Musicians arrange tornado benefit

It didn’t take much to get more than a dozen area artists on board with the Gone With the Wind benefit concert for Harrisburg.

In fact, all it took was a simple question.

Organizer Bill Carter, who is a musician himself, said he posted on Facebook asking if any bands were interested in playing to raise money for victims of the Feb. 29 tornado in Harrisburg and

Right to left, Robbie Stokes, Peyton Blewett and Ron Johnson perform as The Venturis on Saturday at the Varsity Theater in Carbondale. The band played as part of the Gone With the Wind benefit for the victims of the Feb. 29 EF4 tornado that hit Harrisburg. Photo provided by Nicole Hester

Ridgway. He had responses from 10 bands within an hour, and he had 30 by the next morning, he said.

From there, Carter said things came together quickly.

“We’re not running this. It’s running us,” he said.

The concert series took place Friday through Sunday at locations in Carbondale and Cobden, and featured area artists such as the Whistle Pigs, The Bankesters and Tawl Paul. Money was raised through cover charges, donations and auctions for an account to be evenly distributed between Harrisburg and Ridgway, Carter said.

Carter said he got together with Ray Hogan, owner of the Old Feed Store in Cobden, and Curtis Conley to organize the event.

The first venue, Longbranch Coffeehouse, came easily enough, Carter said. While he was meeting with Hogan and Conley at the café to work out the event, owner Elaine Ramseyer walked by and asked what they were up to. When he told her, he said she immediately volunteered the Longbranch’s back room.

That spirit of volunteerism marked the whole event-planning process, Hogan said, from the flood of interested musicians to the donations from businesses for the auctions.

As concert organizer at the Old Feed Store in Cobden, Hogan said he had to turn away six acts, as there simply wasn’t enough room to accommodate all the artists who wanted to take part.

Carter said the area’s music scene is closely knit and non-competitive, which meant getting everyone together was easy.

“It’s an inbred society here,” he said.

Bill Harper, who played at Longbranch Friday, said he’s played a lot of benefit shows.

He said there was a different feeling with this one in the way everything lined up and how the artists came together so quickly.

There’s a symbiotic relationship between musicians and their community, which can explain why they were so eager to give something back, he said.

The irony of the situation is that musicians are themselves not the most well-off members of society, yet they were some of the most
willing to help out, Carter said.

This wasn’t the first time the Whistle Pigs, who played at the Varsity Center for the Arts on Saturday, have been involved in tornado relief, vocalist and banjo player Joe McCamish said. He said they were booked to play in Joplin, Mo., but then the city was devastated by a EF5 tornado May 22, 2011. They still played the show, he said, but they brought food and clothes with them.

He said helping out is the least they can do, and musicians are always willing to give.

“We don’t make money anyway,” he said.

Dale Anderson, of Creal Springs and who attended Saturday’s concert, said the tornado actually touched down near their house, and they have friends in Harrisburg who suffered damage.

The spirit of charity that drove the concert is really something that’s just part of living in this region, Anderon said.

“It’s southern Illinois,” he said. “Everybody takes care of each other.”

Carter said with the lack of federal relief, it’s up to the community itself to step in to help and that’s why he had the idea to do something in the first place.

“If not me, who?” he said.


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