Since 2004, music blog Herohill has posted hundreds of reviews and news about local indie musicians. Based in Halifax, Bryan Acker and Shane Nadeau, the folk-focused creators of the site, are also jurors for the Polaris Music Prize, SOCAN and the Junos. Not bad for a couple of music bloggers.
But after years of pro bono, netting next to nothing for countless hours of work, Herohill called in some favours for a benefit show fundraiser for cancer research after Acker's father, a Halifax physician, was diagnosed with a brain tumor last summer. Experiences with cancer—the fear, the strength of will, the triumph—are becoming more common every year. And for some people, music is the way to help.
On Sunday at The Carleton, Old Man Luedecke, Rose Cousins, Acres and Acres, Daniel Ledwell and some surprise guests will play to support Acker's fundraising efforts. The Carleton's manager, Mike Campbell, will donate 100 percent of the door sales to Ride to Conquer Cancer. With a team of 15, Acker plans to cycle 200 kilometres in June. The benefit is as heart-warming as it is heart-heavy.
"The support has been unreal. It's times like these that you remember people are good and want to help," Acker says. "We've long supported the Halifax scene on Herohill and we are incredibly proud of the talent our city pumps out, but I've never been prouder when I realized these fantastic musicians, promoters and PR staff are even better human beings." Industry folks like Joel Plaskett, Matt Charlton and Jenn Grant, along with the lineup (Herohill's personal faves), have all contributed in some way to the benefit, donating vinyl records for auction, graphic design services or help to get the word out.
"It really shows you how many people have been impacted by cancer and helps you feel a little less alone in the battle," Acker says. Sometimes tremendous pain can bring out the best in people.
"Songwriting for me is definitely cathartic," says producer and singer-songwriter Daniel Ledwell, who will perform solo at the benefit. "I lost my father to cancer four years ago," he says, adding that his wife Jenn Grant lost her mother to cancer in 2012. "I definitely used music to help me get through those first few months. I think most people have used music and art to cope at some point in their lives."
Now working on a follow-up to his collection of soft folk ballads, Two Over Seven, Ledwell says, "I think just being kind and loving one another while we are here is the most important support of all."
It's reassuring to see Halifax's indie rock and folk music communities come together to recognize an illness to which we are all vulnerable. Acker says his father is undergoing chemo but doing well—his family has been given time, something not everyone gets and it's all that they can ask for. With some of Halifax's most established songwriters, "the goal of the night is to create a celebration of life, of song, and of community," Acker says, while also fundraising. "Honestly, and I know this sounds cliche, but just enjoy the time you get. Tell people in your life how much they mean to you as often as you can. Eat better. Exercise. Smile. Laugh."
Old Man Luedecke, Rose Cousins, Acres & Acres and special guests
The Carleton Bar & Grill, 1685 Argyle
Sunday, January 13, 8pm, $27.50