Honoring Sublime’s Frontman Through Music and Recovery

Burritos: A Tribute to the Music of Bradley Nowell performs at Garden Amp in Garden Grove (Credit: Corkill Photo)

It’s show night November 24, 2018. Kellie Nowell, sister of former Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell and Executive Director of The Nowell Foundation, runs frantically through the flannel shirt and Sublime gear wearing, maximum capacity, 650 person crowd at Long Beach’s Gaslamp, vigilantly checking that every band on the set list is present. Nowell is anxious because she’s the ringleader of tonight’s benefit concert––featuring local legends Long Beach Dub Allstars, LAW, and famed Sublime cover band Burritos. Normally, you’d expect a drunk, tattoo covered crowd like this to be restless, but everyone’s calm. For the crowd, tonight is akin to therapy. They’re Long Beach locals, here in remembrance of their fallen hometown hero Bradley, and in support of the Nowell Foundation’s hopes to help opiate addicted musicians, like Bradley, recover. All the proceeds from tonight’s show go to opening Bradley’s House, a six bed drug treatment facility for opiate addicted musicians, regardless of their finances.

The Nowells bounced around the idea of opening a treatment facility since Bradley’s overdose death in 1996, Kellie says, but nothing happened until a 2017 conversation with family friend Todd Zalkins. At the time, Zalkins was working on an award winning documentary chronicling his spiral into addiction and eventual recovery following Bradley’s loss, and says he felt more compelled than ever to help people like Brad.

Todd “Z-Man” Zalkins (left) with Tim Wu of Long Beach Dub All-Stars (courtesy of the Nowell Foundation)

The burgeoning idea for Bradley’s House hit Zalkins while he was surfing. Zalkins called Bradley’s father, Jim, and Kellie later that day. Soon after, Bradley’s House was born. “The idea evolved from spending a great deal of time with Poppa Nowell. For me, the film was a stepping stone to see what else we could do,” says Zalkins.

The plan for Bradley’s House is to provide free detox, 30 day treatment, and thirty day sponsorship into a sober living home for opiate addicted musicians. Eventually, the treatment may broaden beyond opiate addicts, but for now, helping people suffering with the substance that claimed Bradley’s life is of paramount importance. The shared bond of addiction, music, and recovery will hopefully increase patients’ chances of recovery. At maximum capacity, Kellie says the six bed model can help 72 people annually. But treatment is expensive. As of now, the Nowell Foundation estimates it will cost $500,000 to open the house.

Benefit shows, like the Gaslamp, help raise those funds. Casey Sullivan––Kellie’s friend and frontman of Burritos and Seedless––thought to raise funds through benefit shows. Kellie ran with the idea. Bands and fans alike rallied around the cause, celebrating Bradley’s life and reggae-punk music, with the goal of helping addicts.

“The support has been overwhelming,” Kellie says. “Fans have reached out to tell me how Sublime’s music affected them. People I’ve never met call me sis because they connect with Brad’s music.”

“We’re starting to build momentum with musicians dedicated to help,” says Zalkins.

Burritos and Sublime fans family photo (Credit: Josh Coffman)

“We have a ways to go to raise the money,” Kellie says, but she hopes the cause will attract larger artists with hearts for struggling addicts. Katie, Kellie’s stepsister, is even planning an annual benefit festival.

Attracting larger bands is key to opening Bradley’s House. One musician in particular is key in Zalkins’ mind. “My dream is for Gwen Stefani to perform ‘Saw Red’ with Jakob, Bradley’s son,” Zalkins says. Bradley and Stefani’s duet “Saw Red” helped catapult Sublime and No Doubt’s fame decades ago. Now, Zalkins hopes it will further their friend’s legacy by drawing attention to the lifesaving Bradley’s House.

The next benefit show for Bradley’s House will take place at Costa Mesa’s Tiki Bar on December 22 with Burritos, Tunnel Vision, and Los Nauticals performing. Doors open at 7pm and proceeds go to Bradley’s House. Kellie Nowell and Zalkins urge anyone interested in helping to show up and reach out. “The support has been overwhelming and humbling,” says Nowell. “We know we can’t save everyone, but we need to start somewhere.”

For more info on Bradley’s House and benefit show info, click here. 

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