roots & wings.

A year ago, maybe more, I got a package in the mail.  It was a letter from an organization called Roots & Wings, asking for money, along with a brochure.

For a living, I write and design things like this – direct mail packages, designed to motivate people to act (usually by buying something).  I waffle back and forth as to whether this component of my career is rewarding or not, but I also know how to see right through these packages, to judge them for what they are: sales pitches.

This one, though, was striking.  It was about kids.  If you’re reading this blog and you’ve ever met me, or Sandy, you know how much time we spend with kids, and how important they are to us.  And so this one really hit a nerve.

It dealt with kids in the foster care system.  Not just any kids in the system, though – it dealt with the ones who have turned 18, and thus “aged out” of the system.

They’re adults now.  And so they should be self-sufficient.  Ready to start life.

These kids are 18 years old, and they haven’t been placed anywhere permanently.  They’ve been bounced around for much of their childhoods; rejected over and over, and never given the chance that most kids get – to learn, to plant themselves and become part of a community, to discover the things we all need to discover in order to bridge into adulthood.

It struck me that these are kids that nobody ever thinks of, and the system has completely failed them.

Right here in New Jersey, right in my backyard, this happens to hundreds of kids, every single year.

The brochure had quotes from kids who had been in this situation, who were encountering basic, everyday things that you and I take for granted, and were completely unable to cope.  Stuff like this:

“I need to get to the bank (it’s two miles away), the grocery store (it’s a mile away) and do my laundry (another mile in a different direction) I have to walk all these places. It takes so long to get things done.”

“I was invited to dinner at someone’s house and I’ve never eaten around a kitchen table before and I didn’t know what to do or say or where to look. I couldn’t wait to leave.”

I was reading these quotes, thinking of these poor kids, and realizing – these are not kids from some faraway place, they’re from right here – the same place I’m raising my own kids.

I read more deeply and I learned that nationwide, within two years of aging out of the foster care system, half these kids are unemployed, a huge percentage are homeless, and 25% are in jail.

Not once had it ever even crossed my mind that there were kids that the foster care system failed, who were no longer really kids anymore, who needed help transitioning to adulthood and self-sufficiency.

Who thinks of these kids?

I haven’t been able to stop thinking of these kids.

Dromedary Records is not making a ton of money.  It’s not making any money.  But it wasn’t designed to.  It was designed to put cool music into the hands of people who were interested in hearing it, to document creative and interesting and exciting underground rock music and help people find it.  It was designed to give bands a way to get music heard without having to sign some restrictive, oppressive contract with a brainless, heartless corporation.  It was designed to be an arts company, a hobby that was done out of love of music and respect for the people who create it and love it.

And now, it’s also a way to raise awareness about, and cash for, Roots & Wings, and the kids they serve.

So this week we’re going to announce a fairly ambitious idea, and I’m going to ask for you to help us.

The plan goes something like this:  We’re going to release six records – one a month or so – on CD or digital download.  And portions of the proceeds from each one will be donated by us directly to Roots & Wings.

On top of that, thanks to our friends at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, we will finally be hosting that mini music festival I’ve been threatening to put together – a two-day monster over the weekend of August 12 and 13, featuring some of the greatest bands in the NY/NJ area, plus one dynamite one from Massachusetts.  The proceeds from that benefit will also go to Roots & Wings (and you’ll be able to come down and meet some of the R&W staff, and learn how you can pitch in yourself and help even more).

These kids should not be in this situation.  It pains me to know that they are, and it should pain you, too.  These are kids.

How can you help?  Lots of ways.

First, you can buy the CDs.  You’ll be able to get each one individually, but you can also sign up and get them as a series, hand-delivered right to your door by an employee of the United States government.

Second, you can come to the benefit.  Come to all three segments – Friday night, Saturday afternoon, and Saturday night.  Plan your summer around it.  Plan your meals at Maxwell’s – they have a dynamite menu, and they’re the greatest people in the world.

Third, you can spread the word about this.  To as many people as you can.  Share it on Facebook, talk about it, post about it on your own blog, over and over and over again.

To me, indie rock is really important.  If you’re reading this, it probably holds some level of significance to you as well.  But these kids?  They’re really important.  And here’s a way to support a bunch of great bands, hear some fantastic music, and help a bunch of people accomplish something that’s so significant that it just can’t be overstated: you’re helping these people start their lives.

Soon we’ll announce the six CDs we’ll be releasing – starting with Speed The Plough’s great new CD Shine.  Speed The Plough – and their predecessors The Trypes, and their friends The Feelies – are among the bands that helped give birth to the indie rock scene in New Jersey.  They’re one of those bands that I’d heard about years ago, who were toiling amidst the Springsteen and Bon Jovi clones, creating interesting music and helping build a scene in Hoboken.  They’re one of the reasons I’m here, doing this.  I call them “indie rock royalty” because they are; they’re an eclectic band that creates home-spun music that is alternately (and sometimes simultaneously) beautiful, haunting, jarring, peaceful, noisy, gorgeously lush, mellow, trippy, and aggressive.  They have the ability to play a lullaby that wraps itself around you like a warm blanket, and they have the ability to shock you with a noisy passage that creates tension and feels unpolished, almost unfinished.  They combine the beautiful arrangements of a chamber pop band, the low-fi yet authentic approach of late 80s indie rock, and the celebratory charm of an ever-expanding group that allows their friends to sit in at any time, on any instrument, provided that they serve the song tastefully.

Speed The Plough is like a huge Thanksgiving dinner with the warmest, most welcoming family you can think of.  They’ve immediately embraced the Dromedary family, too – seems like they’re represented at all our shows, sharing Dromedary music with their friends on Facebook, effortlessly becoming part of the whole thing we do.  There couldn’t be a more fitting band to kick this whole thing off.

We’ll also be announcing the lineup for what we’re calling “Camelfest,” our mini music festival at Maxwell’s August 12 and 13.  Trust me on this one, you’ll want to be there for all three segments.  Every band is fantastic; the total lineup will amaze.

We’ll also be announcing how you can get a FREE sampler compilation of the six bands featured in our “Roots & Wings” series.

And we’ll also be sharing tons of information on Roots & Wings, and how you can help them by getting involved.

So please bear with me while I relentlessly hound you about this for the next six months.

Stay tuned.

~ by Al on July 6, 2011.

One Response to “roots & wings.”

  1. […] with music. Al will tell it better than I do, so please – please – check out his post: roots & wings. « dromedary records – history of a micro-indie. And if you care about this cause, consider joining Dromedary in their efforts to do some good as […]

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