There are many ways to organize a fundraiser for a good cause, but the best events are those that draw the public in from the first beat. Columbia Rocks for Puerto Rico at Music Farm on Nov. 12 fit the bill in a big way.
Columbia native Jeremy Polley, with the help of colleague Lucas Johnson, coordinated a live music event to raise money for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico. Throwback pop and rock tribute bands performed throughout the late afternoon and into the evening, with songs by legends Pearl Jam, Prince and Pink Floyd included in the lineup.
Polley and Johnson started by contacting bands dedicated to '80s era rock covers then reached out to local groups from other genres until they had nearly 30 musicians. All of the groups featured were volunteers. Where they would usually be paid for both warm-up and performance hours, every band member played this event for free.
"It all really comes down to that special atmosphere where everyone is here for the same cause," Johnson said. "This is a really awesome thing we're doing."
In truth, the bands were more than willing to donate their time.
"Any time that I can help anybody out in any situation is always good for me," Deron Hunter, the lead vocalist for band Jeremy's Ten, said. "I was passionate about doing this gig."
For Columbia-based band Stardog, performing at Columbia Rocks for Puerto Rico was a no-brainer.
"This is our hometown," lead singer Artie Joyner said.
Along with the rock performances, there was a silent auction, which included a basketball signed by National Champion coach Dawn Staley. There was also a Firefly-sponsored pinball machine and “water-pong” game, and the venue sold $5 beer. All of the proceeds from these attractions will be sent to One America Appeal, which is a group the five living, former presidents founded to help disaster relief.
Johnson and Polley were amazed by how much the community supported the event and are excited to help recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.
“We’ve got innumerable local businesses donating time, donating merchandise for the silent auction that we’re doing,” Johnson said. “All types of people having a great time ... it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the community.”