On Tuesday, August 30, 102.1 The Edge's Jessie Jessup saw a coworker getting cables ready for an off-site broadcast and made a quip--who has to do a remote show?
"You do," he replied, informing her of the news she would soon learn in a company-wide e-mail from bosses at Clear Channel. She was to head to a Hooters restaurant in the West End the next day to represent The Edge in a company-wide benefit for Hurricane Katrina relief.
Jessup immediately prepared for the show, and she knew the benefit would be a big deal, but she had no idea how crazy things would get until she walked in on Wednesday. A young woman was already waiting at the restaurant to talk to Jessup.
"I thought it was going to be a regular Edge listener who'd heard about our promotion," Jessup says, "but she was somebody who had evacuated when the mayor had issued the declaration. She's staying here with her father. The first thing she did was burst into tears. That's when I realized this was going to be a different kind of benefit--it's not a tsunami half a world away. This is in our backyard. This is here."
In spite of terribly short notice, fans showed up in droves for Jessup's broadcast. "We could barely count the money because it never stopped coming," Jessup says, and local bands like Supercell, Neverset and the Vanished showed up to drop off CDs, concert tickets and even play a few acoustic songs on the air.
And while FEMA and the Red Cross were overwhelmed with donations and phone calls, Jessup took her work one step further by becoming a Katrina conduit to help those blocked by red tape. She asked listeners to e-mail if they needed--or could offer--anything, and her inbox was soon flooded. Apartment complexes had free rooms for evacuees. Listeners wanted to give furniture, clothes and donations but had no idea where to take them. Newcomers to Dallas who were too embarrassed to accept old clothes were hooked up with donors who supplied gift cards to stores in town.
Meanwhile, the rest of CC's local stations sent their DJs to local malls and restaurants to elicit more help and donations. 106.1 Kiss FM's Kidd Kraddick changed his "Kidd's Kids Day" benefit to support Katrina instead, and The Edge has put many of the donated gifts from celebrities on eBay with proceeds going to charities.
More than a few nasty words have been printed here about Clear Channel, but this week the conglomerate used its strong presence in the region to force music fans of all varieties to pay attention to the aftermath of Katrina. Luckily, every other radio station in Dallas was on Katrina watch, too. Infinity's 100.3 Jack FM loosened their "playing what we want" posture by allowing people to request songs for the cost of a Red Cross donation. Even 89.3 KNON invited Louisiana evacuees on the air to give shout-outs to their loved ones.
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Some question the role of music in a serious tragedy, but this level of attention from bands and radio stations gets the word out to those who might not otherwise care. Rock, country, rap, pop and folk fans alike are forced to pay attention. Even with hate mail arriving from music fans that are sick of the coverage, Jessup pushes ahead (and urges anyone in need to e-mail her: email@example.com).
"I don't want to alienate the people who listen to us on a regular basis, but I worry if I don't address it, if there is a single refugee who's desperate, I have to help them," Jessup says. "I can't not do it."
Fortunately, neither can local acts from all genres. First off, over a dozen local bands are pledging their CD sales on online retailer cdbaby.com to Katrina relief, so if you want to buy albums by locals like Record Hop, Goodwin, Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward or The Lord Henry, now's the time to log on.
In addition to a series of benefit concerts held in the past week, many new benefits have been announced at the last minute; please check the "This Just In" section of this week's music listings for information on those shows. More will follow in the coming weeks, including Deep Ellum's Deep Relief event which will fill every club with a charitable show on Sunday, September 18. We'll have more information on those in our next issue. And many other shows this weekend will have donation booths on hand, so please, don't hesitate to give.