When news broke Aug. 3 that a mass shooting left 22 dead in El Paso, Texas, it was particularly devastating for Khalid, the 21-year-old musician who adopted the city as his hometown and even named his 2018 Suncity EP after it.
“This one really hit home for Khalid,” manager Courtney Stewart says. “His family still lives there. … It was a tough moment, and something he’s still dealing with personally.”
On the night of the shooting, Khalid was performing at Washington, D.C.’s Capital One Arena. “He still had to go onstage and deliver a great show with a smile to satisfy his fans,” Stewart says. “He did that. He did a short tribute that night, but he was still in shock.”
Within 48 hours, however, Khalid had sprung into action, tweeting that he was planning a benefit concert. “Khalid felt an immediate call to action to put this benefit together not only to help the families, but also to help in any way he could to heal his community,” agent Cara Lewis says.
Khalid’s schedule had a three-week window – the North American leg of his tour concluded Aug. 17, and he wouldn’t resume in Europe until Sept. 6 – but orchestrating an arena-sized benefit on short notice still yielded challenges. For one, as a small market, El Paso has few suitable venues; after deliberating, Khalid’s team booked the event for Sept. 1 at Don Haskins Center, located at the University of Texas at El Paso. (Khalid sold out the venue in a 7,622-ticket configuration in September 2018; as recently as February, Don Haskins has accommodated 12,546 for a concert).
Stewart also scrambled to reassemble Khalid’s 40-plus-person crew, many of whom had made late August plans after two months on the road. “Because it’s something that Khalid is very passionate about, people from our team are taking away from their break and time with their families to come out and do this,” he says. “Everything is coming together from a production and logistical standpoint to make this a magical night.”
Live Nation, meanwhile, signed on to produce the event, and Ticketmaster committed to provide ticketing support.
One of the remaining tasks Team Khalid had before it when Pollstar connected with Stewart was securing guests for the “A Night For Suncity” benefit, which was billed as a “Khalid & Friends” show from the start. Khalid “has a lot of friends in the business and people definitely want to support this cause, but a lot of people are on tour right now,” Stewart says. (Past collaborators Billie Eilish, Future and Ty Dolla $ign are booked elsewhere; others, including Marshmello, Logic and Halsey, aren’t.)
Most importantly, Khalid and Stewart wanted to ally their foundations – the Great Khalid Foundation and the Right Hand Foundation, respectively – with the partner best suited to direct proceeds to families in need. As Stewart puts it, they “weren’t interested in writing a check just to say we did it, but really planning it out: How can this benefit these people now, but also in five years or 10 years?” The team chose the El Paso Community Foundation; one use of proceeds will be to provide educational funds for children whose parents died.
“It goes to show his incredible character,” Lewis says. “Khalid genuinely loves his fans and has always been community minded. Even as he continues his rise to super-stardom, his heart and character remain the same.”
Stewart agrees. “The smile we see every night, the lyrics in his music, that stuff comes from a real genuine presence, and it’s all fueled by the city of El Paso,” he says. “This benefit concert is an extension of who the real Khalid is – someone that loves people, that cares about people, that cares about his city and will do anything to support it.”