By NICK CAITO
Special to the Courant
10:33 PM EST, January 27, 2013
It was two weeks after the Sandy Hook school shooting when the band Caravan of Thieves performed in Newtown. It was so close to tragedy, but Fuzz Sangiovanni remembers the smiles that performance brought.
"We were a little nervous that people wouldn't be up for a show," Sangiovanni said, "but we realized that our purpose there was to lift some spirits."
The self-described "gypsy-swing" band from Bridgeport was performing again with the hope of lifting spirits, this time joining dozens of other groups for "Downtown Rocks For Newtown."
The all day music event was a veritable who's who in Connecticut music, with more than 40 bands from around the state and region performing across nine different venues in downtown Hartford. Every group on the bill performed for free Sunday night, with money from the event going toward the Sandy Hook School Support fund.
Many attendees heard about the event through social media and word of mouth. Lisete Simoes of Hartford, who came with her friend Anna Capobianco, a high school teacher, said it was great to see such an outpouring of support.
"I do think that sometimes it's kind of sad that it takes a big tragedy in order for this type of thing to happen, in order to bring people together," said Simoes. "But I guess if you put your mind to something, if you organize things, then people will come together as a community to do something really nice."
For an event of this magnitude, the festival went off with relatively few problems. Several groups needed to cancel at the last minute because of illness, including one of the event's major organizers, Kenny Mehler, who was slated to perform at The Great Hall at Union Station.
With attendance split between so many venues, some rooms felt too spacious. But having hundreds of tickets sold and the proceeds from alcohol sales and door collections being tallied, event organizers were hoping to make a sizable donation.
Minutes before Caravan of Thieves launched into an energetic set at Black Eyed Sally's, Sangiovanni was reminded that while fundraising was a drive of the night, there was more that came with so many performers coming together.
"Always look on the positive side," Sangiovanni said. "It's not a perfect world, and the best thing to do is look toward the positive side and realize that there is still good out there in the world."
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