Fitz Benefit Show Series: Jefferson Davis High School Music Program
Oct 18 at 8
2706 White Oak Blvd
On Saturday, Fitzgerald’s will host their second all-covers concert in this year’s Fitz Benefit Series. Ishi, Children of Pop, Grand Old Grizzly, thelastplaceyoulook, and other local artists will perform as some of their favorite artists, including Genesis, Tom Petty, David Bowie, and The Misfits. All proceeds will go to nearby Jefferson Davis High School’s music program, and will be matched by Fitzgerald’s. It’s a great chance to support music education in local schools, while also indulging some of the best performers in Houston in a celebration of the music they know and love as much as we do.
Fitzgerald’s chose to sponsor the Davis High music program because…well, it just made sense. “We wanted to benefit a music program in a school,” says organizer Jagi Katial. “It only made sense to pick one close to us.” The high school is two miles down the road from the music venue and boasts a variety of music education, from marching band to jazz and orchestra. Discussing the event’s goal of raising $10,000 for the school, Katial was clear: “Our goal is simply to put music in kids’ hands.” Judging from the wonderful success of the last Fitz Benefit Show – March’s “Be The Match” show handily beat the same monetary goal – this one night will help these students’ chances to be swept away by art and expression.
Music education is close to the hearts of the show’s performers as well. Chase DeMaster, singer/guitarist/implacable force behind Children of Pop (who will be playing as Madonna, and could use a blonde wig if anyone has one to lend) was a part of the choir program at Humble High School, which, he says, “taught me it’s okay to be a nerd about music.” With so much of young life regimented into things we’re forced to learn, it’s important to provide skills for a creative outlet. “I’m hoping it will inspire young people to dive into the music they find engaging,” says DeMaster of his aspirations for the concert’s impact. “Maybe the money raised at the show will translate to an after-school jazz/DJ/music production class!” I’d guess the school has their own ideas, but either way it’s crucial to give children a chance to explore art.
The event is intended to have a positive social impact, but that doesn’t mean it has to be stuffy. (I recently attended a rooftop concert at Khon’s benefitting rhino and elephant aid charity work, and while it was a great event, it was no surprise that I was the only one relaxed enough to dance). Katial called on a few musicians personally with suggestions, noting that he asked Dune TX to do songs off of Green Day’s first two records, because he “thought they would kill it.” In choosing to cover Madonna, DeMaster was simply following his muse. “A few of my friends have been saying the new record sounds [very] similar to early Madonna…so I dove in,” says DeMaster. Children of Pop are “riding the Madonna wave,” as he puts it, with a new 7-inch titled “Pre Madonna” slated for release by Treaty Oak Collective next month and a thematically linked full-length in the works.
The concert offers a chance for the musicians, most of whom play regularly in the Houston area, to explore and show a different side of themselves. “Madonna’s music is very rich…doo wop plus house plus love ballads plus trendy in-the-moment pop,” says DeMaster, whose usual stage persona (which he describes as “Beyoncé meets Cher Horowitz”) will get to ham up his own influences and really “let [his] freak flag fly.”
The last Fitz Benefit Show certainly did that. The Beans, replete in vests and feather boas, raucously channeled Nile Rogers upstairs, while RIVERS destroyed the house downstairs as The White Stripes, and New York City Queens singer John Stephens and guitarist Tom Guth went as far as piercing their own ears in homage to Tears for Fears’s iconic cross earrings. The latter band got so into the music that they recorded their covers, and at a recent NYCQ show I heard fans shouting requests for some of the songs they played that night.
It’s invigorating to watch a show like this come together, because every aspect of it bursts with love. For musicians, covering their influences is a chance to connect even more deeply with the songs that helped them craft their own sounds. For Fitzgerald’s, it’s a chance to give back to a community that’s seen the venue revived over the last few years into a hugely successful spot that regularly sells out shows. For Jefferson Davis High School, it’s a vote of confidence in the mission of educating children beyond test-oriented learning, as well as a familial gesture of respect between important institutions in the community. And for fans of local music – among whom I gladly number myself – it’s a chance to see a part of Houston blossom, with so many groups doing their best to make something cool happen. Your $10 (which will be matched by Fitzgerald’s) will buy a ticket to the show, but it will also help buy a stronger, more connected, and better-educated neighborhood.