”

The singer ran through several of his hits, including “Treasure” and “Locked Out of Heaven,” but also took the private concert as an opportunity to have some fun. “We’re gonna wedding band out right now,” he declared before he and the band launched into a quick-fire series of covers. The group bounced through “Pass the Dutchie,” “Your Love,” “Poison,” “This Is How We Do It” and “Every Little Step.” Mars also revisited “Billionaire,” his 2010 single with Travie McCoy, which he mashed with a cover of “Money (That’s What I Want).” He fittingly donated the song "to everyone with deep pockets.”

Indeed, the 500-person crowd heeded his call, particularly when it came to the event's silent art auction. The donations, from artists including Damian Hirst, Richard Prince, Raymond Pettibon, Cecily Brown, Ed Ruscha, Gus Van Sant, Charming BakerKim Gordon, Tim Armstrong and Shepard Fairey, raised more than $1.25 million for the conservatory. Armstrong, who had several pieces in the auction, attended with his son and spent the evening hanging out with Travis Barker. Other attendees included Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, Danger Mouse, and The Kills’ Alison Mosshart.