BENEFIT Concert Rocks for Charity: Musicians, Nonprofits Team Up for Sept. 16 Event

What happens when GenX rockers turn into suburban parents and want to do something amazing for their community? They join forces to put together a killer benefit concert, that’s what.

The BENEFIT Loudoun concert hits Village at Leesburg Saturday, Sept. 16. And with DMV indie rockers Drumfish headlining and top area musicians on board, it’s sure to draw crowds of music lovers. And best of all, it’s free.

The concert is the brainchild of Ara Bagdasarian and Amy Bobchek, frequent collaborators and ubiquitous community volunteers who happen to play rock ‘n’ roll in their spare time. The dynamic duo has been leveraging its musical contacts around the region to bring in plenty of star power for the big event. Through some innovative fundraising approaches, the event is designed to raise money for area charities, while also raising awareness about a range of Loudoun nonprofits and getting attendees in the mood to give back.

“Our belief is that the more people who come and participate in this day, the more people we can ignite into this idea of building a culture of giving,” Bobchek said. “We want to create an atmosphere that gets people inspired.”

Bagdasarian’s and Bobchek’s bands, The Frayed Knots and Big Bad Juju, respectively, will be taking the stage, but the organizers are gladly giving top billing to bigger names like Drumfish and Todd Wright. Beloved Loudoun/Key West-based singer/songwriter Juliana MacDowell rounds out the bill with her trademark earthy vocals.

For Drumfish, whose members made it big in the DC indie music scene a decade ago, the show is a chance to do some good, while also drawing attention to the burgeoning music scene in Loudoun.

Aaron Bertoglio, Larry France and Alex Petty launched the band in college in Southern Maryland in the early ’90s, and the band enjoyed a successful run in the DMV’s indie rock scene. Members have since moved on to families and day jobs, but continue to play. Bertoglio, France and violinist Margie Lang-Garnhart live in Loudoun, and Bertoglio got to know Bagdasarian through the local music community. When Bagdasarian mentioned BENEFIT, the band was immediately on board.

“The idea is to really bring people together and let them discover and educate and see what things are out there that Loudoun needs,” Bertoglio said.

For the band, which is ramping back up after a break with a new best-of recording, BENEFIT is a chance to give back and also a chance to share their talent with friends and neighbors who might not be aware of the guys’ past and current lives as rockers.

“We all have day jobs and most of us are corporate so we have a kind of buttoned-down existence during the day. And then we have these kind of alternate identities and are musicians on stage,” France said. “It’s a funny aspect of our lives these days.”

Todd Wright, another mainstay on the Loudoun music scene, plays BENEFIT right on the heels of headlining the Friends of Loudoun Mental Health concert.

“It’s hard for me to say no to charity,” Wright said. “It feels like a really great way to give back. It’s kind of an easy way to give back. … The real people in those organizations are the guys like Ara, the people who are raising the money and setting everything up.”

For Wright, BENEFIT is a chance to shift attention away from himself and shine a spotlight on the cadre of talent he’s been supporting through his Half King production studio.

Wright’s set will highlight his collaborator, the talented up-and-comer Tommy Gann, who just released a new EP produced by Wright. Young musicians from Wright’s Half King emerging artists program will also take the BENEFIT stage, including Wright’s 14-year-old daughter Ryan, who made waves of her own this summer opening for Mary Ann Redmond at Leesburg’s Acoustic on the Green concert series.

BENEIFT follows last year’s Loudoun Live concert (also organized by Bobchek and Bagdasarian) at Leesburg’s Paxton Campus. The idea is the same this year, but organizers have made some changes aimed at attracting a bigger audience. The biggest change was moving the event to Village at Leesburg, whose directors reached out to organizers after last year’s show and offered the space.

“We really grappled with it because we loved the setting at Paxton,” Bobchek said. “But realistically, moving it allowed us to expand it so exponentially we just felt the upside to having a whole lot more participation and making it a free event to the public was something we just couldn’t resist.”

And while free admission is sure to be a big draw, there are still some creative fundraising elements that will bring in donations to the BENEIFT Fund, which will be distributed to area nonprofits later this year. Organizers are working with shops and restaurants at the retail center to create a BENEFIT Bucks program, with proceeds going to the fund. Participants can also buy VIP tickets and T-shirts and make direct online donations.

Visitors can also make direct contributions to a range of nonprofits that will set up booths on site offering information about their organizations. Participating groups include the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, INMED Partnership for Children, Loudoun Cares, Virginia Tech Victims Family Outreach Foundation, O.A.R. Fairfax, Loudoun Hunger Relief, Leesburg Junction and the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter.

Organizers have partnered with the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties, which will provide oversight and transparency to grant distribution process. Local nonprofits can apply for BENEFIT grants through the foundation, with application details available later this fall.

“What hasn’t changed is our central mission and that is to bring our community together around this joyful environment of music, spotlighting our local talent and do so in a way that raises awareness and money for nonprofits that are meeting our neighbors’ needs every single day,” Bobchek said.

BENEFIT Loudoun takes place Saturday, Sept. 16, from 3 to 8 p.m. at Village at Leesburg. Admission is free, and VIP tickets are available for $100. For details, or to order a T-shirt or make a donation, go to benefit.live.

jmercker@loudounnow.com

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