The Weekend: Summit County musicians take stage to help their own
If you go
What: Summit Musicians Relief Fund Benefit
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Goat Tavern, 22954 Colorado 6, Keystone
Info: Local musicians High 5, Old Herman, Leon Joseph Littlebird, Dewey Paul Moffitt, Jess Rose Miodel, Keith Synnestvedt, John Truscelli and more will perform in this inaugural fundraiser. For more information, go to SoupAndWhiskey.com. There is no cover, but organizers will be asking for a donation.
Summit County musicians are taking a proactive approach to helping each other out in times of crisis, and this Sunday everyone has a chance to get in on the ground floor.
With a lineup of at least 10 local acts — single performers, duos and full jam bands — maybe more, the inaugural Summit Musicians Relief Fund benefit concert kicks off at 7 p.m. Sunday at The Goat Soup and Whiskey Tavern in Keystone, and the story behind it might be as heartwarming as the effort itself.
Steve Plummer is a local musician who loves classic rock and goes by the stage name “Old Herman.” He’s been playing everything from Tom Petty covers to Marcy Playground in Summit County for about 10 years now, and explaining how he got the nickname is “a two-beer story.” Still, Plummer remembers being immediately welcomed into the community when he first got here, and he now stands as one of the primary forces behind the new relief fund.
During a Wednesday interview, he said that he hopes that SMRF will someday be an acronym that other locals come to recognize and remember, and I hope he’s right.
That’s because the drive to hold this benefit concert, and many more down the road, stems from two similar concerts over the last few years. Each was planned to raise money for a local musician in need, both of whom coincidentally were diagnosed with the same form of leukemia.
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One of those musicians, Arnie J. Green, was described as one of the most beloved performers to ever grace a Summit County stage. He lost his fight on Jan. 18, 2015.
“As good of a performer as he was, he was an even better human being,” Plummer said. “He treated everybody equally. He was friends with everybody. I don’t know one person who he didn’t like at all.”
The beneficiary from the second concert, held last year, was Leon Joseph Littlebird, a descendant of the Navajo who was born and raised in Summit County and is a staple of local stages.
He also credits last year’s benefit for helping to save his life. And by all accounts, what a fundraiser it was.
The concert was so well attended, in fact, that Plummer said many who tried to get in couldn’t because it was over capacity. Littlebird added that, to his knowledge, it still stands as the largest crowd ever for any single event at the Silverthorne Elks Lodge.
Plummer recalled that, with a line going out the door and around the building, even the fire marshal, who showed up for Littlebird’s benefit, couldn’t get in and had to leave after making a donation at the door.
“I had both pneumonia and leukemia and was in the hospital for 21 days, and this community came together like they always do because we take care of our own in Summit County,” said Littlebird, who has agreed to join SMRF’s board of directors along with Dewey Paul Moffitt, Tom Fricke of Krystal 93, Tammy Burkey and Silverthorne Mayor Bruce Butler. “That night, they made enough money to pay my bills, and helped save my life. I’ve been here all my life, so it was a pretty major event for me.”
Plummer said that after those two benefits, he and a number of other local music-makers started asking the question: Why wait?
“I got with Dewey and Leon, and we started asking, ‘Why aren’t we proactive instead of being reactive? Why don’t we get a fund going? Hopefully nobody will need it for a long time, but when they do, it will be available,” Plummer said.
As a result, he took the reins, set up a board of directors and now has the goal of raising at least $1,000 on Sunday, the amount he said is needed to cover the cost of SMRF filing for nonprofit status.
In a previous weekend column, I talked about the strength of the Summit County music scene and felt justified when I compared our little neck of the woods to Nashville, Tennessee — Music City USA. Speaking over the phone Thursday, Littlebird mentioned how great it is to live somewhere where, on almost any given night, you can catch an amazing performance, big or small, and that led me to mention that column.
“I hope you put that in the story,” Littlebird told me after he described what it was like to be on the receiving end of such a humanistic effort, and how he remembered Arnie struggling financially through his illness.
“Arnie couldn’t even afford to have a decent place to live,” Littlebird said, explaining that many of the musicians here have to work second jobs to chase their dreams. Lucky are the ones who can make a living by solely playing their music, he continued, and for the ones who do, while they may be rich in experience, typically they are not in terms of their bank accounts. Especially stressed are the ones who don’t have insurance and run into a major health crisis.
“We don’t want that to happen again,” Littlebird said. “I am living proof that the spirit of Summit County is healing, and generous and kind, and to reiterate we take care of our own.”
That’s why I’m putting my money on the inaugural Summit Musicians Relief Fund benefit this Sunday. It’s gonna be a great show.
Eli Pace is the arts and entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News, and he writes a regular column focusing on fun weekend happenings in Summit County. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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