Ah, Thanksgiving weekend, when thoughts turn to turkey, shopping, cold weather and ... benefit shows? That's right: Hot on the heels of Anti-Flag's Food Bank fund-raiser come two more music-driven events, each with its own story.
The first is the story of Eric Mikula, 26, a graduate of Belle Vernon High School who endured a horrific car accident in August. Although the uninsured Mikula miraculously walked out of the hospital after eight weeks, he also owed more than $50,000 in medical bills.
"He's my childhood best friend," says Steve Soboslai, singer and guitarist for famed pop-punkers Punchline. "He always came to our shows and was one of our biggest fans in the area. At one point, they weren't sure if he was going to have severe brain damage or even make it."
Soboslai got together with Eric Pulgino of indie band Elephant (ex-members of Wings of Azrael) and promoter Josh Bakaitus to organize an all-ages benefit concert in the auditorium of their alma mater at 6:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 29. According to Bakaitus, the remainder of the bill features other Belle Vernon alums: The Victory Year, The Catastrophe and a rare reunion of rap-core heroes Logic. "I'm hoping not only Eric's friends, but also the high school kids will come out," Bakaitus says. "This is a chance for them to recognize what Belle Vernon has produced."
Meanwhile, that same night at Excuses on the South Side, a slightly older scene holds its fourth annual benefit show in memory of George Evans, a recording engineer and member of longtime local punkers Ragweed, who died in a car crash back in 2004. "He finished his sound-engineering program, and had great jobs working on The Simpsons and for Carrot Top," recalls Ragweed frontman Jim Smerecky. "He was going to a party one night in Vegas, and ended up dying instantaneously in a rollover."
Evans' dedication in recording area bands inspired his friends to donate money to the Recording Workshop, a sound-engineering program that gives scholarships to underprivileged kids. "So far, we've put 14 kids through the school," says Smerecky.
Saturday's lineup features Ragweed, On Vinyl, Jason Karner & The Peterson Brothers, and two pickup bands called The Back Stabbing Good People and The Bastard Bearded Irishmen (which includes many of Evans' closest friends). There's also a solo bagpipe performance by Doug Greer, since Evans' family is steeped in Irish traditions.
"We want to attract more attention to this event," explains Smerecky, "so that hopefully next year we can get a national act such as the Dropkick Murphys or Flatfoot 56 -- one of the bands that George really loved."