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Upstate Musicians plan benefit for Newtown Memorial Fund

Times Staff Writer

If the interest shown by north country musicians is any indication, an upcoming benefit for the Newtown Memorial Fund will be a huge success.
“When word got out, within a matter of hours, we had far too many bands to make this thing work,” said Michel D. Rainville, a spokesman for Upstate Musicians.
The Upstate Musicians concert to benefit the Newtown Memorial Fund is noon to 10 p.m. Jan. 20 at North Side Improvement League, 633 Mill St.
Twenty bands are scheduled to perform on two stages.
Mr. Rainville, the bass player for the band Fred & the Eds, said the benefit is spearheaded by veteran north country musicians Marcus Edward Chauvette Sr. and Robin Davis on behalf of Upstate Musicians. The pair, who are half-brothers, are members of the band Wirlwind, the 11th act scheduled to perform at the benefit.
“They had the idea of putting this thing together and got ahold of myself and a few others,” said Mr. Rainville, who added that the idea really took off when it was shared on Upstate Musicians' Facebook page.
Mr. Rainville described Upstate Musicians as “a group originating from the camaraderie that has developed over the past couple of years between players from Watertown to Plattsburgh to surrounding areas.”
“It didn't take long to assemble an extremely talented list of acts eager to participate,” Mr. Rainville said.
Besides musicians, Upstate Musicians also consists of promoters and club owners.
“It's a method of us communicating with each other, sharing gigs, information buying and selling equipment, discussing various club owners' problems and the good things that come about as players in the north country,” Mr. Rainville said. “It's a very close-knit group.”
More than 50 bands sought to take part in the benefit, Mr. Rainville said. He hopes to raise at least $20,000 for the Newtown fund. The requested minimum donation to attend is $5.
The Newtown Memorial Fund was created in the wake of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown, Conn., in which a gunman massacred 27 people, 20 of them students. The fund is designed to create a lasting memorial location for Newtown, academic scholarships in the names of the victims for generations to come, and long-term support for the affected families.
Mr. Rainville said the north country has a fantastic track record with musical benefits.
“Every little benefit that has gone on around here, whether it be for a young child with cancer or for somebody who departed early and left the family in financial straits, they've all been so successful with five, six, seven or eight bands,” he said.
The band lineup at the benefit ranges from veterans such as Potsdam-based Double Axel, which formed in 1971, to up-and-coming north country bands like E-Rosenbridge and Paparazzi Scandal. The “classic rock dance band” the John Michael Band opens the benefit.
Besides music, the benefit will include food, raffles and silent auctions.
“People are donating things left and right,” Mr. Rainville said.
He added that stage management services have been donated by J.P. Voytko, owner of Black Shoe Productions, Henderson.
Mr. Rainville said that the nature of the Newtown tragedy spurred musicians to get involved in the benefit. For example, he said, members of Fred & the Eds, a seven-piece horn band, have “very divergent” lives, making it difficult to play at such events.
“But because of the nature of this tragedy, the guys got ahold of me and said, 'We're doing this no matter what we gotta do.' Everybody made exceptions.”

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