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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Local band gives back with benefit concert

RA’SBRY hosted the event, featuring other artists and vendors at Swamp City Lounge June 4

Local band the 90's Wannabe's performs at Swamp City Lounge's Helping Hands Benefit Concert on Friday, June 4, 2021.
Local band the 90's Wannabe's performs at Swamp City Lounge's Helping Hands Benefit Concert on Friday, June 4, 2021.

A local band decided to give back the best way they know how — throwing a concert.

The first “Helping Hands” benefit concert took place at Swamp City Gallery Lounge, located at 716 N Main Street June 4. Organized by local alternative band RA’SBRY, the concert featured a number of musicians and vendors from the Gainesville area. 

The event went from 7 p.m. to midnight, with a steady attendance of around 40 people. The lineup included progressive rock band Red Letter Day, punk group 90s Wannabes and EDM artist dj smushyslugs. Vendors such as Turbulent Cascade Crafts, Alobebi Clothing and Whole Heart Goods were stationed at booths with their products on display.

Attendance proceeds were donated to the Repurpose Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to diverting resources away from the landfill and turning them into art projects, household items and more.

Helping Hands was conceptualized by the members of RA’SBRY as an event where local vendors and musicians could sell their products, perform and gain exposure. Adam Leme, the bassist for RA’SBRY, said intended for the event to represent the diverse array of people that make up the Gainesville community.

“The idea was to bring in as many different people as possible,” he said.

RA’BRY decided to host the event after winning a recording grant from MusicGNV, a local nonprofit supporting up-and-coming artists. Recording their first EP with the grant’s funding and hitting a new stride, Leme said the group organized Helping Hands with their rising presence in mind.

Leme said the grant has placed RA’SBRY in the position to make an impact — a foreign concept until two months ago.

“Up until April, we were nobodies,” he said.

Armed with this new capacity to create positive change, RA’SBRY set its sights on curating a lineup featuring a variety of genres for Helping Hands. Building off RA’SBRY’s motto of “solidarity and community,” Leme said the band aimed to foster a network of support and erase the competitiveness sometimes seen between artists.

As a nonprofit organization, The Repurpose Project relies on community donations to stay open, and they’ve held a number of fundraisers to both maintain and expand their shop.

Sarah Goff, founder and executive director of The Repurpose Project, said events like Helping Hands were beneficial not only for the upkeep of local businesses like hers but the community as a whole.

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“Celebrating music and art and togetherness is a better use of our time and energy than just buying things,” she said.

Leme said RA’SBRY chose to feature The Repurpose Project — a Gainesville institution for over 10 years — because of its preceding community reputation. Leme said he wanted to draw attendees into some of the smaller businesses and artists with an established name on the bill. 

The opportunities found at events like Helping Hands are vital to the development of up-and-coming businesses. A springboard for an in-person presence, the chance to have a table can provide startups with a regular consumer base. 

Camila Merchan, a 20-year-old education major at Broward College, opened her business Erratic Beadz in February. She sells beaded accessories online and vends at similar events.

Merchan said the opportunity to be featured at such events is instrumental in growing her small business, both through selling her products and connecting with the community. 

“You meet new people and get to support local things like this, and it’s for a good cause,” she said. 

Leme said he hopes Helping Hands produces long-lasting impacts. Though the benefit to small businesses and local artists was the immediate purpose of the benefit concert, Leme said the broader goal was to inspire the community.

The best way to do this, he said, is to lead by example. 

“When people see you putting in the work, hopefully, they’ll think, ‘I want to do the work as well.’”

Contact Heather at Follow her on Twitter @hgrizzl.

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