Four years ago, feeling helpless after witnessing multiple friends struggle with sick children, Charlotte musician Justin Fedor (Ancient Cities, the New Familiars) wanted to find a way to be supportive.
“I don’t have any kids, but I wanted to get involved. I wanted to feel like I could help in some sort of way. I’m not a doctor or surgeon; I can’t heal these kids. But I can use my talents to rally around the children’s hospital,” says Fedor who decided to organize a benefit concert and donate the proceeds to Levine Children’s Hospital.
Eight concerts and $40,000 later, Fedor and the Charlotte musicians he’s rallied play the ninth tribute benefit concert for LCH on Friday at Neighborhood Theatre. A sell-out show would mean another $10,000 for the hospital.
“We’re fortunate to have (Levine) here,” he says. “People aren’t sitting around the pool talking about it, but the more we’ve done the concerts, the more people come up to me and tell me their stories.”
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Those stories come not only from concertgoers, but musicians themselves.
“Evergone is one of those bands that’s been on the bill every single time,” Fedor says. “Scott Harding will say it from the stage. Levine saved one of his children’s lives. He wants to support them because he knows the care they give there is the difference between life and death.”
The tribute concerts started by honoring the Doors shortly after Ray Manzarek’s death. Fedor and company have since paid tribute to Lou Reed, the Everly Brothers, New York City, and the ’70s and ’80s. This week, bands like the Business People, Jason Scavone, Maya Beth Adkins and others take on the ’90s through the music of Nirvana, Sade, TLC, Radiohead, Weezer, Blur and a slew of others.
Fedor’s band Ancient Cities toyed with the idea of covering Fiona Apple, Dinosaur Jr. or Sonic Youth, but when Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell died in April, the decision was made for them.
“When he passed, we thought it would be ridiculous to do a tribute without Soundgarden,” says Fedor, adding that the band will put its own spin on the material. “Honestly, no one is going to be able to replicate what he could do vocally, so we’re going to have some fun with it.”
His efforts to support Levine have taken Fedor well beyond the stage. He’s worked with DrumStrong’s Scott Swimmer, who began hosting an annual drum-a-thon to beat out cancer after his son Mason was diagnosed with bone cancer at age 15. One of DrumStrong’s programs is taking instruments into children’s wards and letting kids play.
“My first time, I didn’t know how it would go,” Fedor recalls. “We’re talking about sick kids. It was hard for me. It was emotional. Their faces looked tired, and you could tell they weren’t feeling well, but Scott has this amazing charisma where he can get people to start beating on whatever instrument is in front of them.”
Before it was over, even the doctors and nurses were grabbing shakers and slapping djembes.
“After about 15 minutes, you see the light come back into the kids’ faces,” he says. “They start to laugh. It wasn’t just therapy for the kids, but therapy for all of us.”
’90s Tribute to Benefit Levine Children’s Hospital
When: 8 p.m. Friday.
Where: Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St.
Tickets: $10 suggested donation.
Details: 704.942.7997; www.neighborhoodtheatre.com.