Belly Up’s ‘Banding Together’ Benefit Begins Monday

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The benevolent folks at the Belly Up are no Scrooges when it comes to charity. They’ve done blood and pet food drives (not together) in the past, and Toys for Tots during the holidays, but on Monday, the Solana Beach venue will embark on one of its most ambitious benefits yet.

The Belly Up’s latest effort — an instrument collection for special needs kids — is something altogether unique and perfect for the venue. Dubbed “Banding Together” after the San Diego nonprofit of the same name, the charity drive aims to provide music therapy to children who have disabilities such as autism and Down Syndrome.

Initially envisioned as a one-day concert and collection drive, the venue instead decided to open its doors for an entire week, accepting donations from 12pm to 5pm beginning this Monday, October 24 and ending Friday, October 28. The actual benefit concert will take place at the Belly Up on Tuesday, October 25. Matt Curreri, Michael Tiernan, and Megan Combs will play, and DJ Woods from 94/9 will the emcee the soiree.

In addition to the instruments that they’ll collect throughout the week, the Belly Up will also donate a portion of the October 25 concert’s proceeds to the Banding Together organization. We recently sat down with the event’s organizer, Meryl Klemow, to discuss the details.

Owl and Bear: How did you get involved with Banding Together?

Meryl Klemow: I met Andrea Moriarty, one of the board members of Banding Together, to talk about doing something at the Belly Up. We didn’t quite know what we were going to do at the time, and I threw in the idea of doing an instrument collection. We would take instruments, open it up to the community, all of our social media, and really invite people to drop off instruments for them. I thought it would be right up our alley, something that the Belly Up’s fans would support.

Owl and Bear: It seems like you’ve had success with these types of things before.

Meryl Klemow: Any charity events that we’ve done in the past, our people have just been amazing. We did a blood drive and we got over the amount of people — our blood drive was sold out! We’ve done our Toys for Tots thing that we do in December, and that’s been a total success. We’ve also had the Rancho Coastal Humane Society at a few shows, with bins to collect dog and cat food, and once again, we’ve been overwhelmed at how well it went. Our people are just really responsive when it’s the right organization or the right fit, so I have a feeling obviously with music, that it will be good.

Owl and Bear: How has the music community responded to the idea?

Meryl Klemow: A lot of the singers and artists who play at the Belly Up are involved with Banding Together. Matt Curreri is a music therapy teacher, and Jon Foreman from Switchfoot is really supportive of Banding Together; Tristan Prettyman has definitely shown her support for this organization, so it’s something that our target audience is already involved with and feels passionately about.

Owl and Bear: Do you expect to make this a regular thing?

Meryl Klemow: This is the first year, which is why we’ve really been trying to push the word so much. If it shows that it has a little bit of life in it, our staff and everyone is set to do once a year. I’d love to make this a yearly event where people say, “I have this extra tambourine, but let me just hold on to it for the next Banding Together night at the Belly Up.”

I also have so many bands who want to be a part of the next show. This is kind of the pilot episode, so if it even goes relatively well, we’ll be able to get different artists for the next one, kind of switch it up, make it a yearly event.

Owl and Bear: How did you pick the bands for Tuesday night’s concert?

Meryl Klemow: Every single band is local. I picked them based on two different things: one, Matt Curreri and Michael Tiernan are just favorites of the Belly Up. The staff loves them, they’re fun to have, and they volunteered. And then Megan Combs has played the Belly Up before, and this is the first time with a band backing her, so I’m really excited about that.

And then the other guy on it, Ryan Honeycutt — I’m really excited to showcase him. He’s a new guy from Austin who just moved here, and he hasn’t played at the Belly Up before. He’s amazing, and I think he’s going to be huge, so I kinda want to grab him before anyone else does.

And Woods from 94/9 volunteered his time. He came to me saying, “Hey, if you need help with this, I’d really love to lend my time.” So he’s going to emcee, and his support blasting it out over the 94/9 airwaves has really helped it too.

Owl and Bear: Sounds great. Anything else we should know about it?

Meryl Klemow: The only other thing is, if people have a doubt about whether they should donate something, please donate it. The organization will take microphones, amps, music stands, anything that’s related to music. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a Taylor or something.

Editor’s note: after this interview, Taylor Guitars donated one of their solid body electric guitars to the cause.

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