15 years ago, Chad Davenport and Simon McDonald were working at the old Muddy Waters on Greenville Avenue and wanted to start a charity. It was near Christmas time, so a toy drive made sense. That first year's event, which was held at Muddy Waters, was a success, and in the decade-and-a-half since then it's become a neighborhood tradition, having spent a year along the way at Barley House before moving to Libertine Bar when it opened in 2006.
Now in their 40s, McDonald and Davenport have been running the event for nearly half their lives, having started it in their 20s. Tonight they'll be celebrating a golden birthday of sorts, as their host the 15th annual installment on the 15th day of December.
Today, McDonald is the co-owner and operator of The Libertine Bar, while Davenport is general manager at Taco Joint. The two have been friends for twenty years and together they bring friends, businesses, coworkers past and present, bands and music fans to help give back to the community. They're helped considerably these days by Tom Bridwell of Tomcast Studio and Gavin Mulloy from Trees who handle sound and promotion duties, respectively.
After 15 years, Davenport and McDonald have the distribution of donations down to a science. Toys are separated by age group and wrapped. On Christmas Eve, anyone who wishes to participate meets at The Libertine and the toys are taken to the shelter. They set up on the stage in the Dallas LIFE chapel and someone dressed as Santa sits in a chair, passes out gifts and poses for pictures. Davenport, who spent a considerable amount of money on a Santa Claus costume a few years ago, will play the part this year.
The toys have always been handed out at Dallas LIFE, the largest homeless shelter in North Texas, which houses individuals and even entire families, offers a medical clinic and helps people find jobs and housing. The shelter has been open for 60 years and offers complete homeless recovery through accountability-based programs. Any funds leftover after the toys have been purchased are used to buy essentials like clothes, razors, and toothpaste for adults at Dallas LIFE.
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What has helped make the event such a memorable tradition in the neighborhood, however, is the artists that it has attracted. In 2010, the legendary Dallas punk band Spector 45 played the event just two weeks before the untimely death of their front man, Frankie 45. Sadly, the group's bassist, Adam Carter, also passed away a few months later. The following year, Ryan Thomas Becker performed at Toy Drive Concert and climbed up on the bar during his set as a tribute to Frankie, who was known for that sort of outrageous showmanship.
Davenport and McDonald count these two performances as some of the most memorable from the past fifteen years. However, they stress that the best part is going to the shelter, passing out gifts, seeing the children's faces, and making a positive impact on the community. This, they insist, is what brings them back every year.
Tonight is "15 on 15," Davenport's 15th annual Toy Drive Concert on December 15th. The event takes place at The Libertine Bar and will start this evening at 6 and go on until approximately 11:30 tonight. Bring an unwrapped toy or cash donation for admittance.
Travis Brink of Dog Dander, blues musician Aaron Burton, Ryan Hamilton of Smile Smile and People on Vacation, Erik Chandler of Bowling For Soup, Tommy Hale, Madison King, Boys Named Sue, Dustin Cavazos, and RTB2 will all be performing great music for this great cause. RTB2 also just announced that they plan to donate four recently discovered copies of their first out of print album at the event.
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Raffle tickets will also be sold for glassware, shirts, and rare beer donated by several companies such as Brooklyn Brewery, Community Beer Company, Sailor Jerry Rum, Martin House Brewery, Goody Goody Liquor, Republic Beverages, and many others. Dos Equis also donated beer for the bands, who play for free but receive gift certificates graciously donated by several bars including The Old Monk, The Black Friar, and The Blind Butcher.
A collapsible stage is setup near the front door and space is limited, so the performances at the Toy Drive Concert are traditionally unique. Bands have often played stripped down or acoustic sets, interesting and unplanned collaborations are commonplace. "You never know what is going to happen," says Davenport. "But it always happens."
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