In fire’s wake, musicians gather for a cause

Posted June 19, 2009, at 12 a.m.

As awful as it is when tragedy strikes a community, it’s still uplifting to see people band together to help each other out.

You can see such a thing in action next Wednesday, when Orono musicians come together for an evening of songs to benefit the victims of the fire that ripped through the historic structure at 6 Bennoch Road on June 9.

Take Luck, Broken 45 and Legend Had It will play an outdoor concert starting at 5 p.m. at Webster Park in downtown Orono. Starting around 9 p.m., the music will continue at Woodman’s Bar & Grill, also in downtown Orono. All night long, donations will be accepted to benefit the Pine Tree Chapter of the American Red Cross, which has been assisting people displaced by the fire over the past two weeks.

“You know, anyone who lives in or hangs out in Orono knows someone in that building, or someone who used to live there, if they didn’t live there themselves,” said Myke Billings, who organized the concert with fellow musician Aaron Denoi. “It really hits home.”

Also known as the Katahdin Building, the structure at 6 Bennoch Road was an instantly recognizable downtown Orono landmark. It was also home to 23 tenants at the time of the fire, all of whom lost almost everything in the fire — though fortunately no one, including non-humans, was injured.

“The Red Cross has been amazing throughout the whole thing,” said Billings. “They put clothes on their backs, gave them debit cards for food. They were there for them almost immediately. So we had to do something to help them out.”

The three bands playing the Webster Park concert signed on almost immediately — including Erik Schwab, frontman for Take Luck, an acoustic indie pop band.

“I feel like everyone who went to UMaine has memories of that building,” said Schwab. “People sitting on the balcony and the steps, talking to passers-by. I was really shocked when it burned. I knew I wanted to have something to do with the show, and help out in any way I could.”

Schwab, himself a UMaine alum, was previously in the bands the Green Bikes and the Retirement Check, all of which were based in Orono. Like Billings, for the better part of a decade he has been involved in the Orono scene — but instead of playing pop punk as he did in his two earlier bands, he now plays fun, summery indie pop.

“We do a real wide variety of songs. It’s just a lot of fun,” said Schwab. “That’s the fun part, just playing with your friends. And if we can play music to help out, even better.”

Orono is both a college town and a regular old Maine small town — and the community of musicians there looks out for its own.

“We’ve got to do whatever we can to show support for everyone,” said Billings. “I mean, some of the folks who lost their homes are people that play my open mike night at Woodman’s. It doesn’t hit any closer to home than that.”

Take Luck, Broken 45 and Legend Had It will play from 5 until 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 24, in Webster Park in Orono. Music will continue for the rest of the night at Woodman’s Bar & Grill. If you’re unable to make it, you can still donate by visiting www.pinetree.redcross.org.

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