Benefit for Dave Lamb of Brown Bird
Featuring Joe Fletcher and the Wrong Reasons, Proud Flesh, Elison Jackson and Amanda Bloom
Aug. 10, 8 p.m. $10 suggested donation. Cafe Nine, 250 State St., New Haven, (203) 789-8281, cafenine.com.
It's always been said that we get by with a little help from our friends. In Dave Lamb's case, "getting by" really means "trying to afford treatment for leukemia." Lamb, one half of Providence, R.I. folk due Brown Bird, was diagnosed with the disease earlier this year while on tour. The band's touring plans and life in general have been essentially derailed in the last few months. Touring makes money, and money helps pay medical bills. And since Lamb is in the same boat as many full-time musicians — without health insurance — those medical bills are piling up.
Benefits and fundraisers to help collect some money for Lamb's bills have been happening here and there, including a collection at this year's Traditions folk music festival in New London, at the end of June. Brown Bird were originally scheduled to play, but had to cancel due to Lamb's illness and treatment, so the crowd pitched in to help him get well.
Now it's New Haven's turn to come together. On Aug. 10, Cafe Nine hosts a benefit that'll see local and regional folk acts take to the stage in the spirit of giving. Fellow Providenizens Joe Fletcher and the Wrong Reasons headline the bill, which also includes New Haven's Proud Flesh and Elison Jackson, and Amanda Bloom from Danbury.
Elison Jackson's Sam Perduta spoke with us about the benefit, and his band's willingness to lend a helping hand when duty calls. Elison Jackson beneficial performances have included a fundraiser for a playground and a cancer benefit, for starters. "We don't turn down shows in general and especially if it's to help make money. We don't make too much money, so when we can help other people out by bringing a crowd in, it's good," he says. "I was living at a house-show space and we did a benefit for some guy's medical bills, who wasn't even a musician. I think he was just a guy. We help out whenever we're asked."
Connecticut's and Rhode Island's music scenes are pretty well connected. The Telegraph Recording Company, which has released records by Elison Jackson, Daphne Lee Martin and Sidewalk Dave, is "really tight knit with the Providence crowd," says Perduta. "It's really just being part of the community of folk acts to help each other out," he says.
But really, the problem here is much bigger than one illness or one sick musician. Making a living as an artist can be risky. Many full-time musicians are unable to afford any kind of health insurance. A 2010 Future of Music Coalition survey polled nearly 1,500 musicians, and 33 percent stated they were without health insurance. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that the national average of uninsured persons in 2010 was 17 percent. "You're kind of your own employer, so the only solution [to affordable health care for musicians] would be some sort of health care system in this country that would have everyone at least insured enough so they can be covered for immediate things," Perduta says.
In America, our health care system is more like sick insurance rather than health insurance. And insurance coverage is never more important than when you fall ill unexpectedly. "It's really tough and it's scary," Perduta says, "because of on top of not having insurance, going on tour is not easy on one's body or mind, so that makes it all the more hard."
For musicians like Dave Lamb, Benjamin Curtis of School of Seven Bells, or the guys of Baroness, health insurance would make a world of difference. Curtis was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma, a rare, aggressive form of cancer. Baroness' tour bus plunged 30 feet off a viaduct in England, seriously injuring three of the band's four members and members of their crew. Whether medical treatment is required to cure a disease, or after an accident, the life and livelihood of the injured or ill hangs in the balance. You wouldn't leave a broken leg untreated, so why should musicians be expected to not treat a serious illness? "Obviously, everyone should have health care, and it sucks that if you want to do what you want, there's a pretty good chance you're not gonna have that to fall back on if you get sick or hurt," Perduta says.
Lamb and others like him have put themselves into their work, and now it's our turn to help put him back together. Saturday's show requests a $10 donation for admission, but feel free to give more if you can.