When my husband and I passed the apartment building on The Plaza on the way to take our sons to the nearby playground two weeks ago, we noticed the blackened front of the two-story building crumbling toward the sidewalk. A fire had destroyed part of the Riviera Apartment building earlier that morning. It wasn’t until a week later when local musician Adam O’Neill emailed me about a benefit concert to raise funds for the residents who lost their apartments in the September 23rd fire, that I realized we knew one of the tenants.
Local musician Andre Francois of two of our favorite local bands, the defunct Lights, Fluorescent and My Captain, lost his home along with two other tenants. I immediately texted Francois’ friend and the Lights’/My Captain bassist to see how he was and if he’d lost the vintage Ovation Breadwinner guitar he was rarely without (he's playing it with My Captain in the photo, taken at the Milestone in July, above). It was engulfed in the fire along with, according to O’Neill, everything in two apartments and two poor cats.
O’Neill and friends from the neighborhood have organized “Play It Forward,” the Riviera Apartment fire fundraiser at Petra’s Piano Bar, just a couple blocks from The Plaza. The event takes place Friday, October 12 at 9 p.m. O’Neill, who lives at the Riviera, reported the fire. His home was undamaged, but he says three tenants lost practically everything they owned and according to news reports nine were displaced. Most live pay check to pay check and had no renter’s insurance.
“Being a witness to the event and living the cliche, but serious, scenario of 'If your house was on fire what would take?' I felt a moral responsibility to help my friends, who incidentally happen to be artists and lost everything that supports their craft and life,” O’Neill said about putting together the fundraiser. Admission is $5 (although I’m sure larger donations are appreciated). Clothing and other necessities will also be accepted at the event and there’s a definite need for those. Clothes for both women and men are needed.
The concert will feature O’Neill’s band the Adulterers, Great Architect, Ross Wilbanks Experimental Guitar, Bo White, and Projectorism. Live music will be sandwiched between screenings of an experimental film from Wilbanks’ “Baloos” series.
Adds O’Neill: “In the day and age of habitual cynicism and well-read doubt about politics, economy, morality, and/or an overall feeling of a lack of control over one's circumstances, it is empowering to know you can make an effort to heal your immediate surroundings, if just little.”
As for Francois, Andre texts that “the support from family and friends has been insane.” His friends already chipped in to get him another guitar.