The Feedback benefit for Access of West Michigan celebrates its 22nd anniversary at Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids on Sunday afternoon with live music, a raffle, poster sales and more.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The bulk of this column first ran at Local Spins two years ago but the mission and thrust of Feedback remains the same. This year’s event marks the 22nd anniversary of the first Feedback benefit. It takes place at 4 p.m. Sunday at Founders Brewing Co. with The Accidentals, The Soul Syndicate and The Honeytones. And scroll down for a podcast of this week’s Local Spins Live episode featuring interviews with Autumn Hubbard of Access, Charley Honey of the Honeytones, and Jim Czerew and Rob Anthony of radi8er music.
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More than three decades ago, “feed the world” became a record-setting musical mantra – an ubiquitous new holiday standard that spread like wildfire across the globe.
Taken aback by reports on an Ethiopian famine, Irish singer Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats was inspired to co-write the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas” with Midge Ure from Ultravox. They created “Band Aid” with a superstar cast – U2, George Michael, Duran Duran, Phil Collins and many more – to record the tune in a London studio. It was released four days later, on Nov. 28, 1984.
With its catchy refrain, “Feed the world, let them know it’s Christmastime,” it became one of the best-selling singles of all time (selling about 12 million copies in five years), inspiring people from across the globe to donate to the cause, and more than anything, raising awareness – through music – of the plight of millions of starving families. A 30th anniversary version of Band Aid revamped the song two years ago to raise funds to battle the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa.
Twenty-two years ago, in much more humble fashion, Grand Rapids’ first Feedback concert was unleashed in ear-splitting fashion at the old and somewhat crusty Intersection Lounge in Eastown with three little-known-but-enthusiastic West Michigan bands joining forces to raise money for Kent County’s food pantry system for needy families.
Instead of millions of listeners, several dozen rock devotees gathered for sets by Two Headed Sam, Workshop and The Honeytones for what was then dubbed the Basement Bands Benefit before being more appropriately re-named Feedback a year later.
As members of The Honeytones, Charley Honey and I were taken aback by the dire needs of those living well below the poverty line in our very own community – our neighbors , if you will – and looking for ways to spotlight some promotionally under-nourished bands at the same time.
Feedback seemed like one way to draw attention to both, with the non-profit Access of West Michigan serving as the perfect umbrella organization to support, due to its anti-poverty programs and coordination of Kent County’s network of food pantries.
More than two decades later, Feedback endures, or in “The Big Lebowski” parlance, Feedback abides, celebrating its 22nd anniversary at Founders Brewing on Sunday with appearances by The Accidentals, The Soul Syndicate and, of course, The Honeytones. Admission to the event co-hosted by Local Spins is a $5 donation at the door, with a 50-50 raffle, and poster and merchandise sales adding to the proceeds for Access of West Michigan, which is based in Grand Rapids.
As always, Feedback still strives to spotlight some amazing West Michigan bands and still aims to shed light on needs served by Access that are more robust than ever: One in five Kent County children don’t always know where their next meal will come from and nearly 58,000 Kent County residents relied on a food pantry one or more times last year.
RAISING AWARENESS, FUNDS FOR THE HUNGRY AND LESS FORTUNATE RIGHT HERE
These are sobering statistics of which I became ever more painfully aware while serving for three years as a member of the Access board. I’ve also seen firsthand how this organization’s small and dedicated staff has worked tirelessly to assist and coordinate the system of 75 Kent County food pantries, host poverty education programs, work with area congregations to deliver assistance and social services to the needy seeking help, and oversee a countywide food drive, the annual Hunger Walk and so much more. They do so much for so many with so few resources. (Can’t make it to Feedback? Donate to Access online here.)
As daunting as the mission might be, I view these Feedback events as an upbeat celebration of Grand Rapids’ music community coming together joyously to turn up their amps and take a loud, rock ‘n’ roll swipe at hunger and poverty – and hopefully, get a few folks to donate to the cause — which so far they’ve done to the tune of more than $25,000 over the years.
“I love the vibe that is created when musicians and their fans come together to support a cause like this,” Charley says. “It produces a powerful sense of community as people gather to enjoy great music while helping out others going through hard times. I always come away from Feedback with a wonderful feeling of joy, and I expect this year I’ll feel that more than ever.” (Check out video highlights from past Feedbacks below.)
PODCAST: Local Spins Live with Autumn Hubbard, Charley Honey, Rob Anthony and Jim Czerew (April 6, 2016)
That same feeling I’m sure was shared by musicians who gathered in London to record “Do They Know It’s Christmas” 30-plus years ago, although I might argue there’s something more personal and immediate and gratifying about assisting those in your own community, which is why I’m betting hundreds of Feedback-like events are organized by bands not unlike The Honeytones in cities across the country every year.
That’s because the marriage of music and worthy causes really seems to work, not only because it attracts eager audiences but because there’s a sense of selflessness and camaraderie that compels musicians to donate their time to events like this.
In 20-plus years, I’ve never had to twist arms or plead with bands to perform. They do it more than gladly, often ask to play, ask to be part of this communal event. Some of them even gladly participated in a Feedback-inspired song, “Feed Our People,” we recorded two years ago at Mackinaw Harvest Music studios that was later turned into a video. (Check that out, along with videos of some past Feedback performances below.)
So on the 22nd anniversary of Feedback, here’s the Feedback Honor Roll of bands and solo artists who’ve participated and donated their time over the years:
Two Headed Sam, Workshop, Roberta Bradley & Gypsy, Domestic Problems, The Jim Crawford Band, David Mead, The Crane Wives, Flashback, Midlife Crisis, DangerVille, The Willeys, James Murphy & The Accidentals, The Concussions, The FuzzRites, Molly B. and Friends, Hannah Rose Graves & The GravesTones, Jimmie Stagger, Harry Lucas & The Lowdown, Valentiger, Ralston Bowles, Ras Tyger, Knee Deep Shag, The Pirvis Pinx, Nathan Kalish, Wordenhaus, David Winick, Hank Mowery, Jack Leaver and, of course, The Honeytones, members and guests, past and present.
All of them have helped “feed the world” – or at least, our little part of it. Please join us in that quest again on Sunday.
Copyright 2016, Spins on Music LLC