In the blues trio in which I play, our guitarist, Clint “Seattle Slim” Nonemaker, lives in Darrington.
The Saturday before last, when I heard there had been a major landslide in the Darrington area, I called him to make sure he was okay.
I didn’t hear back for two days.
I knew he was probably fine; he lives about 10 miles from the place the slide happened, but as the hours wore on and everyone began to learn just how horrifying was the magnitude of the event, it was hard not to worry.
Facebook messages, text messages, phone calls, nothing got through.
Tuesday, he got back to us; his power and internet had been out. He was okay. But he was already learning that high school friends were among the missing. He helps his sister care for her 10-year-old son, and two of his classmates were missing.
Our band had gotten some radio play in some other country; I was excited and posted about it on Facebook Tuesday night. Then I looked at the post and it seemed shamefully trivial.
I made another post.
“Musicians, I am wondering, what can we do for Darrington?” I wrote, and suggested maybe we could have a benefit concert.
Within minutes I had firm commitments from several bands. By morning I had dozens of comments from people who wanted to help.
I have a friend who owns a bar in Arlington called The Cedar Stump. It’s huge, and has a big stage. I called; my friend jumped to offer the venue. We set a date for Sunday, April 6.
Blues for the Slide was born.
By mid-afternoon, a volunteer graphics designer had made us a logo, a festival coordinator from Eastern Washington had made a website and a poster, my fiancé, Tommy, had made a Facebook event page, and offers from bands were pouring in. By nightfall, we had commitments from 12 of the area’s top blues and rock acts, some of whom are driving up from Portland.
Another festival coordinator helped us set up a bank account and did some research on the best organization to receive the funds. We selected United Way of Snohomish County, because 100 percent of all the funds they get are going straight to the people who need them.
People from Eastern Washington wanted to do similar events; we gave them the logo and they organized three concerts in Cashmere and Leavenworth. Another event was arranged for Everett April 10, a third for Conway April 25, and as of Saturday, organizers were setting one up in Tacoma.
It took three or four people working almost constantly to field all the questions, suggestions, comments, and offers of help on the Facebook sites and in group emails.
A silent auction was arranged; Carolyn Eslick, mayor of Sultan, offered to arrange donations from the many small craftspeople who are part of Grow Washington, a business incubator in Everett, Sultan and Snohomish. Friends triumphantly posted of the auction items they’d gotten; other friends, including our own reporter, Chris Hendrickson, offered to drive and pick them up.
Work took me out of town this weekend, and one woman caught up with me in Walla Walla to give me a package of jewelry for the event.
A national organization called American Blues Scene posted the event on their website. “Likes” soared to over 1,000 in less than two days. John Kessler, DJ of KPLU’s All Blues, promoted the event all weekend.
I have worked on a lot of fundraisers. I have never seen anything like this.
There are two functions of a fundraiser like this. One is, of course, to get resources to people in terrible need.
The other is to help people help.
Never have I seen so many people feel such a profound need to help.
I am vastly relieved that my dear friend, Seattle Slim, is okay. I cannot bear to think of the experience of others whose loved ones were not.
This tragedy has been beyond comprehension.
But if there might be said to be even the smallest silver lining, it is that it has brought out something profoundly beautiful in so many communities. Our music community is one of a thousand such communities all rallying to get help fast, as much as possible.
As much as the memory of this tragedy will forever be dark, I will find something to celebrate in the memory of what we were like when united by grief and a simple need to help.
Blues for the Slide is at the Cedar Stump in Arlington at 19711 Smokey Point Blvd., Sunday, April 6 from noon to at least midnight.
To see the schedule of events, including an acoustic lunch followed by 12 bands, look up click here.