Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Hardcore Benefit Show

Hardcore is hard. Life is harder.

I think it's safe to say that most of us have glided through life to this point with little resistance. Tragedy, chronic illness, legal problems, catastrophic financial or property losses are pretty much the problems of a very few of the people we know, or know of. These misfortunes are not anything that most of us have any experience dealing with on a personal level.

But when young men and women are taken from us way before their time, when they become terminally ill, when they have problems larger than anyone can possibly handle on their own, like clockwork, the hardcore scene brings us to it's finest hour by coming together for the ultimate show of support -- the Hardcore Benefit Show.

Retired bands come out of the woodwork, pick up their instruments and ply their trades one last time for the good of the cause. Kids dig deep into their wallets, hand a ten dollar bill to the person at the door, and put the two dollars in change they receive right back into their pockets. At the end of the night, after the bands have played, the kids have moshed, and the overhead has been paid, the bands have a few hunderd dollars (a couple thousand if they're lucky) to give to those in need. Beyond that, the only time anyone ever thinks about the show ever again is if they come across an old flyer of it somewhere.

The beneficiaries gladly accept the donation with thanks. It gets them though a month or two before the money dries up and they're back at square one. It's sad when you consider that something so many people take part in hardly makes any kind of difference in the lives of the people who desperately need the money that is being raised.

The Hardcore Benefit Show, as it currently stands, is woefully inadequate. I have been thinking about this recently, in light of the announcement that Shark Attack will be playing shows once again to benefit the young neice of one of its band members, who has been stricken with Lukemia. A benefit show is a a nice guesture, but that's all it really is -- a nice thought. A show of support. Sure, it's a boost to the spirit of the down-trodden to see so many people get together and make some kind of effort on their behalf, but that doesn't really go too far when you're missing mortgage payments and falling hopelessly into debt.

I think it's time that we re-think the way we raise money for those who need it. This applies to everyone from the bands on the stage to the kids in the audience to the people who run distros. If you want to raise a lot of money, everyone has to be on board, and everyone has to be aware of the fact that the benefit show is more than a show. In my opinion, four things about the Hardcore Benefit Show really need to change:

Keep The Change: this thought applies to the people who are actually attending the show. You're not going to like this, but I'm going to say it anyway. For once in your life stop thinking of yourselves. Shark Attack is playing a reunion. Whether it was a benefit show or simply a desire to get together and play shows again, you as the show-goer would be there either way. My point? Since the only reason Shark Attack is reforming in the first place is to help the family of a sick little girl, you're not really contributing to the cause if your generosity ends at the price of the door, which is completely unnacceptable. If it's a ten dollar door, and you really want to show the band your support, every person in line that night should hand the person taking money at the door a twenty dollar bill. When change is made, you should remember that you're attending a benefit show, feel yourself filled with the spirit of the event, and say "keep the change." Your generosity will do more good for the beneficiary than the Modern Life Is War record you would've eventually wasted your money on, buying it for yourself at a distro table later in the evening.

No Vendors: I know a lot of distro and label people count on the money they pull in at big shows, but the truth of the matter is, when you sell your wares at a benefit show, you're tempting people to invest their money in themselves, rather than the people the show is supposed to benefit. It's my opinion that promoters should just ban distro tables from benefit shows, period. If distros and labels are to be allowed into a benefit show, they should pay a significant fee for their table space which would be donated to the benefit, but I think it would be more effective to eliminate the avenues that keep people from giving their money to the beneficiaries.

No Guest Lists: It's a benefit. The only people getting a free ride should be the beneficiaries. I don't care who you know, who's equipment you're carrying in, or how long you've been around. If you're not paying at a benefit show, you are utterly useless in terms of what's going on around you. If that still doesn't move you to get involved in the spirit of the evening, a crowd should converge on you in the same manner that a mob converged on Kramer when he refused to wear "the ribbon." Semi-violent Positive Peer Pressure never hurt anyone.

Bands can contribute by not playing: a Shark Attack reunion doesn't happen very often. More than a few bands will want to be on the bill and there won't be room for most of them. That doesn't mean a band's potential to contribute ends at whether or not they can appear on the show flyer. Bands that have friends in Shark Attack, or bands that simply admire them can donate copies of special pressings of their records to be used for a silent auction. Do the math. If you have 40 different silent auctions for 40 different records, each averaging $25 final bids, that's an additional thousand dollars to throw at the cause. Make your records worthy of interesting bids. Personalize them with a message and an autograph. Announce each winner of each auction in the moments before Shark Attack plays their set. The winner gets a picture of him holding his record with the guys in the band. Sounds cheesy, but it would draw interest in more ways then one.

First Date Girl: Who are those guys in the picture with you?

Dude: Oh, those guys are in a band I really dig. Shark Attack.

First Date Girl: What are you holding in the picture?

Dude: Oh, just some record I won a silent auction bid on for some unfortunate little girl who was stricken with Lukemia. I really wanted to do everything I could to help, and throwing a couple of hundred dollars at some crappy Floorpunch on gold was the least I could do. Never heard of the band personally, but hey, that's the kind of guy I am. (crossing fingers behind back)

First Date Girl (removing clothes): Take me now.

Before I get off my soapbox, I just want to leave everyone with one last thought on the subject. I think people generally think of a benefit show as something that is an entity, rather than an action. Most people attend them and they think of the thing as a noun, when really, it's a verb. You're not attending a benefit show. You're attending a show to benefit someone.

Keep that in mind when you're standing in line.

I have spoken,

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