Erin Petersen
The Giving Season

Songs for the Soul

By - Nov 26th, 2010 04:00 am
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This Saturday, the twinkling stage of Linneman’s Riverwest Inn will host a vertitable smorgasbord of Milwaukee’s musical talents — from the sweet and melancholy vocals of chanteuse Lisa Gatewood to the driving punk-rock beats of Barrettes guitarist JoAnn Riedl and nearly a dozen others in between.

And it’s all for a good cause.

“It’s not the most original idea,” Rob Hansen, frontman of folk/soul group The Maze,  tells me as we meet over coffee on a cold fall evening. He’s talking about the aforementioned concert, an evening of eclectic local music that will raise money to help combat hunger in Milwaukee.

And he’s right. It’s not a terribly “new” idea — benefit shows happen all the time, to raise money for everything from new band vans to people in third world countries.

“I think George Harrison is actually responsible for it,” Rob laughs, referring to Harrison’s 1971 collaboration with Ravi Shankar at The Concert for Bangladesh.

But while it may not be a unique idea in general, in the case of Songs for the Soul, it is exactly this sort of approach to charitable giving that caught TCD’s attention and inspired this very series.

Singer-songwriters and veterans of the Milwaukee music scene, Rob Hansen and Allen Cote (The Championship) began holding similar benefit concerts two years ago, but only recently have they adopted the blanket title “Songs for the Soul.” They see these events a way to use music to bring awareness to important issues and causes in the community.

In the last two years, they’ve showcased dozens of local indie musicians in order to support places like the Sojourner Family Peace Center, or even to help boost pledges during WMSE’s annual fund drive.

Proceeds from the $6 door charge at Saturday’s show will go directly to the Hunger Task Force.

“Economic times are still tough…so Hunger Task Force seemed like a good idea,” Rob says. “We are glad to help an organization that’s so well managed and know that the majority of the funds raised will go directly where [they’re] best able to make a positive impact.”

Jim Linneman, longtime supporter of local music and musicians and also the owner of Linneman’s Riverwest Inn, donated the use of his space for the concert.

The lineup is filled with Milwaukee’s musical delights, including singer/songwriter Lisa Ridgely, Wolfgang Schaefer, JoAnne Riedl (The Barrettes), Jonathan Burks, Lisa Gatewood, Quinn Scharber (The Wildbirds), Christopher Porterfield, and of course, organizers Allen Cote and Rob Hansen. And in the spirit of giving and collaboration, there will be plenty of song-borrowing and a few interesting covers throughout the evening.

And even if a benefit concert isn’t the most original idea, a lineup like that still beats your standard donation bin any day. If nothing else, it gets people out, brings them together and potentially exposes them to a side of the local music scene they may be unfamiliar with. And the timing is near-perfect; directly after quite possibly the most gluttonous holiday of the year while most of us are still digesting our respective feasts, Songs for the Soul offers a way to give back to the community and  gives the gift of music in return.

“We want to give people some value with [the concert],” says Rob.

Given the limited capacity of the venue (roughly 100 people max), the goal is to raise at least $500. And although it’s cliché to say that “every little bit helps,” the sentiment rings true. Executive Director of Hunger Task ForceSherrie Tussler says that monetary donations can go toward the purchase of food, operating costs at pantries and shelters, after-school meal programs or to Hunger Task Force’s farm. Every dollar is put to good use.

“This critical work helps end future hunger,” says Tussler. “Without it we would only be feeding people now.”

Songs for the Soul takes place at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 27 at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn (1001 E. Locust St.). Cost is $6 at the door and all proceeds go directly to Hunger Task Force. For more info, click here.

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