But in looking to live somewhere a bit more in line with my concept of home than the incessant hustle of New York City, I chose Tucson. It was an easy decision. This town hits on all levels. The quality of art and music is astounding. The natural beauty that surrounds us is both stunning and humbling. The culture is rich. And, more than anything, Tucson is home to the most compassionate and supportive musicians I've ever experienced.
But this story is not about my love for Tucson. It's about a wonderful man, musician, and member of our community named Travis Ray Dent, Travi Ray to us. And, right now, he needs all the support and compassion we can muster.
I met Travis a year ago when Rey Murphy invited us to join a new band he was putting together called Street Blues Family. In the short time I have known Travis, he has become a dear friend, the sort you would do anything for. Travis is a radiant person. He has worked through and risen above some of the most difficult challenges anyone could imagine facing. He overflows with kindness, energy, love, and an excitement to create art and add a depth of richness to our musical community. He plays piano like none other, cascades of effortless melody flow through his hands. The calm, peace, and joy he exudes behind the keys is undeniable to anyone lucky enough to see him play.
Given the compassion of our community, it comes as no surprise that when hard times fall upon a local musician, Tucson represents. Travis has recently been faced with such times. As a result of a head injury and the concussion it caused, he spent a night in the ER at UMC last week. Rey Murphy and the entirety of the Street Blues Family came together to be Travis' advocates, staying at his side 24/7 and making sure the hospital conducted all scans and tests necessary. In a country with a healthcare system as difficult to navigate (and afford) as ours, many without such advocacy and support can fall through the cracks, causing the spiral of debt and hardship we all know too well.
Thankfully, the tests and scans showed that no permanent physical brain damage was caused by the head injury. But Travis' mental and emotional state has been compromised to the point that further medical and psychiatric care is necessary, in-patient treatment in the hope of ensuring his full recovery. Unfortunately, Travis does not currently have medical insurance. We have enrolled him in Obamacare, but the insurance plan will not become effective until Feb. 1. This means that none of the exorbitant medical costs incurred before that date will be covered.
So as his friends and family we took action, and Tucson followed. Within a day of Travis' hospital visit, Tucson musicians, artists, and community members started organizing a benefit and funding campaign to help cover Travis' immediate and eventual medical expenses. The Rialto Theatre Foundation offered their venue 191 Toole to host a benefit show on Saturday, Jan. 21 at 8 p.m. Howe Gelb, Joey Burns and Calexico (via video from overseas), Steff Koeppen, Louise Le Hir and Annie Dolan, myself, and of course the Street Blues Family instantly jumped on board as performers for the event. And, with his trademark blend of wit, lyricism, and empathy, Howe proposed we end the benefit evening with a one-off collaborative performance of everyone involved, aptly named the "Affordable Care Act" ("act" as in a band and everything else the word's otherly meaning and political statement connotes).
Beyond those who can attend, many other artists from the community have donated autographed, collectible vinyl, CDs, tapes, art and anything else they could come up with to sell at the benefit and add their support to the cause. Here are just a few of those who have already donated their work: Sergio Mendoza of Calexico and Orkesta Mendoza, Dimitri Manos of Goldenboots, Carlos Arzate, and Brian Lopez and Gabriel Sullivan of XIXA. I have thrown in a beautiful old Spanish guitar that everyone involved will autograph. We will have this guitar at the benefit, though will probably auction it off internationally for the widest reach possible. And if anyone would like to donate anything else to lend support, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is also a GoFundMe campaign for Travis' medical expenses here. We'll also be pursuing grants and funds from musicians' health alliances and foundations such as Sweet Relief and Tucson Artist's and Musician's Healthcare Alliance (TAMHA).
Lastly, thanks to the many other community members who have graciously lent their services and talents to this cause: Craig Schumacher of Wavelab Studios, Matt Milner and Duncan Hudson at KXCI, David Slutes of Hotel Congress and TAMHA, Rodger Cloud of Cloud Microphones, Brian
Smith of the Tucson Weekly, Dan Hernandez of 191 Toole, The Folk Shop ... there are too many to list.
Seeing this outpouring of support from our community warms my heart. Tucson truly does care for its artists, and that's why we're all here.
At 191 Toole, 191 Toole Ave., this Saturday, Jan. 21. 8 p.m.. $15-$20. All ages.
• Howe Gelb solo acoustic
• A solo acoustic video performance by Joey Burns of Calexico, as well as a message of support from the band via video overseas.
• Street Blues Family
• Steff Koeppen (of Steff and The Articles)
• Joe Novelli (of Orkesta Mendoza, Street Blues Family, The Cloud Walls, Marvin and the Cloud Wall, Nive and the Deer Children, Etc.)
• Louise Le Hir and Annie Dolan
• More to be announced.
• PLUS a one-time collaborative performance to end the evening including all musicians on the bill, aptly entitled "The Affordable Care Act"
In addition, collectible, autographed items donated by other local artists like Orkesta Mendoza, Goldenboots, Carlos Arzate, Brian Lopez and Gabriel Sullivan of XIXA, and others will be available for purchase at the benefit through donation.