A wildly diverse set of local musicians will gather this Friday to pay tribute both to a musical legend and a worthy charity. The Tonic Ball will be held at Radio Radio to benefit Second Helpings, Inc., which rescues food from local restaurants and food service companies and provides job training for needy citizens.
Cathy Morris is just one among many artists performing at Radio Radio on Friday night.
Playing the music of Gram Parsons will be Bigger Than Elvis, Citizen"s Band, Jennie DeVoe, Impossible Shapes, Jon Martin of Sindacato, the Dan Holmes Band, Dale Lawrence, Ann McWilliams, Cathy Morris and Rock Soup, Pop Lolita, Vess Ruhtenberg and Stickmen Music. Each band will play one Parsons song and one other tune. The selection of artists spans the range of music from indie rock to folk to neo-country to pop. The wide range of artists was chosen to reflect Parsons" vast influence on popular music as well as to show the broad support Second Helpings, Inc. receives, said event organizer Ken Honeywell. The show is based on the Losers Lounge shows in New York, where groups gather to play the music of one artist. Honeywell and a friend devised the idea of staging a similar show more than a year ago. "I"ve always been a huge Gram Parsons fan," he said. "I thought he was someone who had always been neglected by the mainstream music fan. He"s obviously well known in music circles." Besides helping charity, Honeywell said the show"s goal is to "cross-pollinate the local music scene, to provide some sort of a forum for a bunch of people you"d never see on the stage together to get together." He said, "Somebody who goes to see Jennie DeVoe is not likely to go see the Impossible Shapes or Pop Lolita, or vice versa." He said he hopes audiences will "rally around the songs of someone who was a cross-pollinator himself. Parsons combined country, rock, blues and gospel." Gram Parsons (1946-73) was one of the founding fathers of what has become known as country-rock, although he hated the term. Parsons began learning piano at the age of nine after seeing Elvis Presley perform at his high school auditorium. In the 1960s and early 1970s, he wrote and recorded with a variety of groups, including the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Byrds. His influence continues today on artists such as Wilco, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and Son Volt. Parsons; music has been covered by Elvis Costello, Cowboy Junkies, Sheryl Crow and dozens more. He died of a drug and alcohol overdose in 1976 at the age of 26. Honeywell said selecting the groups to play was a tough task. "We tried to find the premier artists in each musical sub-genre and approached them. We think we have a nice, diverse lineup." Jon Martin, lead singer of Sindacato, will perform with a few of his bandmates. "We do a couple of songs that Gram Parsons wrote with Chris Hillman, so it seemed like a natural thing for us to do," he says. Martin will perform the Parsons/Hillman songs "Wheels" and "Brass Buttons." Having just played a benefit for the Southside Animal Shelter, at which two truckloads of pet food were collected, Martin said he was happy to get involved with this show. "We do a few charity events each year, and I"ve looked for a charity to get involved with," he said. "Second Helpings seemed like the way to go. My wife"s in the restaurant industry and I see the amount of food that is wasted on a daily basis. Second Helpings is a wonderful charity." Honeywell said Second Helpings was a natural choice. "Hunger relief is a key to so many things around the world," he said. "And Second Helpings rescues a million pounds of food that would otherwise have gone into the dumpster. Their job training program is so successful. We"re honored to be able to do something to help them." Here is a brief rundown on the groups performing at Tonic Ball. Bigger Than Elvis, the house band at Radio Radio, is one of the leading purveyors of rockabilly music. Their members come from many local bands. Cathy Morris is an electric violinist with four CDs under her belt. She refers to her music as "party jazz" and is seen at every major jazz venue in the city. She also volunteers her time for music education programs in area schools. Citizen"s Band plays good old American rock and roll, influenced by the greats. The group, comprised of Brian Deer, Matt Boyer, B.P. McKenna and Adam Anzeveno, released an excellent album earlier this year and played at the Indy Jazz Fest. Influenced heavily by Parsons, the group is known for its earnest and hook-filled songs. Dale Lawrence has headed the Vulgar Boatmen since 1990. But he"s been part of the Indiana music scene since 1978, when he joined the Gizmos. He"s known as one of the best and most melodic songwriters in the country and critics nationwide have praised the Boatmen"s albums. Dan Holmes is involved with seven local bands, owns The Soup Kitchen recording studio and manages a music shop in Avon. In his spare time, he fronts the Dan Holmes Band, a trio which plays everything from New Orleans boogie to Brit-pop. The Impossible Shapes is a psychedelic band from Indianapolis that has released three CDs in its five years of existence. A fourth is due early next year. Jennie DeVoe is one of the best-known female voices in Indiana. Through sheer hard work and hundreds of gigs, DeVoe"s music has become widely heard throughout the state. She"s also the voice of numerous commercial jingles and has licensed her music to TV shows and Corona Beer. She has also received three honorable mentions in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Pop Lolita is heavily influenced by Mod-era music, although their eclectic sound defies easy categorization. At any given time the band can veer from Kinks-style rave-ups to power pop to straight-ahead rock. They"ve become one of the most respected local rock bands. Stickmen Music is an acoustic duo comprised of Eric Pressler and Steven Rogowski. Their music has appeared in two independent films. Their debut album is set for release next year. Vess Ruhtenberg is a member of the acclaimed band The Pieces and was a founding member of the now-defunct United States 3. His other credits include Transportation, Antennae and June Panic"s band. About Second Helpings Second Helpings Inc. delivered its first meal on April 29, 1998. Since then, the group has received more than 2.4 million pounds of food and has prepared and distributed more than 800,000 meals. The group recovers an average of 50 tons of food a month from restaurants, caterers, hotels, grocery stores and other food businesses. They repackage or re-prepare the food and distribute up to 1,400 meals a day. Agencies receiving the meals include homeless shelters, community and youth centers, children"s after school programs, seniors" programs and soup kitchens. Second Helpings also trains individuals for employment in the food service industry. For more information about Second Helpings, visit www.secondhelpings.org or call 632-2664. Admission to the show is $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Advance tickets are available at Future Shock, 6323 N. Ferguson St. and both Luna Music locations, 433 Massachusetts Avenue and 1521 W. 86th St. For more information, visit www.tonicball.org.