“Don’t Tell Me This Town Ain’t Got No Heart”
Benefit for AME Church Hope Fund
Charleston Pour House • June 23, 2015
Photos & Review by Eric Rayburn
Music has the ability to evoke strong emotion and this was fully evident June 23 in Charleston, SC during the “Don’t Tell Me This Town Ain’t Got No Heart” Benefit. Held at The Charleston Pour House and featuring more than 80 different local musicians, the event raised more than $30,000 for the Mother Emanuel AME Church Hope Fund.
The church was the site of the horrific murder of nine people during a bible study a week ago. The confessed killer, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, who is white, reportedly stated his intent was to “start a race war” by shooting the nine black parishioners. The victims ranged in age from 26 to 87 and included a South Carolina state Senator, a pastor and a high school track coach.
The murders have stunned the local community unlike any previous event in recent memory. But instead of driving people in to opposite corners, it has brought them together in ways no one could have expected. It was in this spirit that organizers at the Pour House put together, in four days, an event that ran from 4 pm to 1:30 am, featured members from many different bands playing together on two stages, received donations from over a dozen local businesses, put up an online auction and went off without a hitch. The schedule never ran more than 15 minutes behind and was blessed with no technical difficulties.
“(It) was no small feat,” Jessica Wilson, one of the organizers, told the Post and Courier. “We are incredibly thankful for the support of the many businesses and talented musicians who made the benefit concert possible.”
The concert, taking it’s title from a line in “Shakedown Street” by the Grateful Dead, included Dangermuffin, Sol Driven Train, Dead 27s, Travlin’ Kine, Chris Hyatt, The Lowhills, Gaslight Street with Reid Stone, Runaway Gin and many others. There were many sit-ins and collaborations with long established bands, and a brand new one.
“This was the first time we played together,” said Aaron Hines, of Manny Praise Team, which played some gospel themed numbers. “Today there is so much love. This love has blossomed from tragedy. Music is universal and it heals and just has the ability to penetrate the heart. I feel blessed to be able to play here today.”
The event sold out all 800 tickets in under 3 hours and there was such a demand that the venue streamed live video of the entire concert for free. Over 1800 people tuned in worldwide. Widespread Panic used the audio of the stream as the house music during set break at its Lincoln, Nebraska show.
“I’m real happy we weren’t on the road,” said Steve Sandifer, drummer for folk-rock trio Dangermuffin. “Being a part of this is special.”
The outdoor stage had bands from 4pm- 9pm and the indoor main stage from 8:15 until the end at 1:30 am. The genres ranged from gospel and soul to R&B, rock and roots music, but one thing was a constant- the quality of the music. Eighty musicians of incredible talent on keys, horns, guitars, congas, stand-up bass, mandolin and drums kept a packed house dancing despite the summer Lowcountry heat.
Josh Roberts and The Hinges blasted the crowd with a frontal guitar assault while soul singer Chris Hyatt brought a funky slow jam to covers of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On?” and Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”, songs that were perfectly appropriate for the theme of the event.
Sol Driven Train added to the heat with a short fun set that had Sandifer returning to the stage as a second drummer and even included a short drum break with the two percussionists. Local Phish tribute band Runaway Gin took the evening on a decidedly more psychedelic path as guitarist Andy Greenberg channeled Trey Anastasio on a few Phish classics. The evening ended with a super jam with many of the artists who were still there playing on a packed stage.
This event was staffed by volunteers, bartenders gave their tips to the cause, the musicians were not paid and multiple businesses donated to the online auction which included a Chuck Sperry Widespread Panic poster autographed by the artist and the band that went for over $4,000. All of these people came together to help others. They didn’t do it for recognition. They did it with love and hope in their hearts and hope leads to forgiveness.
“Forgiveness is for me,” said 62-year-old Mona Palmore of Charleston. “You see, once you forgive, you get peace. I can’t forget what happened, I never can do that. But I can get peace through forgiveness.”