Brian "Head" Welch from the multi-Grammy winning alt-metal rock group Korn spoke for more than hour Saturday night for an intimate event at Culpeper County High School, bringing a message that was raw and honest.
More than 500 were in attendance.
Funny, serious, dark, sincere, vulnerable and full of candor, Welch recalled openly his long battle using methamphetamine on the road all over the world. How he left the fame and excess for his baby daughter.
“I just want to tell my story,” Welch said to the Culpeper crowd, recalling his two stints in Korn, and how the band came to be.
“I completely left everything and … just walked away to follow the teachings of Jesus. I wanted something else besides what I was living. I was in addiction, but also confused about the meaning of life …you want to be successful and to go as far as you can and I went so far in the world.
“I was confused why I saw so many miserable people and why it didn’t satisfy? It felt small and empty. I was grateful and it was a dream come true but I think God wired me differently, to be deeper, like what is the meaning of the life?”
Walking back and forth across the stage with his cell phone in hand to check notes once in a while, Welch remembered, for an attentive crowd on a rainy night, how Korn was formed under Huntington Beach Pier in California.
He talked about the long, strange trip that followed, trappings of overnight stardom and life on tour with big names like Ozzy Osbourne and House of Pain.
In an unlikely twist, the ground-breaking rocker, spiraling in addiction, went to church. The guitarist shared how a personal relationship with the head of Christianity, changed and freed him, how Christians showed him another path in life.
That even in the fog of drug use, God gave him respite and forgiveness.
Welch interacted with local fans in the audience for the free event sponsored, with others, by Mountain View Community Church, Culpeper Baptist Church and the nonprofit CARS, an acronym for Christ-Centered Addiction Restoration Services.
Culpeper-based Demolition Services, run by church members Boots and Melissa Feathers, was a top sponsor making the evening possible. They sat front row.
“I hope you guys are here to have open ears and open eyes and a soft heart to take in everything you hear tonight. It’s going to be emotional, it’s out of this world,” Boots Feather said.
To end the night, Welch played a couple of guitars that were raffled off in support of CARS, which is working on putting a down payment on property for a long-term recovery treatment center for women in the area. It would be a first of its kind.
Jewell Tone Music, a school on Main Street downtown run by John and Carla Jewell, donated the guitars, and are starting their own nonprofit, Jewell Center for the Arts.
A longtime professional musician and guitarist, John Jewell made sure the instruments were in working condition before Welch played them.
“I had to laugh—I went over those guitars yesterday and got them all set up for Brian, tuned them to standard tuning,” Jewell said prior to the show Saturday. “The first thing he does is thing called drop tuning, all the metal guys don’t play to standard tuning—they take and drop it real low and I’m like, yeah!,” said Jewell, making a growling noise.
Jewell knew who Korn was and had read Welch’s book.
“When I found out Brian was coming out here, it was really like major that that they got him,” the music school owner said of supporting the event. “I think it’s really cool what he does, ministry-wise and to be part of international band like that is really cool.”
The new nonprofit also hopes to partner and collaborate more in the future with fellow nonprofit organizations like CARS.
“Whether you’re a person of faith or not, doing something like this, it’s about addiction and rehabilitation, we have a problem here in the county, this is a really good thing to be doing so that’s why we’re supporting it,” Jewell said.
Earlier on Saturday, Welch, fresh off a summer tour with Evanescence, practiced and played songs for the night in Culpeper and interacted with church organizers in the auditorium.
In the morning, the rocker met with inmates from the local jail, with assistance from Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office deputies, in attendance for the Conversation with Brian Welch. Culpeper Baptist Church Pastor Dan Carlton was there for the jail meet-up.
“As glad as I am you are in this room, this morning is when it all happened for us,” he said Saturday night. “We had about 50 men and women incarcerated in Culpeper Jail together with Brian Welch this morning—just so thankful. It was a powerful morning and whatever we get tonight we’ll just count that as a blessing.”
Welch’s performance on the raffled-off guitars Saturday night was short, but undoubtedly rocking, like the artist. He autographed each after the teaser performances with church drummer, Lee Shifflett.
“They were like, would you strum a couple chords to show the people that you played it and it works?” he said of organizers asking him to participate in the guitar raffle.
“And I’m like, all right, but I got up here and am like, I don’t want to do it by myself that’s boring and then he snuck up, Lee over here snuck up and we started playing blind so, let’s see if this thing works.”
The names of Jeanne Nixon, active in the local prison ministry, and Tammy Vandermeer were pulled in the raffle to win the guitars.
Culpeper Chamber President Jeff Say was in the audience for the program. He thanked CARS for bringing Brian Welch to town to talk about his journey to recovery.
“It was an uplifting evening at CCHS and it was amazing to see everyone in attendance hang on Brian’s every word. His speech was powerful and his message of hope was heard loud and clear,” said Say, among whose first concerts growing up in Pennsylvania was Korn.
Afterward, Welch taped a short segment with MVCC Pastor Mark Jenkins to issue a giving challenge in support of CARS.
“We’ve been working really hard to open a recovery home, full-time, for women here in this area. We’re in the process of raising a second 20 percent that we need as a down payment on this home, and here’s a challenge that Brian gave us last night that he’s willing to match dollar for dollar, up to $10,000, all money given to CARS for the next seven days,” Jenkins said.
Welch said why he wants to give.
“I just fell in love with the area and there are so many good people out here so I just wanted to step and do my part,” he said in the Sunday morning video from Culpeper.
“I hope you guys step out in faith and match me and my challenge to you and let’s get that number high, man, we got to get that place open,” he said.
Say, with the chamber, said he looks forward to the community answering Welch’s call.
“We are not ‘Blind’ when it comes to substance use issues in our community and we thank CARS for serving as a resource to help our community find help and hope.”
Donations given through Sunday, Oct. 9 will be matched by the Korn singer with all proceeds for the recovery home. Give at herestores.com.
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