Orange County's rock 'n' roll community will literally beat the drum for a cause close to home Sunday when dozens of local musicians team up for nine hours of music at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano.
Designed to help the several needy Orange County families at Christmas, the show will run from 3 p.m. until midnight.
Diversity seems to be the key, as many of these acts probably wouldn't share a stage on any other evening. But on Sunday, the Swamp Zombies, Nick Pyzow, Bell Jar, Electric Kool-Aid, Lexington Devils, 3-D Picnic, Clockwork, Black Daphne and others will join the benefit. Organizers are asking for a gift, a sack of canned goods or $5 cash as admission price.
"You always hear about the big benefit concerts, and I guess they help people," said band manager Jim Palmer of what motivated him to start holding holiday benefits three years ago. "But on this (smaller) level, you can actually see it helping. This year, we're committed to sponsor seven families and hopefully, we can help even more."
Working in conjunction with Santa Ana-based St. Barbara's Christian Service, the benefit will supply an entire Christmas for families who have been hit hard this holiday. In addition to the traditional turkey dinner, Palmer and co-organizer Sam Lanni, a concert promoter and former club owner, will be delivering presents, a Christmas tree and decorations to the families to whom they have been assigned.
So far, the pair have had everything donated, from frozen turkeys and Christmas trees to the 16-foot truck to deliver it all.
"It's a total blow-out," Palmer said. "Just to see the looks in their eyes, especially the parents, because even they don't know we're coming. So, it's really like Santa Claus for them."
The musicians feel as strongly about the cause as Palmer and Lanni do.
"Regardless of what time of the year it is," Nick Pyzow said, "it's important to recognize that there are those who are less fortunate than ourselves. But it's especially apparent at Christmas time when we're all buying presents and stuff.
"So, if there's anything that myself or the band can do to help out--especially if we believe in the cause, and this one's a good one--we'll be there."
Donations also come in the form of equipment for the show, including a single drum kit that all the bands will use to keep the time for set changes to a minimum, and the music itself. All of the bands donate their time.
"I get so much back mentally from all the bands coming out and playing and all the people who are getting involved," Palmer said. "And that's the reason I wanted to have this show at the Coach House, because that's somewhere most of these bands don't get to play."
Yet for all the good that is being done, Palmer and Lanni, who is taking part for the first time, also want the evening to be just plain fun.
"The show is not only to help the needy," Palmer said. "It's also a Christmas party for Orange County musicians. We've got some of the top acts musically for this occasion, and this is a chance for them to all get together.
"As far as (relieving) the needy goes, the presents and donations will be left at the door, and that will be that. I'm sure a few things will be said, but it's not what the event's about."
"Well, I'll probably talk about the needy during the show," added Lanni, who booked most of the bands at his now-defunct Huntington Beach club, Safari Sam's. Lanni will emcee the event.
In addition to the bands, there will be several other acts during the short set changes, ranging from poets to solo guitarists and a violinist. Not bad for an event that started off with just 15 people.
"I don't buy ads in police programs or that kind of thing," said Coach House owner Gary Folgner about his decision to donate the use of his club. "But if I think a cause is worthwhile, I'll do a benefit for it. Believe me, I check them out. And this one's OK."
The one disappointment about the concert is that the originally scheduled headliner, El Grupo Sexo, recently disbanded and won't be performing. (See accompanying story.)
But in their place, Palmer and Lanni are trying to rally an all-star jam that may feature some members of the band, in addition to other local musicians who aren't already on the show.
"Everything's going great," Palmer said, "but we still really need those people to come out and bring canned goods and support what we're doing. We need the people who are going to come to the show just as much as we need the musicians or the donors because those are the people who are going to make a difference for our families."
For those who would like to get involved, but can't make it to the Coach House, they can mail donations are gifts to St. Barbara's Christian Service c/o P.O. Box 936, Midway City, Calif. 92655.