All of the bands performing are donating their time, and all ticket sales will go towards mental health support resources, with White Oak Music Hall matching all of the proceeds raised. The benefit concert took place on Friday, January 28, at the venue's Downstairs stage.
The show was expected to be lighthearted, with six Houston bands: El Lago, Another Run, Space Kiddettes, Forever Miles, The Silver Seeds and Sergio Trevino doing a night of cover song sets dedicated to groups like Portishead, Black Sabbath, and Bruce Springsteen.
Trevino, who didn't need much persuading to lend his support, says there's a lot of need in the Houston music community for mental healthcare. “I really wish there was more access readily available,” Trevino, who will cover songs by Springsteen at the benefit show, says. “A lot of people like myself don't have a job that has health insurance. "
Mental healthcare services have been in high demand since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but navigating the system to get the help one needs is no easy task. That's why Jagi Katial, the founder of the concert promotions company Pegstar wanted to step in and help.
"Maybe there's something out there, but I can't find anything that is specifically locally based that also does mental health services for people working with music and live performance,” Katial explains. He's hoping to continue working with White Oak to further a concert series to help raise funds to help support community needs, like mental healthcare access.
Many in the music community feel it would benefit Houston's performing arts industry to create infrastructure to support artists, much like Austin has with SIMS Foundation, or the Music Health Alliance in Nashville.
Katial has always tried to help out. When he first started Pegstar in 2001, one of the first shows he organized was a post-9/11 benefit show where proceeds went to the Red Cross to help first responders. After that he wanted to continue to throw more benefits, and also tie in local bands. The effort got help early on from one of his bookers, Jason Petzold. “We started doing it twice a year, and it was for different benefits each time,” Katail says about the shows that followed.
In previous years, the benefits took place at the now-demolished Fitzgerald’s. Once that venue was gone in 2018, the benefit shows went on a hiatus, until White Oak Music Hall was finished being built. They were able to host one event at the new venue before COVID shut everything down.
"I don’t have the benefits of health insurance, and all that stuff, so this is something that relates to me,” Trevino says about the efforts to help local musicians with healthcare. While the nightlife scene in Houston continues to climb back, performers like Trevino still find themselves making up for heavy loses due to cancelled or delayed gigs.
Katail wants to continue doing his part to help make mental healthcare access a reality for local musicians who maybe can't afford it. "Everybody couldn’t work, and it had a stressful impact on a community that is already underserved, so I felt like there was a need.”
The White Oak Music Hall Benefit Series will take place on Friday, January 28 at White Oak Music Hall, 2915 N. Main St. Doors at 8 p.m., tickets $10.