One of the things I still remember to this day was how the Irish American music community came to help their beloved city after the September 11 attacks 11 years ago. Not a day went by that some pipe and drum band or a group of rock and rollers would assemble to run a benefit show for the families of first responders or to defray funeral expenses for families of victim.
Once again, the community is coming together in a big way in the face of disaster. Hurricane Sandy impacted families from the tip of Long Island to the Jersey Shore and beyond, and these shore communities were populated by many Irish families that staked their corner of the sand to build their dream home by the sea.
A benefit concert organized by the lads in Jameson’s Revenge and the Mickey Finns is scheduled for Saturday, December 1. It has now taken on a life of it's own.
“We were in contact with Jameson’s Revenge, who are friends of ours, to play something together,” explains Brian Tracey of Mickey Finns.
“So we had booked Connolly’s to do something and when the hurricane hit, both bands at the same time made the suggestion to turn it into the benefit. This is our audience. These are our friends. Denny McCarthy (of Jameson’s Revenge) is a fireman and those guys have been seeing amazing destruction.”
What began as just an idea between two New York-based Irish bands to help so many in some small way the best way they know how is now quickly turning into something much bigger, with other bands signing on each day.
Plans to mushroom the concerts to other dates are in full swing as part of a series known as the Sandy Seisiun Relief Fund that targets people most in need throughout all the Irish communities in the New York area hit hardest by the storm.
GIRSA, Celtic Cross, Broken Banjo Strings, Seanchai are all part of the first concerts.
“The one thing this Irish community does well is come together and rally behind someone or an important cause when they need support,” says Kathleen Fee of Celtic Cross.
“We are all super excited to put on a great show for everyone and we are planning to jam together and sit in with each other’s bands for a good ol’ Irish seisiun! There will be lots of laughs, we will raise some spirits and money for our own here in New York and New Jersey.”
“I can’t speak on behalf of other bands but I think it's safe to say that we all feel an obligation to show our collective support to the people and Irish communities that have supported the music and musicians over the years,” says James McCarthy of Jameson’s Revenge. “This is a collective effort to raise as much money as possible for all affected neighborhoods, not just one or two. Hopefully these first two shows at Connolly’s on December 1 and 21 will be launching point for more shows where every musician can be a part over time, because it is going to take years to rebuild.”
For Celtic Cross, the hurricane hit especially close to home. Guitarist Walter Ensor lives in Rockaway which was devastated from the storm.
“He watched his hometown get swept away, along with his two cars,” reports Fee. “When you cross the bridge to Rockaway, it's like entering into a third world country. They have seen the best and worst in people from the volunteers to all the armed forces.
“It will be months before power is restored there, and they are relying on FEMA trucks to charge up cell phones or use their Internet. Five days went by before Walter was able to contact us to let us know he was safe!”
Across the river in Hoboken, the band had been logging studio time to finish their upcoming CD, but Hoboken Recorders was flooded and is still closed.
The band hopes to finish their CD by Christmas.
Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon for this good cause. Tracey says there are restaurants and businesses coming out of the woodwork to donate, which has been humbling.
“There has been so many bands interested in helping that we can’t fit them onto the bill on December 1, so we are doing another one on the 21st,” Tracey says.
“We are hoping to do more shows in places like Breezy Point, the Jersey Shore and Long Beach. Many people don’t care about music, but I’m sure many people could just use a carefree night of good craic.”
Tracey reveals that a Sandy Seisiun charity is being established through the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, which is helping the bands organize these efforts to make sure all of the money raised goes to the right people, and there’s good accountancy on the back end.
“Denny says that we’re out to re-build this city one tune at a time, and that’s really what this feels like,” says Tracey.
Yours truly will be doing a read from This Is Your Brain on Shamrocks, with all profits from the book going to the evening’s efforts. Many of the bands will be selling their CDs that evening as well, so you could get a lot of Christmas shopping complete for those special Irish music and literature fans in your life!
The first Sandy Seisiun benefit concert will take place Saturday, December 1 at 7 p.m. at Connolly’s Klub 45, located in their Times Square location at 121 West 45th Street. If you’re on Facebook, you can “like” the Sandy Seisiun page.
If you want to rock for a good cause sooner than that, join A Band of Rogues when they pull into Karl's Klipper (Bay Street near the Staten Island Ferry) on Sunday, November for a fundraiser in Staten Island.
The event is sponsored by two NYFD charities, the Stephen Siller/Tunnel to Towers and the William Mooney Foundation.
There will be t-shirts, gift baskets and fun music from A Band of Rogues, Tommy O'Callaghan, Richmond Co. Pipes and Drums, the Recruders and Schlitzie and the Pool Boys.
Patrick Clifford will be joining the Narrowbacks and other guests for a benefit at Ulysses Folk House (95 Pearl Street, New York) this Saturday night. These Irish American rock and rollers are working with Viking Love NYC, a local charity, to deliver resources to those most in need.
Whether your tastes lie in tear-jerking pipes and drums or no-nonsense rock and roll, your palette will be quenched by the great music offered at these benefit gigs! Keep your eyes peeled to this space over the coming weeks, as more bands announce charitable events.