Aiko’s New Year’s Eve concert will benefit Send Me a Friend
What: New Year’s Eve with Aiko
Where: O.P. Rockwell, 268 Main St.
When: 6 p.m. VIP dinner; 8 p.m. concert
Cost: $250 for the dinner and show; $50 for the show
Ben Anderson, bassist for groove and jam band Aiko, knows his life would be drastically different if he hadn’t sobered up 11 and a half years ago.
He said there is also a good chance he wouldn’t be here today.
“When I needed a friend, someone was there for me,” he said. “Things would not be the same if there wasn’t someone who unselfishly loved and cared for me along the way.”
The past two years have been even better for Anderson because of his support of Send Me a Friend, a national network of volunteers who are on call to offer help and support for music industry professionals who are struggling to stay sober, according to Anderson.
The organization was founded in 2016 by Anders Osborne, a singer-songwriter recovering from the effects of substance addiction.
“We had met Anders through sober channels, seeing that I’m a sober musician myself,” he said. “When the idea came up to establish Send Me a Friend, Anders asked if we would support him. And, of course, we couldn’t say no.”
Aiko will perform a New Year’s Eve party at 8 p.m. at O.P. Rockwell to not only celebrate the new year, but also to raise funds for Send Me a Friend.
There will be an optional VIP experience that will include dinner in the Rockwell Room, above Main Street music venue O.P. Rockwell, before the concert. The VIP event will start at 6 p.m. and feature dinner catered by Chaia Cucina, as well as cocktails and mocktails handcrafted by Top Shelf.
Live music during the dinner will be performed by Aiko background singers Michelle Yahn and Jessie Krafft.
“Send Me a Friend sets a new mentality, a new approach, by clubs and music venues that relay a message that fun isn’t just about music and alcohol,” Anderson said.
The bassist said he and other recovering musicians don’t want to be misunderstood when they ask for a clean green room or non-alcoholic drink selections served during their shows.
“We are not saying we’re victims or that we want to be treated differently,” Anderson said. “We just want to create the alternative to beer, wine and liquor at these spaces. We want musicians to know they can have a safe green room. And we also want audience members to know they can have a choice to drink tequila or kombucha or other mocktails.”
Last August, Osborne and Luther Dickinson played a fundraiser for Send Me a Friend, known as SMAF by its supporters, at O.P. Rockwell. The event sold out and raised more than $80,000, which was used in part to start SMAF Life Shots, Anderson said.
Life Shots are similar to a retreat. A few weeks ago, Anderson attended one in New Orleans.
“During that one, Anders met with singer-songwriters and industry professionals to talk about what it was like to be creative and record a number of albums before recovery and in recovery,” Anderson said. “One of the challenges musicians and songwriters face is learning how they can still be creative while sober, because most of our creative juices flowed while we were in the depths of our disease.”
The discussion addressed issues like how songwriters handle a touring schedule in recovery, or dealing with their relationships with their colleagues.
“The Live Shots objective is to help people understand that they can still write songs, tour and record, but they have to be smart and methodical,” Anderson said. “They have to have a plan. They have to have a pool of people they can reach out to.”
Other Live Shots sessions include yoga, meditation, nutrition and other wellness instructions that help artists before and while they’re on the road.
Notable names who have spoken at Live Shots include songwriter Ivan Neville, and representatives from the Recording Academy’s Music Cares program, which is similar to Send Me a Friend.
“It’s great to have the masters, those who are in long-term recovery, share their stories and give hope to those who need guidance and leadership,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the New Year’s Eve concert and VIP experience is a way for him to give something back to his supporters. It’s also another opportunity for him to be grateful for what sobriety has done for him and his family.
“I have received so much from those who supported me, many of whom I will never meet,” he said. “But they, through support and donations, have provided an environment for me to turn my life around. So if I can help in some small way to provide one person the opportunity to have these same blessings, then it’s worth it to me.”
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