Taylor, Pharrell, Sia, Ariana, Iggy, Gwen, Alicia, More Rock the Bowl's We Can Survive Benefit
By Samantha Hissong

Surprise, surprise, this #henchhipster has a soft side.

After losing multiple family members to cancer and watching my mother’s best friend just barely get out of breast cancer’s grip alive, I chose to be on my best behavior for Friday night’s star-studded and heartfelt extravaganza, as CBS put on their annual We Can Survive benefit concert, sponsored by Citi, at the Hollywood Bowl. The event, hosted by KAMP Morning Man Carson Daly, welcomed pop’s biggest names and an audience in the tens of thousands to raise funds and awareness for the fight against breast cancer.

Just to be clear, though, I’m not too fond of glamour. On a Friday night with nothing on the agenda, you can usually find me at the local pub downing six-dollar martinis, moshing about in the pit at a club that probably smells like fish tacos in a Downtown-adjacent neighborhood or taking incriminating photos on the premises of interdenominational Jesus camps in the deserts surrounding L.A. County (it’s a long story).

That being said, I clean up pretty good and can easily maneuver the cracked Hollywood streets in 5-inch heels, whilst digesting the finest house chardonnay and managing not to look like lipsticked pig. It’s a gift, really.The third-degree cigarette burn I earned in a deviant game of chicken sometimes blows my cover, but hey… you can take the girl outta the Valley, but you’ll never take the Valley out of the girl.

Oh, and let me clarify when I say “the best of them.” The official lineup consisted of Big Machine/Republic’s Taylor Swift, Columbia’s Pharrell Williams, RCA’s Sia, Republic’s Ariana Grande, Grand Hustle/Def Jam’s Iggy Azalea, Liberty’s Lady Antebellum, RCA’s Alicia Keys, Paramore and Mad Love/Interscope’s Gwen Stefani, who was announced as a “special guest.”

Luminaries spotted behind the scenes included CBS' Chris Oliviero, Kevin Weatherly, Michael Martin, Amy Stevens, Chad Fitzsimmons, Steve Salhany, John Michael, Eric Bradley and Chris Patyk, Laffitte Management Group’s Ron Laffitte and Brenda Reynoso, Columbia’s Joel Klaiman and Jim Burruss, Republic’s Gary Spangler and Artie Gentile, Def Jam’s Rick Sackheim and Nikki Farag, Big Machine’s Scott Borchetta and David Nathan, 13's Frank Bell, RCA’s Joe Riccitelli, Wendy Goodman and Ko-fung Shih, Red Light’s Ed Green and Capitol’s Patty Morris.

KAMP's John Michael ,Republic's Gary Spangler and Rob Harvey, CBS' Kevin Weatherly and Amy Stevens, Hissong, Hensley, Swift, CBS' Michael Martin, 13 Management's Frank Bell, Chris Oliviero, KAMP morning man Carson Daly and Big Machine's David Nathan.

Donning my best noir ensemble and accompanied by HITS prexy Todd Hensley, I made my grand entrance, bumped some elbows and somehow got my mitts on a coveted performer’s pass. Us hipsters like being places we shouldn’t, as it’s ironic or something, so you can imagine my exuberance. It was time to play.

Sia, accompanied by her Dance Stars P.I.C., Maddie Ziegler, and facing the back wall in true anti-hero fashion,performed an impassioned set featuring Rihanna’s “Diamonds” (co-penned by Sia), “Big Girls Cry,” “Elastic Heart,” and her smash “Chandelier.” I was bummed the quickie set lacked the ferociously climactic “Eye of the Needle,” so I made sure to tell her so during our photo-op, along with the fact that I internally burst into tears almost exactly at the 2:45 mark every time.

I got to let my inner rap goddess out for Iggy’s set, which I was pretty jazzed about. That lyric, “Valley girls givin’ blow jobs for Louboutins. Whatcha call that? Head over heels,” gets me every time. And she did indeed play “Work,” but only after Steve Aoki’s “Beat Down” (on which she’s featured) and “Bounce.” She then went into the anthemic “Problem,” though without Grande. She did have a star guest, though, in Jennifer Lopez, who joined her for their sassy duet “Booty.” Azalea also played her beloved chart-toppers “Black Widow” and “Fancy” after announcing the release of her newest single, “Beg for It,” which she performed live for the first time ever.

Lady A brought some twang to the pop party during their seven-song set, which included their smash singles “Need You Now” and “Bartender” (which hit #1 on the Country chart last month).

A twang-free Taylor Swift dazzled the crowd with her undeniable stage presence, telling attendees to be loud enough to get the people on Sunset Blvd. listening and getting bodies dancing (and young girls squealing). She opened with “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” before previewing “Out of the Woods,” off of 1989, which released today and may move as much as 1 million in its debut week. She then raised the nonexistent roof with “Trouble,” before closing with her album’s lead single, the #1 Pop hit “Shake It Off.”

Hensley, Alicia Keys, Lafitte Management Group's Brenda Reynoso

A very pregnant Alicia Keys connected to fans instantaneously with her and Jay Z’s Grammy-winning “Empire State of Mind,” followed by “Empire State of Mind, Part II: Broken Down,” “We Are Here” and another Grammy-winner, 2007’s earworm “No One.”

Vocal powerhouse Ariana Grande opened her 5-song mini-set with her EDM-drizzled “Break Free.” She also provided solo versions of the Jessie J/Nicki Minaj collab track, “Bang Bang,”and “Problem.”

Producer/singer/songwriter extraordinaire Pharrell Williams closed the evening in a downsized, blue version of his famed Vivienne Westwood hat. His diverse round-up of songs included G I R L cuts “Come Get It Bae,” “Marilyn Monroe,” current single “Gust of Wind” and the sensational crowd-pleaser “Happy,” with which he naturally closed. On the diverse note, he also made sure to weave in tastes of tunes like Nelly’s “Hot in Herre,” Jay Z’s “I Just Wanna Love You (Give It 2 Me),” Snoop Dogg’s “Beautiful” and “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” all of which he co-penned and/or produced.

And don’t think I forgot about our “special guest.” The rebellious ’90s girl inside me, who did in fact have a tie-wearing phase, was just saving the best for last. I’m not normally a fan-girl, but I’m a slave to my generation, of which Gwen Stefani is the queen. Coincidentally, “queen” is exactly how Pharrell introduced his fellow Voice coach, before breaking into her “Hollaback Girl.”

As the fireworks were rolled out and I was starting to feel my pinky toes suffering the blistering effects of standing in those 5-inch heels for over four hours, I conquered the end-of-night taxi battle with all my fingers intact and not one broken nail.

Once home and overwhelmed with getting to actually stand side-stage at the Hollywood Bowl like a motherfucking princess, I immediately passed out face-first into my bowl of Top Ramen, totally unlike a motherfucking princess.

UPDATE: The event garnered more than 400 million social impressions on the socials and was CBS' biggest social-media event to date. “Music fans clearly embraced We Can Survive and proudly shared their excitement with their community of friends and family,” said CBS Senior Vice President, Strategic Events and Partnerships Amy Stevens. “The artists too were very active in promoting their involvement and support of a very important cause. Even if you weren’t in the audience, you were still able to experience the show via text, photo, audio, and video across all our social media assets.”

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