Punk rock may be known more for anarchy and nihilism than for positive energy and supporting worthy causes. But since the late '70s, some punk bands have worked hard to bring attention to important issues and have organized benefit shows to turn musical energy into constructive action -- and positive cash flow -- for charities. (The Clash playing the 1978 Rock Against Racism concert in London's Hyde Park comes to mind.) Keeping that tradition alive in Pittsburgh is punk-rock DJ John Doran, organizer of the Punk Rock Benefit for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation set for Sat., June 30, at the 31st Street Pub.
Doran's 3-year-old son, John Henry, was only two weeks old when he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a hereditary disease that causes breathing difficulties and prevents the pancreas from secreting a necessary digestive enzyme. John and his wife, Lisa, have been active in fund-raising efforts for the CFF, from walk-a-thons to Lisa's fund-raising work through her Sewickley boutique, Moxie. "We wanted to do something more," says Doran.
The idea for the concert came about through discussions over beers and chatting with local musician friends at Doran's DJ night at Kelly's Bar, in East Liberty. "I called my friend Dan Allen the morning after coming up with the 'crazy idea' for the cover-band benefit show, expecting him to talk me out of it," says Doran. "Dan was like, 'No, Let's do it! You can do Government Issue and I'll do songs from Flipper.'" Doran's own musical career has been on hold since his high school days in Homer City, Pa., where he belted out the vocals for a "never left the basement" band called Creeps at the Beach, which also featured Dick Thinker, later of Submachine.
"I had so many people who wanted to be involved with playing that we're actually splitting up the songs between two sets of musicians," Doran says. He'll front two backing bands ripping through the American hardcore sounds of Washington, D.C.'s Government Issue. The first line-up features Tim Williams of Davenport, Human Investment and AusRotten, as well as Intense Andy Perlman and Mike Ovens, both of Brain Handle. The second line-up includes local indie legend Karl Hendricks and his frequent bandmates, Len Jarabeck (ex- Don Caballero, SLAG, T4), and Jake Leger (also of Magic Wolf).
Allen, Doran's friend of 20 years, will lead the way through the songs of San Francisco's Flipper. The Flipper line-up includes guitarist Vince Curtis, formerly of Half Life and Real Enemy. "Vince played guitar in Real Enemy when they opened for Flipper at the Electric Banana in the early '80s," notes Allen. Joining them will be Dan Bidwa on drums and Phil Pierre on bass.
But that's not all. At a Pere Ubu show on the South Side this past April, Doran told guitarist Bob Spieler of Master Mechanic about the idea for the benefit show. Spieler and his neighbor Ted Tarka, of the Mud City Manglers, hatched the idea of paying tribute to the music of Cleveland's Pagans. The Pagans' tune "Slow Street" has served as a encore for the Manglers for years. As Tarka says, "I think the Pagans were an amazing, underrated band when it comes to late-'70s American punk rock, though they are getting a lot more recognition these days." Tarka's ex-bandmate Tim Behary will hold down the bass, with Manglers drummer Brian Porter completing the line-up.
"We'll also be auctioning off donated punk collectibles like rare T-shirts and records to raise more money," says Doran. "If people want to help out and donate collectible items, they can just bring them to the show." Joel Greenfield, proprietor of the 31st Street Pub, is supporting the cause by donating the proceeds from the door to the CFF. Between bands, DJs Ryan Hughes and Mike Bolam will spin punk-rock favorites.
"We just want people to come out and have a great time," says Doran. "At the same time, they can be doing some good."
The Punk Rock Benefit for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, featuring the music of Government Issue, Flipper, and the Pagans, DJs and a silent auction. 9 p.m. Sat., June 30. 31st Street Pub, 3101 Penn Ave., Strip District. $8. 412-391-8334 or www.31stpub.com