Local musician Matt McWatters was at a loss for words when he heard about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
The shooting, which claimed the lives of 20 students all aged 6 or 7 and six adult staff members at the school in Newtown, Conn., hit close to home for McWatters, as it did for many people. The former bassist of The Sense Offenders and current leader of his own group, Matt and the Bad Ideas, has a son the same age as the victims.
“I think we’ve all been desensitized to school shootings, but this was such a horrific, horrific event,” he said. “I’m watching the news every night crying, not knowing what to do about it. It was extreme evil, that’s all it was.”
It didn’t take him long to figure out something to do to help. On the same day of the shooting, Dec. 14, he posted a note on his Facebook wall putting out feelers to see if there would be any local interest from musicians for a fundraiser benefiting the families of Sandy Hook victims.
“I got an email from Howard [Glassman, owner of Valentine’s] donating his time; Greg Bell [Guthrie Bell Productions] contacted me — all within 24 hours of this post,” McWatters said. “It kind of just took off from there. I think more or less people didn’t know what to do; it’s a kind of helpless feeling for everybody. At least now we can do something.”
Rock for Recovery Sandy Hook benefit shows
With: Conehead Buddha, Dr. Jah and the Love Prophets, Skunk Hostage, The Lucky Jukebox Brigade, Timbre Coup, Way Down (Friday); Sean Rowe, Super 400, Black Mountain Symphony, Erin Harkes Band, Matt and the Bad Ideas, The Hearing Aides (Saturday)
When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Upstairs at Valentine’s, 17 New Scotland Ave., Albany
How Much: $10
More Info: 432-6572, www.valentinesalbany.com
It quickly grew from one night to two when Bell got involved, and a silent auction and raffle were added as local businesses began donating items. The event, dubbed Rock for Recovery, will take place upstairs at Valentine’s on Friday and Saturday night.
McWatters ended up putting together the bands for Saturday night — including headliners Sean Rowe and Super 400, along with Black Mountain Symphony, Erin Harkes Band, his own band The Bad Ideas, and The Hearing Aides.
“I had to turn down so many people — pretty much every band you could think of in Albany contacted me wanting to play, and it already turned into two nights pretty quickly after Greg got involved,” he said.
“A few of the bands I reached out to, like Sean Rowe and Super 400. Lori [Friday, Super 400 bassist and vocalist] is very pregnant, so for them to agree to play this show speaks volumes to their characters. I messaged Sean, and he called me back right away.”
The Bad Ideas, featuring McWatters, Charmboy members Eric Halder on lead guitar and Sarah Clark on bass, and drummer Jim Felter, are no strangers to benefit shows. On Dec. 2, the band was part of a bill at Red Square to raise funds for the Red Cross in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
For this show, McWatters and Bell both wanted to be sure that the money collected from the $10 tickets and the auction and raffle would be going directly to those in need. The two decided to split the revenue between two charities: EverRibbon: My Sandy Hook Family Fund, and Newtown Youth & Family Services.
“There was a link on the ABC website for EverRibbon, which is a Kickstarter for charities and fundraising,” McWatters said. “At the time we chose that one, they had only raised $63,000 toward their goal to help with immediate expenses, but they’ve far surpassed their goal. Whatever’s left over is for the ongoing treatment for everyone. The other one, Newtown Youth & Family Services, is right in Sandy Hook.”
Bell and Guthrie Bell Productions secured the lineup for Friday night, which features Conehead Buddha, Dr. Jah and the Love Prophets, Skunk Hostage, The Lucky Jukebox Brigade, Timbre Coup and Way Down.
“The one reason I really wanted to be involved in this is that it’s a true benefit concert — no one involved is getting a penny out of it,” Bell said.
“I’ve been involved in benefits before where it wasn’t necessarily true — a lot of people who raise money for charities feel they should be compensated for what they do. . . . Matt and I both agreed that not one penny was going anywhere but the two places we selected.”
Among the businesses that have donated to the auction and raffle are John Keal Music, Loudonville Wine and Spirits, 76 Diner in Latham, McGeary’s Irish Pub and Art Smarts children’s art studio. A full list of items up for auction is available on the event’s Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/events/378057048954573.
For McWatters, who has been leading The Bad Ideas for the past year basically as “weekend warriors,” this benefit has been a chance to give something back by doing something he loves.
“We do this for fun, so it’s good that we can overlap what really gives us pleasure, and turn it into something useful for the community,” McWatters said.