Organizers of "Rock for Love 2," the Church Health Center's annual benefit show, are anxious to get under way. Despite only going into its second year, the benefit — held Friday and Saturday, August 22nd and 23rd, at the Hi Tone Café — has the energy and potential to become an annual showcase of local music.
And with good reason. The lineup features a cross-section of some of the city's best hip-hop, garage, and indie-rock acts, including Lord T & Eloise, Al Kapone, and Snowglobe. But the music is only one part of why the benefit's organizers are so excited.
"It's all about community," says J.D. Reager (an occasional Flyer contributor) who, along with Jeff Hulett and Marv Stockwell, founded the benefit and now serve as its coordinators.
All three are local music veterans. Reager plays in Two Way Radio as well as leading his own band, J.D. Reager & the Cold Blooded Three. Hulett is the drummer for Snowglobe as well as the frontman for Jeffrey James & the Haul. Stockwell is a founding member of seminal local hardcore band Pezz.
Sitting down for an interview, the three interrupted each other the way old friends do — laughing and joking and displaying the energy of people who are working hard for something they love.
"I think a lot is coalescing all at once," says Stockwell, who serves as public relations manager for the Church Health Center. "There's some alliances forming that maybe haven't formed until now. I think there's a new atmosphere of cooperation."
Reager and Hulett have worked together with Makeshift Music since its inception in the late 1990s, and their dedication to local music has lasted through years of intense work with little compensation along the way.
"We've never made a dollar on anything we've done, personally or as a company," Reager says. "Our goal, our mission, is to give a voice to artists who wouldn't have one otherwise; whatever role we can play, that's what we try to do."
Hulett says he and Stockwell were both drawn to the health center's mission of responding to the need of working Memphians who don't have health insurance. "I wanted a chance to live out my faith and have a job that inspires me," Stockwell says.
Recent changes in TennCare are increasing the number of patients at the center. And given the slump in the economy, Stockwell says, "more people are in that unfortunate situation where they're having to choose between putting food on the table or paying for their health care."
According to Stockwell, the number of people attending the center's orientation seminars has doubled and tripled in recent months.
"It's as common as anything to be uninsured," Stockwell says.
"The need is great with the Church Health Center," Hulett says. "We've had donors on board since the beginning, but there's also a need for younger donors and reaching out."
"Rock for Love" certainly has made its presence felt within Memphis music circles and the greater community, which Hulett considers one of the benefit's greatest successes.
"We've had several calls from prominent local artists asking, 'How do I get on the bill?' We have to tell them sorry. We booked the bill five months ago."
Sponsorship also is key to this year's benefit, with SunTrust taking the title position and Ardent Studios, the Memphis Music Commission, and a host of other businesses throughout the community giving as well.
"We've raised twice as much money [as last year], and we haven't even sold ticket one," Stockwell says.
But perhaps the most noteworthy sign of support is the outpouring of volunteer energy.
"Al Kapone approached us about playing the show," Reager says. "He heard about the event and called up and said he wanted to play for free."
"Folks who would love to give money are getting involved in other ways," Hulett adds.
Each evening will be emceed by local Fox Sports Radio personality (and local music fan) Chris Vernon and WEVL deejay Janet Wilson. Also of note is the artwork donated by Sasha Barr, a Seattle artist long affiliated with Makeshift Music, and a silent auction hosted by the Memphis Roller Derby.
"Seeing the number two on "Rock for Love 2" is really exciting for me," Hulett says. "This is going to become an annual event. That's what we're planning on."
Friday night's lineup features: Lord T & Eloise, Al Kapone, Two Way Radio, J.D. Reager & the Cold Blooded Three, and Vending Machine. Saturday night's lineup features: Snowglobe, the Coach & Four, Antenna Shoes, Oh No! Oh My!, and Royal Bangs.