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Story Of Jeff Saenz's High-Voltage Shock Sparks National Support

Patch logo Patch 7/20/2021 Mark Konkol
a person lying on a bed: Jeff Saenz, co-owner of Modern Electric Sound Recorders, is recovering after surviving a high-voltage shock. © Photo provided. Jeff Saenz, co-owner of Modern Electric Sound Recorders, is recovering after surviving a high-voltage shock.

DALLAS, Texas — A benefit concert for a music producer who survived a high-voltage shock sparked a thunderous response from artists readying for post-pandemic returns to the road likely leading to a festival near you.

The man they are rallying around is, Jeff Saenz, co-owner of Modern Electric Sound Recorders in Dallas, who had sections of both arms amputated since coming in contact with a downed electric line on June 1.

In response, Saenz's closest friends and business partners established the Jeff Saenz Recovery Project, a fundraising hub that kicked off with "Jeff Fest" at The Double Wide in the Deep Ellum neighborhood. The bill was stacked with some of Saenz's favorite artists including country singer Paul Cauthen, Matthew Logan Vasquez of Delta Spirit, Texas crooner David Ramirez, Jonathan Tyler and Kelsey Wilson of the Austin Music Awards' Best New Band, Sir Woman.

a group of people standing on a stage: Spencer Garland (PR Newman), Kelsey Wilson (Sir Woman), Matthew Logan Vasquez (Delta Spirit), David Ramirez, Beau Bedford (The Texas Gentleman), Paul Cauthen and Brendan Bond (Black Pumas) crowd the stage at Jeff Fest. (Mark Konkol/ Patch) © Provided by Patch Spencer Garland (PR Newman), Kelsey Wilson (Sir Woman), Matthew Logan Vasquez (Delta Spirit), David Ramirez, Beau Bedford (The Texas Gentleman), Paul Cauthen and Brendan Bond (Black Pumas) crowd the stage at Jeff Fest. (Mark Konkol/ Patch)

I was there when Cauthen played the audio of a message Saenz recorded from the hospital bed, where he watched a private livestream broadcast of the show.

The crowd of sweaty Texans surrounding me hushed as Saenz's voice sailed through speakers: "Hey, everybody. This is Jeff here. I just wanted to thank all of you for coming to support me and my family. It means absolutely the world to me to know how much love there is out there. … I just want you all to spread that love to each other."

I closed my eyes, trained my ear on Saenz's voice: "Keep your prayers out for my family. It means the world to me to see the outpouring of love and support we have seen so far. It has been a very trying time in our lives, but we're all gonna make it through together."

Ric Bowden — a Jeff Fest organizer, friend and neighbor of Saenz — said he felt awash with emotion as he watched the video backstage as it played to the sold-out crowd.

"What ya'll were hearing, and I was watching: What an amazing moment, all the support that everyone has shown and all the goodwill in the community," Bowden said.

"For me, having come through the last few years of, you know, whatever, and ending those four years with the pandemic — I kind of lost faith in humanity, a little bit, with all the social unrest, lack of discourse and everything else. So, it was awesome to see so many people come together in support of someone in the way that they did. The reality and the gravity of the situation really hit me right there, in that moment."

I felt the same while listening from stage right, near the back of the tent, hearing the voice of a man who weeks earlier came into contact with a high-voltage power line in the yard of his East Dallas home.

On the night the power went out, his neighbors and fiancée, Monica Cooper, rushed toward Saenz's screams and found him on fire. Cooper separated him from live wire with a broom, and put out the flames with a blanket. Since then, he has lost part of both arms.

MORE ON PATCH: Texas Rockers Rally For Producer Who Survived High-Voltage Shock

Still, Saenz's message was filled with hope. "I'm getting stronger, a little bit better, every day. And a little bit closer to getting home to my family, the kids. I can't thank you all enough. … Thank you to all the artists performing. Ya'll are my brothers and sisters, and I love you so much," he said. "I wish I could be there with ya'll."

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Cooper's latest social update on her fiancé's ninth and most serious surgery Friday night highlighted the seriousness of Saenz's injuries.

"He is out of surgery and doing well. They amputated the right arm above the elbow and created a flap using a back muscle to cover his armpit area and arm," she posted on an Instagram story, which included details of a complicated procedure that could lead to Saenz suffering "phantom limb pain" during a long rehabilitation.

Saenz's partner at Modern Electric, Beau Bedford, said that in addition to medical bills, Saenz's house needs to be retrofitted with an accessible bathroom and other accessibility updates. He hoped the Jeff Fest concert would raise $50,000 to help his pal's family.

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"Even that seemed out of reach. So, to blow by that number is exciting for the family," Bedford said. "It's just one less thing they have to worry about during this disaster."

Already, Jeff Fest at The Double Wide has brought in nearly $70,000. Online donations and proceeds from merchandise sales and a silent auction continue to grow.

But more than that, Bedford said, Jeff Fest spread the word about Saenz's recovery and helped pushed the fundraising effort beyond the Texas music scene.

"This thing has taken a life of its own. And I'm really hopeful that even beyond Jeff, this becomes a blessing for other trauma victims," said Bedford, a founding member of the psychedelic-boogie band The Texas Gentlemen. "We're just floored by the response, such huge amounts of love and support."

Bedford and Bowden said bands from across the country have already volunteered to play Jeff Fest benefit concerts in Austin, Los Angeles and Nashville. The Toadies are set to announce a show benefiting Saenz. And on Sept. 1, Shakey Graves and The Texas Gentlemen are set to play a show raising cash for the Jeff Saenz Recovery Project, too.

Buck Gardner standing on a stage: Jeff Fest organizer Rick Bowden back stage at the benefit concert for Modern Electric Sound Recorders co-owner Jeff Saenz. (Photo provided). © Provided by Patch Jeff Fest organizer Rick Bowden back stage at the benefit concert for Modern Electric Sound Recorders co-owner Jeff Saenz. (Photo provided).

"People are knocking on our door asking, 'How can we help?'" Bowden said. "As an aside, it's symptomatic of what the music community has gone through for the last year, you know, man. To go out and earn a living is one thing, but also to help a fallen brother is a beautiful thing."

After attending the inaugural Jeff Fest, I can tell you that what Bowden says is true.

Consider Saenz's humble message from his ICU bed as proof.

"From the bottom of my heart, I love you all," he said. "Just love each other. And thank you."

The crowd cheered. Cauthen strummed his guitar.

The healing continues.

Mark Konkol, recipient of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting, wrote and produced the Peabody Award-winning series "Time: The Kalief Browder Story." He was a producer, writer and narrator for the "Chicagoland" docuseries on CNN and a consulting producer on the Showtime documentary "16 Shots."

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