Exploring Entertainment in Florida's 850 & Beyond
The Rock for a Cure Chronicles
by Rob Perez
PART 3 – A Letter from the Background
“What does Rock For A Cure mean to you?”
Nikki Hedrick, one-half of the founders and current title holder of “consistently insane workaholic” for this lovely news site, asked me this on a whim one afternoon. To add to that “consistently insane” theory, she also asked me to put my answer in essay form and to share it with the class.
To properly answer this, I have to give a quick history lesson first. I have, for the last 7 years, been a performing musician for this benefit with a band that’s been around for just as long – The Helvetica Effect. I often help set up the sound (mainly in the “hard rock” room), I promote where I can, but, otherwise, I’m not anyone who’s helped truly create this. I’m not a marquee player. I’m just some damn Yankee transplant who loves playing music and loves helping human beings where I can. In the grand plan of RFAC, I’m just a player in the background.
My background with Rock For A Cure came into my life by accident, really. In trying to get Helvetica off the ground, we shared an immediate bond with another rock band in this area – Something To Yield. We played at some Battle of the Bands one year and we all just hit it off. Brothers-in-arms-until-the-end, support-your-local-scene, by-the-way-we-all-obsessively-love-geek-culture, and hit it off. Later that year, Tommy Siren approached us about playing this cancer benefit he created, and it would be at The Block. My internal thoughts did one of those record scratch noises. I remember saying over the phone with Tommy, rather naively, “Wait… The Block?? The local country bar is cool with us just throwing down at their place?”
Tommy laughed. And he simply put it like this, “Trust me. I got a good feeling about this.”
He wasn’t wrong. We played our inaugural year during the event’s second year – and it Was AWESOME. As a musician, you love venues like The Block. 3 separate rooms, 3 separate ‘types’ of music dedicated to each room – you really couldn’t plan the building’s geography any better. You experience everything in its own separate way. You pick and choose how you want to help with this event, essentially. You can do it laid back or you can rock the fuck out. And knowing that all the acts are in this together, simply heightens the experience. A one-day indoor festival for a charitable cause. To this day, there is no better venue in the Fort Walton Beach area to hold an event like this. To this day, Tom remains a hero of mine of for having the balls to construct this and to uphold this ideal.
As eye opening and fun as everything was, at the end of the day, it initially felt like ‘just another gig’. I knew that our drummer, Matt, had some experience with this stuff because his mother went through it, but I just took it for granted at the time. However, in my aloofness, I always had a close friend in the back of my mind who I had hoped would come experience this event. For the sake of this article, we’ll call her Christina G.
I didn’t have much by way of family way back when, so when I got out of the Air Force, she was one of the first people I met and got to know outside of the band crews I was running around with. As I friend, I didn’t deserve her. I was less than savory back then, but she never judged. She had a good soul who always treated her friends like family, including me, no matter what – an ideal that ultimately inspired me to do the same. She had also been diagnosed with cancer about a year prior to us doing this initial concert. I invited her to the first one we played because she deserved something awesome to celebrate, having recently had her cancer go into remission. She wasn’t able to make it, but she did get to see our band in Pensacola soon after. We partied and danced. We celebrated.
Then, close to the end of the evening, she told me: Her cancer had come roaring back.
6 months later, I was a pallbearer at her funeral.
6 months to the day after her death, we played our next Rock For A Cure.
I saw her young face on the slideshow they put up – and her gravestone. I saw our mutual friends who weren’t able to come the year before. I played one of her favorite cover songs that we did. I took everything prior to that… I took it all for granted. Call it ignorance, call it disbelief, call it on my unsavory characterization at the time – but I did. And I swore, I would never do it again.
Since then, this has been my forgiveness and my repentance for that somber event. And every year, every RFAC has meant a little more than the last. And every year, I’ve come back with the same band to do the same thing with the same format. Why? Because I perform, I listen, I grieve, and I hope. I interact with bands, fans, and people from all walks of life who wouldn’t normally share a room together because of ‘genre,’ ‘crowd, ‘or ‘insert bullshit excuse here.’
None of that matters. It’s all about having a good time and keeping those you love in your heart. I think of Christina. I think of the Sirens, the Rightleys, and the Browns. I think of every single person I’ve been privileged enough to speak and work with in all this, whether it be at the event or for this series. I do this, because even if it’s gone – even if we all come together and beat this thing, there will still be those who experienced that past pain that no one deserves. Isn’t that alone worth playing a bad-ass concert for?
7 years removed from my introduction to this, I find myself at a crossroads. This will be the first year since those initial moments that The Helvetica Effect will not be performing. I will be performing with another band, Paracosm, in what’s considered “Helvetica’s spot.” But for all I know, this may be my last year as a performer. I truly hope it isn’t, but if it is, I want to leave you with this: Do not take any of this for granted. Throw down with every ounce of power you have, love with every bit of your heart, and finish this fight. Truly come and find out: “What does Rock For A Cure mean to YOU?”
To me, it means bringing yourself forward, no matter where you come from. It means, being prepared to rock the fuck out on command. It means, listening with intent. It means, unabashedly giving your experiences to others so that they may relate, can move forward, or can keep fighting. It means, taking one day and making it someone else’s best. It means, another chance at a cure or remission. It means living. It means life.
I hope that maybe this year, you’ll be able to see it for all this. I implore you to come this year and find out.
What does Rock For A Cure mean to me? It means everything.
Learn more about the event on the official Facebook Event listing: https://www.facebook.com/events/1617694598527393/