Honorable Rock and Roll: This Weekend’s Benefit for Lucinda’s Kids

Most of us worry about jobs, dating, world affairs, and such; we go to sleep at night and we wake up the next day….we get through. For some, the pressures become too great – whether real or perceived – and they check out. The choice to commit suicide often leaves us stunned and helpless. For loved ones left behind, it is a defining moment that is impossibly hard to understand and move on from. I, unfortunately, have lost a few to suicide. Recently, a life-long friend of mine Alex Gubbiotti took his life. I was, and remain, caught up in a cycle of "what if’s", "if only I had’s, “I should have’s,” and other feelings of helplessness, guilt, and sadness. I can’t imagine what the children of Lucinda Gallagher have gone through. Lucinda was described to me as "a 37-year-old super music fan from Hoboken who took her life in December." The rock and roll community is rallying to raise money at a two-night Bowery Electric benefit. 

One hundred percent of the money raised will go to a trust fund for her children and The Samaritans of New York, a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline. Gillian Stoll alerted me to the benefit. She said, "We want to make it clear that the focus is on her children and their future. The last thing we want to do is to glorify suicide or give anyone the impression that it offers an easy solution to life’s hardships. While this is a great event, the struggle and sadness that these kids are faced with far outweighs the fun that can be had at a concert. No matter how alone you might feel, there’s a community out there and there are people who want to help before it’s too late."

The line-up for the two nights is impressive:

Sunday, April 29, doors at 6 p.m.
Marah
Jesse Malin
Wille Nile
Jimmy Gnecco & Dave Milone
Jim Boggia
Aaron Lee Tasjan (The Madison Square Gardeners)
Petter Ericson Stakee (Alberta Cross) Buy tickets.

Monday, April 30, doors at 7 p.m.
Tommy Stinson (The Replacements)
HR (Bad Brains)
Alan Vega (Suicide)
James Maddock
Aaron Lee Tasjan Buy tickets.

Tickets are $20 and there will be an auction as well. Auction items from Fender, Mary Louise Parker, Danny Clinch, John Varvatos, Bob Gruen and many, many more will be soon up online – check the Facebook page for details. Certain auction items, as well as raffle items, will be up at the concerts only.

Jim Boggia added: “Honestly, this cause would be well worth your support even if the bill wasn’t that great, and this show would be a great one to come to even if it weren’t helping some incredible people. This show does both.”

I asked organizer Harry Greenberger and Bowery Electric owner/rock star Jesse Malin some questions:

Why are you doing this?
Harry Greenberger: Our friend Lucinda tragically took her own life. Those of us who knew her, many of us in a particular NY music scene, saw our thoughts immediately shift to those who we could still help Lucinda’s two teenage kids, both of whom are amazing kids: strong, smart, witty and, like their mom, obsessed with music. Nobody who knew them doubted that we had to do what we could. A portion of the proceeds will go to The Samaritans of New York, but most will go directly to making Lucinda’s kids’ lives better in any way we can.

Jesse Malin: Part of my experience over the years with rock and roll music is that it has a great connection to its community. There is a real give and take between the performer and audience. After hearing the news of this awful tragedy, I couldn’t help but think of her two children and what it must be like for them. When I learned of their financial situation, I felt a need to do something to help these kids. As someone who lost his mom at a young age, I could relate on some level and wanted to contribute through my music.

Who was she? What is the meaning of all this effort and talent and use of the space gathering around Lucinda?
HG: Lucinda was a wonderful woman, but the focus of this event is on the children – to pool all of our resources and try to restore options to the lives of her surviving kids. This benefit is not a tribute or memorial to Lucinda; that deserves to happen but will be another day.

JM:Over many years of playing music and touring the world, you realize how important the fans and the people who really support you are. Lucinda Gallagher was one of those people who traveled around to many shows for the artists that she loved and constantly spread the word about new and upcoming bands as well as established ones. She gave people rides to shows and let people crash at her place even if she didn’t know them. If you were a fan of something she believed in, she opened her doors. These types of people are few and far between in an often superficial show business world. The main focus of this event, though, is not the tragedy that took place in December, but the lives and future of these kids who were left with nothing.

How did this tragedy spur people to do something positive?
HG: The truth is, there are no positive sides of this; there are only less negative ones. We’d all rather have helped Lucinda stay with her kids than to help ease the tragedy afterward, but suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The positive things that have happened are because of who these kids are and that a strong community has risen and come together to protect their interests, but there’s no doubt that we cannot restore or replace what is lost. We can try to make what comes now better than what came before and we can make sure that these kids know that they are not alone.

JM:Music is what brings us all together, and rock and roll – being sometimes and somewhat outside of mainstream society – is still a great way to give back and take care of each other in times of need. Many of the artists that she would go see regularly and people that worked for them – from roadies to managers and good friends –  want to get together to raise money for the children who are left in a very tight spot financially and, of course, emotionally. If we celebrate with music most of the time, we also can use it to mourn and see and heal our problems.

How did you get these musicians together?
HG: Largely due to my years of working with Jesse Malin and his efforts as well, we had access to a number of very talented musicians. Those who knew Lucinda and those who never did stepped forward and have given of themselves and their time to this great cause. We’ve established a foundation to build on towards the kids’ future.

JM: Harry Greenberger, my one-time stage manager, guitar tech, and good friend, was persistent and dedicated to making this happen any way possible, as well as several of Lucinda’s friends. There were many musicians who knew her and others that, just hearing this tragic story, wanted to pitch in and be a part of it. I think it’s a great mix of some of my favorite artists, friends, and heroes.

Industry Insiders: Johnny T, Cabin Fever

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in New York, you’ve walked into one of Johnny T’s East Village hangs. A staple in the NYC music and nightlife scenes, Johnny recently opened Cabin Down Below, an insta-speakeasy sensation. We sat down for an afternoon cocktail in the basement of his bar Niagara, source of many rock n’ roll memories.

What bars do you claim as your own these days? Black & White, Niagara, Bowery Electric, Cabin Down Below, and Pizza Shop.

How’d you become the East Village guru? I started hanging in the East Village when I was 16, working for artist Mark Kastabi. My first bartending job was at Ludlow Street Café, an after-hours café. I went to work at 2 a.m. and left by 8 in the morning. It was my first introduction to bartending and New York nightlife. I had my first bar upstairs at 2A, a local hangout on 2nd Street and Avenue A. By this time, I knew I wanted to start up another bar too. Along with Michael Sweer, who owns Bowery Presents, and Laura Fluto, we found a tiny place called Walley’s, which eventually became Niagara & Tikki Bar. I also became involved in the Motherfucker events, another collaborative party project that I participated in for years, throwing massive downtown events with Michael T, Justine Delaney, the booker at Le Poisson Rouge, and George Seville, a partner at the Delancey. I opened up Black & White in 2000 with my brother Chris Yerington. After that, Bowery Electric in 2008 with Jesse Malin and Mike Studo. My newest projects are Pizza Shop located next to Niagara and Cabin Down Below, which is my new underground speakeasy-style bar, opened in January with Matt Romano.

You’ve been a staple of this neighborhood forever — what’s your secret? My secret is perseverance and the people that are always around me. Whether they are the employees or the people that hang in my bars, I always try to focus on a great crowd. I want people that wanna have fun and come together for a good time. I found a way to do what I love and make a living. I’ve been playing drums since I was 15 and bartending since I was 18. Having a bar where bands can play, and where local and touring musicians can come and hang was the dream. Being a touring musician for many years too, I met all these people all over the world. I wanted to set up a real rock n’ roll bar. My secret weapon is the music. Rock n’ roll DJs and music are at all my places seven days a week. It’s all about the rock n’ roll lifestyle: making music, getting messy, and getting laid.

Any side hustles? I’ve been a drummer forever. I used to play in a band called Clowns of Progress … we all lived in the “Big Clown House” on Avenue B. I also played with Ryan Adams for a couple years, recording and touring with him. Now I’m in a band called Pop Girls Etc., one of the best projects I’ve been involved in. We’re all music geeks trying to cram a lot of influences into one. We‘re in the studio now and about to release a single in the UK, which Jesse Malin is producing.

What are your favorite hangs? It’s very rare that I’m not in one of my own bars. The drinks are free.

Anyone in the industry that you look up to? I have a great deal of respect for anyone that takes on this industry. I mean it’s fun, but it’s hard work to make something last. Anyone with a enough money and a publicist can have a bunch of celebrities parade around and open a venue for a year or two, but it will always be a flash in the pan. It’s the exact opposite of what I’ve done: start from the ground up, grassroots style. Know your neighborhood and the locals. I have a lot respect for my peers, but I pretty much just jumped into this … so to be standing here now, I feel grateful to still be carrying the torch.

What people have come into your bars? Of course I’ve had a lot of great people in my bars, but I hate to drop names. The reason I still have high-profile patrons is because we have a no rope policy, no bottle service, and we don’t tell magazines what celebrities have come through our doors.

What’s on the agenda for 2009? We’ve renovated Tikki Room downstairs at Niagara, and the gallery upstairs. We’ve also expanded Bowery Electric and opened the downstairs there.

What’s your favorite destination? Hawaii.

What are you doing tonight? Going to Bowery Electric.

Guiltiest pleasure? Late-night food runs to Blue Ribbon. What’s your dream spot for a project? I kinda have my dream spots already … this was an accidental occupation. I never wanted to open bars; it was a means to an end. It was so I could go out and drink, play drums, and make money.