12/20/2012 - Here’s an unlikely scenario: a liberal congressman, deposed in the Tea Party uprising of 2010, and a Ron Paul conservative who might have run against him if asked, joining together with other local musicians to support a local food bank.
That’s the community spirit behind the upcoming benefit concert for The Friendly Kitchen on Dec. 21 at Concord’s IBEW Hall. The show features Northern Light, a band led by former Second District Rep. Paul Hodes, and Ron Noyes, a blues rocker who ran for state rep in November, along with several other local acts.
“Hunger knows no party,” said benefit creator and organizer Jon Bresler. “How about if we unite on the things we do agree on and we don’t fight or talk about the things we don’t agree on? We leave it at the door.”
Bresler is also a member of Northern Light, which includes former Lebanon Mayor (and current city councilor) Karen Liot Hill, Jon Gabay and John Redfield.
It’s the fundraiser’s second year, and it’s more ambitious this time around, with a large hall and expanded musical lineup that’s grown from last year’s informal jam session. Singer-songwriter Mary Fagan opens the show; Matt Ghelli of Concord band Boogie on Alice, Steve Grill and Chaz Proul will also perform.
The event began as a way to recover from a difficult loss as Bresler’s 60th birthday approached. In December 2011, he and his family still mourned the death of his 21-year-old son Nat the previous March. While attending George Mason University, Nat had organized a local Habitat For Humanity chapter; Bresler decided on a similarly positive initiative in his own community.
“I wanted to do something for others, so as not to be all down and sad on my big day,” said Bresler. “We wanted to … express how you go on even after you have a terrible loss. You may not be able to help yourself, but there are things you can do to help others.”
The Friendly Kitchen has seen many challenges, but none as great as the fire that destroyed it in April 2011. In addition to taking care of the hungry, the charity suddenly had to fight for its own existence. In the ensuing months, it never missed a meal, serving the needy from temporary locations around Concord. Bresler and his wife were frequent volunteers.
On Dec. 13, The Friendly Kitchen opened in a new home. But the journey was anything but easy.
Last year’s benefit concert netted $4,000: $2,200 in door receipts and $1,800 from an anonymous donor. Bresler hopes to eclipse that amount this year. “We’re all supposed to take care of the less fortunate around us. We’re not talking about the government or anything,” he said. “That’s what’s really nice about musicians and people in the community. Left, right or center, they get it — it’s a simple thing. We’re just getting together and we’re gonna have a party to help people.”
Bresler deflects praise for choosing to confront his personal loss with civic activism. “That’s really the subtext of the story, but I think the next one is the musical community. … We may have differences but we can all play in the same band when it comes to helping our community. That is what is going on; there are no egos because people just get it.”
The effort has moved beyond Bresler’s initial motivation for organizing it. “I don’t really think of it as my birthday party anymore or something that I’m doing for my son,” he said. “It’s just something that I do for my community - and it’s a cool dance party. How much better can it be? An all ages events with music and dancing and food, and it’s a benefit. That’s win-win-win.”