FARGO — In the great Beatles versus Rolling Stones debate, Shannon Neece sides with Mick and Keith.
Lately, however, she’s been getting by “With a Little Help from My Friends.”
For years she’s suffered from ankylosing spondylitis, or AS, but an upcoming fundraiser show organized by friends to take place Saturday, Feb. 23, is already lifting her spirits.
“I really believe music helps you through anything,” the 47-year-old says in her south Fargo home.
The idea started when stand-up comic Fred Bevil offered to do a benefit show. Her best friend Crystal Jenkins signed up her band Cat Sank Trio to perform, and Scotch & Pooey, friends of her husband, radio personality Mike Waters, got on board.
“That’s really the one good thing that comes of this. You find out who your friends are,” Waters says.
The crowning touch was added when Jesse Hughes, frontman of the rock band Eagles of Death Metal, was announced as a special guest host and performer.
“It’s like a dream,” Neece says, about not just meeting one of her favorite artists, but him coming to help her out. “He wants to make me enough money to not have to worry about paying for medications.”
Until now, their friendship has been online only. A fan of EODM, Neece watched and read in shock following the 2015 Paris attacks when terrorists stormed a venue the band was playing and killed 89 fans. She reached out via Twitter to the singer, offering her support in the difficult days following, and he responded with his appreciation.
The two stayed in touch and opened up about their lives. At the time, Neece had been unable to work for more than a year due to the pain caused by the autoimmune disease that can lead to bones in the spine and hips fusing together, causing severe pain. Eye and heart trouble can also be a consequence of the disease.
According to the Mayo Clinic, ankylosing spondylitis is incurable, but with treatments, symptoms can lessen and the disease can possibly be slowed.
Neece is currently on 15 prescriptions. Just one of her treatments costs more than $6,000 a month.
When Hughes found out a fundraiser was planned for his online friend, he jumped at the chance to come to Fargo and help out.
“It means the world to me. I am still in shock,” she says. “How do you thank someone for helping out?”
She aims to pay him back in very Fargo ways, offering to take him curling, ice fishing and to see the famed woodchipper from the movie “Fargo.”
They’ve also arranged to get matching tattoos of the EODM album cover “Death by Sexy” at Hardcore Ink Body Art Studio in West Fargo.
“He’s definitely excited,” says Angie Mueller, chair of the event, who has been in contact with the singer. “He’s definitely got a lot of energy. He’s got a lot of love for his fans. He and Shannon have definitely become very close. He has a lot of love for her.”
Hughes has also agreed to perform a handful of Shannon’s requests, like “Moonage Daydream” by David Bowie and EODM tunes “Cherry Cola,” “Whorehoppin’” and “I Want You So Hard.”
“It’s very happy music,” she says of EODM. “It’s very uplifting. When I’m having a bad pain day or worried about surgery, I can put it on and not worry about (my health).”
Similarly, when she writes to Hughes, it can be a way of getting something off her chest and out of her mind.
“He’s like my secret journal,” she says of the correspondence. “He doesn’t have to read it. He doesn’t have to reply. I can tell him things I don’t want to tell Mike because I don’t want him to worry.”
Hughes did not respond to a request for an interview.
Hughes may be the rock star on the bill, but Waters is the rock star in her life. The two met in 2003 when he was doing a radio remote broadcast for what was then rock station Q98. The two bonded over a shared love of rock music, like the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Black Crowes, Iggy Pop and The Dead Kennedys.
“We were immediately inseparable,” Neece says, explaining how they would regularly attend shows. “We were always that rock 'n' roll couple.”
“They would always go to concerts, whether big concerts or local shows, like when Ded Walleye was around. They were at everything together,” Mueller says. “If possible, it’s something I think they would do as much as they could, but it’s not something I think they will be able to enjoy much anymore, as much as they would love to.”
Neece and Waters attended the Joan Jett concert last summer at Bluestem in Moorhead, but she had to leave before it was over due to fatigue.
“My head is too heavy for my neck to hold up anymore,” she says.
Sometimes she’ll experience tremors that cause her limbs to shake.
“It’s a very embarrassing disease,” she says.
It’s a condition she shares with Mick Mars, guitarist for Mötley Crüe. She’s seen the band live and watched the guitarist play hunched over and seated or standing still.
“I would love to know what treatment he’s on,” she says.
Waters has had to cut back on his working hours to serve as her caretaker. The other option was to move into assisted living.
“It takes a pretty big guy to do what he’s doing,” she says.
Neece is currently working on saving her strength for Saturday night. She’s looking forward to seeing friends, having Hughes renew her wedding vows with Waters and just enjoy being able to go see live music again.
“It would be good for our kids to see me out and having fun,” says the mother of three. “I want it to be full of happiness and love. I want everyone have a good time”
“We want to make this a night Shannon never forgets,” Waters says.
If you go
What: Shannon Neece benefit show
When: 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23
Where: The Bowler, 2630 S. University Drive, Fargo
Info: There is a $12 donation at the door for this 18-and-older event. Contact organizers at ShannonNeeceBenefit@gmail.com. Donations to the Shannon Neece Benefit Fund can also be made at any Bell Bank branch in Fargo or through Lend a Hand Up at https://lendahandup.org/event/shannon-neece-benefit/.