y Laurel Gilchrist
Benefit for Step-Up, Inc.
With Joseph Redfeather, The Language, Lines of Nazca, The Oddlots, Wonderdrug, Stereo Deluxe
Birdy's Bar & Grill
March 11, 8 p.m.
Can a volunteer performance for a worthy cause create good musical karma? For local indie band The Oddlots, it might. The band's bass player Eric Pavlack has put together a benefit show for the HIV/AIDS prevention organization Step-Up, Inc.
Pavlack has been involved with the cause for the past two years. He was inspired to plan this show after attending the October 2005 Rock for Riley benefit "An Evening with Wilco." Pavlack recalls, "There was something about seeing the band hand over that giant check for over $200,000. I thought, 'What a great way to raise awareness about what Step-Up is doing.'"
Pavlack contacted Jeff Sample, booking coordinator for Birdy's Bar & Grill. Sample liked the idea. If The Oddlots could convince five other crowd-drawing acts to play for free, they could reserve the Birdy's stage for Saturday, March 11. The four-piece band, which released its self-titled CD (self-described as melodic patchwork pop) last spring, put their heads together. If they could open for any Indianapolis headliner, who would it be? Much admired power pop quartet Wonderdrug? Or perhaps 2005 Battle of the Bands winner Stereo Deluxe? Why not both? After a few rollicking games of phone tag, the deal was done.
With these two local favorites on board, it didn't take long to sign up the three remaining acts. Joseph Redfeather (described as "verbally percussive acoustic funk") will open the show, followed by indie rockers The Language. Jeff Sample even jumped on the proverbial bandwagon, offering his group, Lines of Nazca, as the sixth act in the lineup.
When Step-Up's co-Executive Director Brad Gumbert heard the news, he was thrilled. Gumbert and his partner Paula French started Step-Up in January of 2003, after each of them had lost a loved one to HIV-related complications. Gumbert explains, "We saw gaps in HIV/AIDS educational services, especially for underserved populations." Gumbert and French recruited a 12-member volunteer board of directors (including Pavlack) and negotiated the legal hurdles involved in setting up a not-for-profit organization.
Step-Up's professional educators provide multisession programs and supplies to small groups of all ages and backgrounds. Gumbert estimates they distribute over 1,000 condom packets a week. The organization receives public financing for its five educational sub-groups, but general operating funds are still needed. Gumbert explains, "If we have to buy a new computer, there's no program grant for that."
Although The Oddlots have played a number of local venues, this show will mark the group's first benefit show. Not so for Wonderdrug and Stereo Deluxe. Most recently, both have donated their musical talents to raise money for hurricane relief. While it's hard to say whether the philanthropic spirit has contributed to these bands' success, it couldn't hurt. As The Oddlots step up to the plate, Pavlack is hopeful the show will increase awareness of both the AIDS prevention cause and local original music. "The level of excitement and enthusiasm all around is more than I expected," he says. "It has snowballed."