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My position at Oxfam America as music artist relations coordinator requires me to take meetings in some very untraditional situations. I’ve become accustomed to requests to meet musicians at places including roadhouse nightclubs, barbecue joints, lounges of tour buses, and even at the side of the stage at a Motörhead concert…but the situation I was invited into last Friday night was my favorite meet-up with an artist ever.
Chad Stokes, our friend from State Radio and their charitable organization Calling All Crows, invited me to attend their Boston-area benefit show to accept a check from them for $100,000 for Oxfam to provide fuel-efficient stoves to women in Darfur. The band and “The Crows” have been collecting donations from fans at State Radio shows around the country, and bolstering the fund with side events like the Northampton Halloween 5K that raised about $14,000.
The show was held in the Somerville Armory, a recently refurbished hall that sparkled inside with twinkling holiday lights, and pulsed with the energy of hundreds of State Radio fans from all over the Northeast who came to show support for the Stoves fund drive. In addition to songs by Stokes, the crowd was treated to surprise short sets by fellow Dispatch bandmate Pete Francis, with Jay Driscoll of Barefoot Truth on slide guitar, Matt Embree of Rx Bandits, and State Radio’s Michael “Maddog” Najarian, who traded his usual drumsticks in for a guitar for the evening.
Before the final set of the evening, I was invited to the stage to collect the check, a giant oversized version that Ed McMahon would have approved of, and say a few words on behalf of Oxfam. Those close to me know that I’m seldom at a loss for words in any situation, but as I walked past the podium to accept the check from Stokes and his partner Sybil Gallagher, as Calling All Crows co-directors Matt Wilhelm and Jeb Gutileus stood by, all of whom were misty-eyed and beaming at seeing the fruits of their hard work being passed on, I choked up in a way I’ve not done for as long as I can remember:
Thankfully, the super-supportive crowd (who at one point in the evening actually gave the Darfur Stove that was held aloft from the stage an ovation!) helped me get through my quick speech, and I was able to exit the stage to hugs and high-fives from the musicians and Crows staff without breaking down totally. It is moments like those that continually remind me how lucky we are to have such dedicated support from the music industry and from music fans. Thanks to them, this donation will directly affect 5,000 families in camps in Darfur for the better.
The night concluded with all the artists coming together at the end of the night for a cover of The Band’s “Ophelia,” and promises from all in attendance to continue to take Oxfam’s and Calling All Crows’ missions to heart and to take action. As I left the Armory with my colleagues, I was reminded yet again of the motto at the heart of our work: “We believe that music can change the world.”