Local musicians are providing a special mix of music and community to raise money for a great cause. This Friday, the annual music extravaganza with a block-party atmosphere, Tonic Ball, will deliver once again. Tonic Ball is a night full of some of Indy’s favorite local bands covering songs by classic bands and musicians, with all of the proceeds going toward Second Helpings, an organization that prevents food waste by donating to people in need. According to the their website, the rescued food is used to create 4,000 hot meals each day, which are distributed to more than 90 social services agencies.
Each honored musician gets their own designated venue, one of five in Fountain Square. This year, the chosen artists and respective venues are: Beyonce at Pioneer, ABBA at The HiFi, Elton John at White Rabbit Cabaret, Pearl Jam at Radio Radio and Johnny Cash at Fountain Square Theatre.
According to their website, Tonic Ball began as a grassroots fundraising event in 2002. The show they initially planned was to assemble a group of local musicians and bands to cover songs by a single artist. The artist chosen for the first year was Gram Parsons. The organizers wanted to donate the proceeds to a charity, and decided on Second Helpings. Since the first Tonic Ball, the festivities have spread to four more venues in the Fountain Square area.
Singer-songwriter Jeff Kelly of The Graveyard Shift will be playing on the stage at Radio Radio, covering Pearl Jam. Kelly’s band includes local musicians Scott McDonald, Kevin Hood, Jeremy Holden and Charlie Ballantine. This will be Kelly’s first year playing at the Tonic Ball. He had heard from many of his musician friends that the event was a “blast”, and he “wanted to have a blast, too!”
“[I’m excited] to hear each band’s interpretations of the tunes,” he said. “And to see and perform for an audience that may not typically make it out to our shows.”
To local musician and producer/director of Indy In-Tune Darrin Snider, Tonic Ball is about celebrating the local music community.
“It’s one of the few nights when you can see almost everyone in the music scene out together in the same place,” he said. “Plus, the added enjoyment of seeing most of them out in their element.”
Snider will be performing with Jeff Byrd and the Words, which includes Jeff Byrd, Johnny Ping, Ben Cannon and Jamie Jackson. Snider says he originally didn’t want to “face the monumental task” of performing Elton John covers, but that he changed his views once Byrd asked him to play the show.
For musician and founder Magnetic Music Management, Brent Schlemmer, this will be the fourth Tonic Ball he has played. He played on the Neil Young stage at Radio Radio his first year, and then the Grateful Dead the following two years.
Schlemmer will be playing on two stages this year: the Elton John stage with Meghan Martin, Joe Martin, Jem holden and Cody Haddix, and the Johnny Cash stage with Cole Woodruff and Russel Wareham. Like Snider, Schlemmer also appreciates the sense of community that the Tonic Ball offers.
“It’s just a really fun collective experience for the Indy scene. Lots of collaboration to make it happen,” he said. “I just dig the ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspect of hundreds of musicians hanging out in Fountain Square for a great cause.”
Local guitarist and songwriter Rafael Perez will be performing on the Beyonce stage at Pioneer with his band Zene. He will be playing with lead singer Claudia Gabriella and cajon player Curtis Gahimer. This will be Zene’s first Tonic Ball ever, and Perez couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity.
“I’m involved with the Ash Rock program at Sam Ash, which is kind of like a School of Rock program for adult,” he said. “They got two slots available for Tonic Ball, and they chose my band to fill one of the slots.”
Perez had always heard of Tonic Ball, but didn’t really know much about it until he got the opportunity to play at the event. He said that he’s glad to be a part of something so important and charitable in the music community.
As a guitarist with a background in playing metal music, Perez did note the difficulty of rearranging Beyonce songs for Zene.
“These songs have like no guitar parts, so writing guitar parts for Beyonce songs which are almost all percussion was a little bit of a challenge.”
Perez said that he hopes to help raise money for the cause, and also to maybe gain some more attention to his band, Zene, that is set to release their album very soon.
For the full list of bands and the schedule of the night, check out the website.