The holiday lead-up offers a feast of musical concerts geared toward helping those in need, so we've highlighted a handful of this week's best bets. Check out great performances and help make a difference in the world.
WHAT? Indie For Exiles benefit , $5
WHERE? C'est What (67 Front East), 416-867-9499
WHEN? Saturday (December 9)
WHO? Synthetic Folk Hero (aka Leon Kingstone), Lori Cullen, Brian MacMillan
WHY CARE? This modest money- and awareness-raising show was inspired by a Tibetan refugee couple whom organizer Leon Kingstone's brother and sister-in-law met while travelling through India. "These people have such good hearts," he explains. "They're very, very poor, and they went on a three-month trek to get from Tibet to where they are now. Worst of all, they left their children behind. Even a little cash makes a huge difference, and there's a chance we can help bring their children to them if we raise enough."
This is also a rare chance to see his Synthetic Folk Hero project, Kingstone's outlandish musical-comedy one-man band for which the formally trained jazz artist (he studied at McGill) dons a cape and an out-there persona.
WHAT? Riverdale Share Community Concert , $10 (plus food donation)
WHERE? Danforth Music Hall (147 Danforth), www.riverdaleshare.com
WHEN? Sunday (December 10), 3 pm
WHO? Murray McLauchlan, Gregg Lawless, Luba Goy, the ChoirGirlz, Sho Mo & the Monkey Bunch, Frankland School Choir and more
WHY CARE? Because this annual tradition is all about community giving back to community. Performer and artistic director Gregg Lawless, who's worn a crapload of different hats, says that smashing people's perceptions about Riverdale's sociocultural makeup and actually helping the area's most vulnerable residents is what makes the benefit so satisfying. "Our focus for the concert is on the people you don't necessarily see when you come to shop or go out to dinner."
Lawless is stoked about initiatives like after-school programs, single-parent support networks and campaigns to educate high-risk teens in the Blake-Boultbee area, "Riverdale's version of Regent Park."
The ace singer/songwriter has high praise for Riverdale Share's ability to pull off a family-oriented show that won't crush the souls of adult music fans.
"I have to think of every song on two levels," Lawless explains. "It's gotta make a five-year-old laugh and entertain a 55-year-old."
WHAT? Holiday Jam , $40
WHERE? The Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), 416-870-8000
WHEN? Wednesday (December 13)
WHO? Sarah Harmer, Sam Roberts, Kathleen Edwards, Matt Mays, the Tragically Hip and more
WHY CARE? Who doesn't love the idea of Gord Downie breaking it down acoustic-style alongside hippie queen Sarah Harmer in aid of the Hospital for Sick Children's Sick Kids Foundation? Plus, you can preview Matt Mays's weirdo solo stuff. He's just launched his new When The Angels Make Contact (Sonic/Warner) disc, a conceptual soundtrack for an Easy Rider-style movie that Mays shot last year, songs that should add an excellent jolt to the Holiday Jam's campfire ethos. "There's a reason I've done this show for the past two years," he offers. "It's obviously a really good cause, and you get all these great musicians to play off each other. It's that holiday spirit. It just feels right." Other ways to give back while grooving this week:
THE SWINGIN' BLACKJACKS and the ABATOIRS as part of a benefit for the Toronto Humane Society, Cadillac Lounge (1296 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, December 7), 10 pm, $tba. 416-536-7717.
JACKIE RICHARDSON, MICHAEL BERUBE and SHARON RILEY & THE FAITH CHORALE as part of This Christmas, to benefit Second Harvest, Casey House, the Alzheimer Society of Toronto and the CHUMCity Christmas Wish, Diesel Playhouse (56 Blue Jays Way), Thursday and Friday (December 7 and 8), 8 pm, $45. 416-971-5656.
TORONTO SONGWRITERS ASSOCIATION benefit for War Resisters Support Campaign, Renaissance Café (1938 Danforth), Friday (December 8), 8 pm, $5 (includes raffle ticket). 416-422-1441, www.resisters.ca.