On the evening of August 15, a group of Dayton, Ohioans gathered at the historic Masonic Center for a night of song story and healing. The event, Dayton United: Benefit For The Dayton Foundation, was just one of many put on by a dedicated band of local organizers, musicians and artists to raise money for The Dayton Foundation — a community fund aiding the victims and families hit hardest by this summer’s Oregon District shooting and EF3 tornado.
That night in particular came together seamlessly, under the direction of Ricky Terrell — a Dayton native and lead vocalist in local band Starving in the Belly of the Whale — in partnership with Dayton United. “I knew I needed to do something to lift the city’s spirits,” Terrell said, in an interview with GhettoBlaster before the show. He quickly recruited Anthony Raneri of Bayside, Geoff Rickly of Thursday, Chris Conley of Saves The Day, Vinnie Caruana of I Am The Avalanche and The Movie Life, and Joe Anderl of The 1984 Draft for an intimate evening of pared-down acoustic sets and storytelling at one of the city’s most stunning venues.
The “no backpacks” rule, announced over the loudspeaker, and the bag check upon entry was a stark reminder of why we were all in attendance, this was more than just a fun showcase of nationally recognized talent on a weeknight, this was a chance to help those hit hardest by recent tragedy, a chance to grieve and then pick up the pieces. It was clear those in attendance were leaning on each other hard, even in the crowded lobby and in the drink line, there was a kindness that’s rarely felt at a typical concert.
“Tonight is about things that we have in common,” Terrell said, as he kicked off the evening, asking the audience to name some factors that united them. “We all give a shit,” someone called out, eliciting some laughter throughout the crowd. “That’s true though,” Terrell mused, “we all do give a shit.”
Anderl came out next with only his guitar and a microphone. “I’ve never been more proud,” he announced, “ to say that I’m Joe Anderl and I’m from Dayton, Ohio.” The 1984 Draft singer played an emotionally charged 20-minute set of personal tunes and songs about his beloved city. He ended with a repeated line “how can I sleep without knowing what it will be,” with a chorus of audience voices joining him as he walked out into the aisle.
He was followed by Vinnie Caruana, who played songs by both of his bands, incorporating powerful vocals and punk-style riffs, joking with the audience in between songs. Halfway through the set he admitted that the first thing he did when he got to Dayton was have a beer and shot at Blind Bobs. When he struggled to remember the name of the bartender, a helpful audience member called it out (Josh Goldman of Dopamines, The Raging Nathans), a testament to the close-knit nature of the community.
After a short break, Geoff Rickly wove the story of his struggles with drug addiction and eventual sobriety between softly played songs that spanned decades of his life. He opened with “The Sidelines,” the first song his band, Thursday, ever penned. He closed out his performance by opening his laptop and playing along with a dreamy, synth-heavy song about struggling to get clean, revealing that he drew his inspiration from 1950s girl groups pining over men who might be bad for them, before performing “Cross Out The Eyes” from Thursday’s landmark album Full Collapse.
Chris Conley of Saves The Day was the only musician that night to play seated. Just a week or so prior, I caught the full-band version of his set at The Woodward Theatre in Cincinnati and was impressed by how easily Conley commanded the stage in both scenarios. His unique acoustic versions may not have possessed the amplified and frenetic energy of his Woodward performance, but these same songs still created an impact that kept the audience rapt.
With the final performance slot of the night, Anthony Raneri kept the crowd rapt with a well-rehearsed performance combining standards from his considerable solo and Bayside catalogs and encouraged the crowd to sing along. The set was peppered with well-timed covers, including The Smoking Popes’ “Megan” and Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into The Dark,” which he said he’d recorded for release in Vinnie Caruana’s bedroom and carried extra gravitas and meaning given the occasion of the concert.
While a concert can’t bring back what was lost this summer in Dayton, it can help a community steeped in tragedy begin to regroup. The audience member who shouted “we all give a shit,” was absolutely right, and that sentiment was undoubtedly felt last Wednesday evening, with musicians, organizers, employees, and fans all trying to find some common ground to get a city they all care about back on its feet and stronger than ever.
Review by Lillian Currens. Photo by James Downing.