AUBURN, Maine — The annual Tom Rowe memorial concert in Auburn has always been held as a fundraiser for people in need, his son Dave Rowe said Monday. This year, that need is amplified in neighboring Lewiston, which has seen a series of fires destroy old housing stock and leave hundreds homeless.
“With the Jack McPhillips Memorial Fund, their mission is to help people who are in crisis — people like fire victims,” said Dave Rowe, an Lewiston-Auburn native folk musician like his father and an organizer of the annual concert. “So I went to the board of the Jack McPhillips Memorial Fund and said, ‘What do you think about giving the money directly to the fire victims?’”
Tom Rowe, a founding member of the nationally acclaimed folk trio Schooner Fare, died of cancer in 2004. Starting in 2005, many of the state’s top folk musicians have gathered annually for a concert in tribute to the singer and bassist and to raise money for the fund, named in honor of one of Schooner Fare’s earliest fans.
“My dad lived in Auburn all of his life, and I grew up here,” Dave Rowe said. “The area being hit by the fires now are places that my family — on my mother’s side — would have lived in when they came here 100 years ago to work in the mills. It’s very close to home.”
Lewiston has been beset by devastating fires over the past nine days. First, on April 29, three multi-story apartment buildings were destroyed, leaving 75 people homeless, by a blaze allegedly set by a 12-year-old boy. Four days later, a second fire struck four more apartment buildings in a conflagration allegedly set by a different 12-year-old.
The second fire reportedly displaced more than 100 residents.
On Monday, a third blaze tore through two vacant buildings under renovation and a third apartment building.
“It’s the talk of the town,” Dave Rowe said. “You can’t go to the bank or to the post office without somebody talking about the fires.”
Gov. Paul LePage toured the fire ravaged city on Tuesday.
Saturday night’s concert, held at the First Universalist Church on Pleasant Street in Auburn, is the latest opportunity for people hoping to help victims of the fires. The United Valley Branch of the Red Cross and Lewiston YWCA are helping victims with short-term and long-term needs, respectively, and many Lewiston schools have gathered food and other items for firefighters working long hours during the fire spree.
Among those joining the Dave Rowe Trio at the memorial concert Saturday will be Denny Breau, Danny Quinn, duo Side by Side and the surviving members of Schooner Fare, brothers Chuck and Steve Romanoff.
Tickets to the event are $28 each and can be purchased by calling 800-838-3306 or by visiting brownpapertickets.com/event/348155. The concert is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.