Noah and Abby Gunderson take the stage and not a soul says a word. The entire crowd stands, still and focused, as the brother/sister duo captivates the over sold-out crowd. 1,100 people came out to see the act open at To Write Love on Her Arm’s Heavy & Light.

TWLOHA is a nonprofit dedicated to shedding light on many heavy, yet very relevant, issues. Jason Blades, one of the organization’s music and event coordinators, explains it like this: “Heavy & Light used to be just one night in Orlando [Florida]. It brings a group of people together to talk about depression, addiction, self harm and suicide and to listen to music that connect specifically with our mission. Hopefully there are some heavy issues that are talked about, but it’s light because there’s hope. It’s an interesting collaboration.”

A few things to note – no one drank alcohol and no one spoke the entire evening, two rarities at Nashville venues. The night was dedicated to conversation and hope, presented through honest testimony and music. After Noah and Abby left the stage, a man shared his story of addiction. Years of quietly kept anxiety and social phobias led him to a dependence on illegal drugs. After five years of drowning in hopelessness, he took action by sharing his struggles with friends and seeking help. He’s been sober for 10 years now, and works as a counselor in central Florida. “If I were to say it isn’t a struggle anymore, I’d be lying,” he said. “Life is difficult but I’m doing it with people around me. Every day I’m choosing to let people into my world.”

Bryce Avary from The Rocket Summer performed next. Playing solo, he utilized loops to fill space and encouraged the crowd’s participation. It didn’t take much to get their toes tapping and hands clapping. Bryce’s single, “So Much Love,” from his 2007 release was definitely a crowd favorite. His rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Trouble” was quite the hit as well.

After Avary, Jamie Tworkowski himself, the founder of TWLOHA, recapped his story and encouraged attendees to pick up the brochure containing contact information for local help centers, rehabs and counselors. The goal for the evening, as Jason said earlier, was to: “Distribute a pamphlet with local resources – a resource in addition to hearing the counselor, Tworkowski and musicians speak. The list is specific to Nashville so they will be able to seek help. We’ve already heard from people online who have used it the next day.”

The red-headed Aaron Gillespie, frontman of the alternative rock band The Almost, opened with one of his own songs and then the “The Ghost Inside,” from the band’s upcoming April 9th release. Aj Cheek (formerly of Nevertheless), accompanied him on keys the entire set. Gillespie even pulled out some New Jersey with a few Bruce Springsteen songs, accompanied by Noah and Abby Gunderson.

Last but not least, the critically acclaimed Jon Foreman and his Fiction Family band closed out the night. He played songs from the Fiction Family records for almost an hour. The other acts joined him on stage as he encored, fulfilling the full sense of Heavy & Light. “It’s been a memorable experience for these artists, getting to collaborate. Some of them would never have the opportunity to meet each other, let along sing together. Those kinds of things don’t happen very often.”

TWLOHA’s “Heavy & Light” Tour – February 8, 2013

By Rebecca Cicione