Local News

Music for a cause

Gerald Dowd and friends to perform benefit show at The Venue

Musician Gerald Dowd believes in using his talents to help other people.

On Friday, Dowd – who plays drums and guitar – and a few of his musician friends will perform at The Venue in Aurora to benefit the Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry in Aurora and the Pilsen Food Pantry in Chicago. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.

Joining him on stage will be Bob Kuhn, Dave Ramont, Scott Stevenson, Chris Walke, Larry Brown, John Abbey, Greg Schultz and Mary Lou O’Brien Fischer. Tickets range from $15 to $20 and can be purchased on The Venue’s website, themusicvenue.org. The Venue is located at 21 S. Broadway Ave. in downtown Aurora.

Kane County Chronicle reporter Eric Schelkopf had the chance to talk to Dowd about the upcoming show. The interview has been edited for length and style.

Eric Schelkopf: Last year during lockdown, I know you did a live streamed show that raised more than $10,000 for the Southern Poverty Law Center. You live streamed solo for six plus hours from your house.

Gerald Dowd: Yeah, I did. My wife and my son went out of town. I wanted to do sort of a smaller version of a couple of benefits I’ve done in years past.

And since I couldn’t do it with people obviously, I just kind of moved from room to room in my house. And I did a set from different rooms in my house alone.

Which was really weird, but fun.

Schelkopf: During one benefit show, you played for 13 hours straight with 16 different bands and raised more than $10,000 for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. During another benefit show, you played with 12 bands over the course of 12 straight hours and raised more than $20,000 for the UI Health Pilsen Food Pantry. It seems like you really want to use your talents to give back. Do you like giving back like that?

Dowd: Oh, absolutely. That first show back in 2014 was because I was releasing my first full-length solo record.

When I made that record, I actually applied to the city of Chicago for a grant. The Department of Cultural Affairs gives out a yearly grant to artists in Chicago. And so I got a grant that helped pay for a large part of the record.

And so when it came time to release the record, I just kind of thought I’d give a little of that back to the city and to a community that is kind of desperately in need of it.

To be able to raise money for a really good cause is a really nice thing.

Schelkopf: I know that you are used to doing a lot of live shows. You had averaged 150 live dates a year around the world before last year.

So during the height of the pandemic last year, that must have been kind of weird not to be out playing, right?

Dowd: It was really weird. As you probably know, everything for artists just stopped on a dime.

It was a bit of a shock, although for me, I’m married with two kids and it was the first time really ever in the 20 years of being married with children that I was home for dinner for nights on end. That was a benefit that became very quickly apparent to me.

I really was OK with that, being home with my family and just spending time not on the road or not in a dingy, smokey bar. It was just really nice to wake up at home every morning and to go to bed every night at home.

Schelkopf: Of course, this is a benefit concert. As far as choosing the charities that you wanted to help, how did you go about choosing these charities in particular?

Dowd: The issue of food insecurity is really kind of a big thing. It’s an important cause that these two organizations are working to combat.

Schelkopf: Are you going to be playing drums and guitar that night?

Dowd: No, I’m just going to play guitar and sing. I’ll just be upfront playing and singing for that whole night.

Schelkopf: And it must be nice being able to play a show with friends.

Dowd: I love these guys dearly, every single one of them. They’re some of my favorite people in the world.

Schelkopf: I looked at the list of people you’ve performed and/or recorded with and it’s a pretty extensive list. Does it feel good that so many people would want to play with you?

Dowd: Yeah, it feels great that people keep calling me. I’m definitely grateful for that and it feels great to work with all these people.

Playing with Mavis Staples came from working with Robbie Fulks and that was something that none of us ever saw coming. That was pretty incredible.

We got to record a song with her and we played live with her a few times.

Schelkopf: Of course, Mavis Staples, she’s a living legend.

Dowd: A living legend. And someone who I’ve always loved. She is one of my favorite singers in the world since the time I first heard her, which was when I was a kid.

To actually hear her voice coming through the headphones in the studio where I am playing drums, it was overwhelming, to say the least. Nobody sounds like Mavis Staples except Mavis Staples.

You pay a lot of dues and then something like that comes up and it’s kind of what keeps you going.



Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf

Eric Schelkopf covers St. Charles and writes entertainment stories for the Kane County Chronicle.