By Katelyn Gendron
SPRINGFIELD Ask Peter Newland what he treasures in this world and he'll quickly respond with rock 'n' roll and the city of Springfield.
Newland's admiration for the city and the region that gave birth to his band FAT in 1968, coupled with the devastation caused by the June 1, 2011 tornado prompted him to join with community leaders to host the inaugural Jam 4 Springfield concert to benefit The Open Pantry's emergency food pantry on Nov. 3.
"Sometime during the following week [after the tornado] as I was sitting in my darkened house it occurred to me that as destructive as the tornado was, Springfield has been sitting in the center of a storm of social and cultural decay and diminishing economic opportunity for the better part of two decades and that it didn't make sense to address the short term effects of the natural disaster and ignore the larger problem," Newland explained.
"I love this city. Springfield is where my band FAT was born and where our music matured. The city has embraced me throughout the years in victory and defeat and it is where I make my home today. That night I made a decision to connect my passion for music to my love for the city where I live and to try to make a difference. This is why I have created Jam 4 Springfield," he continued.
FAT released several works between 1968 and 1985 with multiple labels, including RCA records and Atlantic Records, before calling it quits in 1985. The group reunited in the 1990s to play reunion concerts and benefits, Newland explained.
"I'm 63 now and I decided to put the music and popularity together to help the city of Springfield and to draw attention to the culture and have positive events downtown and generate revenue for Springfield," he said.
Allison Maynard, director of Open Pantry Community Services, called Jam 4 Springfield "a welcomed surprise" at a time when the organization is seeing more people than ever.
"The donations have stayed at the same level but with new people coming it just didn't match up. We saw 31,000 people last year and saw 37,000 people this year," she said. "These types of events are so helpful for us because they help us to get the word out about the needs of community."
Event organizers have not set a fundraising goal for the event, Jam 4 Springfield volunteer Tony Cignoli noted. "Let's just be limitless. Let's just try to raise as much as we can," he added.
Cignoli said the benefit also spawned from the idea that it's not just the homeless or under-served that are struggling today. "We know an awful lot of people who are really struggling in this economy, who are the working poor, and we thought the Open Pantry [would help the] neediest," he added.
Cignoli urged those who can't make it to the event to donate whatever they can to The Open Pantry.
Jam 4 Springfield will rock The Paramount, 1700 Main St., on Nov. 3 at 8 p.m., with performances by FAT, along with The James Montgomery Band and The Spampinato Brothers (of NRBQ).
To order tickets, visit http://jam4springfield.com/purchase-tickets/
or call 877-725-8849.