Music lovers unite! WBEZ, Suburban Unity Alliance and Harmonica Dunn have joined forces to sponsor the first annual Food Aid Festival to benefit the Oak Park Community Fridge, Beyond Hunger, A House in Austin, Austin Coming Together, Best of Proviso Township and the Westchester Food Pantry. Scheduled for July 22 and 23, the event features two locations and multiple musical acts.
“As we continue to grow and our work evolves, addressing food insecurity has become core to our mission,” said Anthony Clark, founder and director of Suburban Unity Alliance. “When families reach out to us it is generally related to food. Issues of equity are all interconnected and we want this event to support organizations doing wonderful work in our communities.”
Clark and Donnie Biggins, founder and talent buyer for Harmonica Dunn, hope to maximize concert attendance by keeping the event accessible both geographically and financially. As such, they are offering shows at two locations, one in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood and the other in Oak Park. Tickets for each day are affordably priced at $25.
Clark and Biggins, both OPRF graduates have music in common and have worked to ensure the Food Aid Festival will highlight artists from the communities the event impacts most. Day one of the festival will bring ticket holders to the Kehrein Center for the Arts, 5628 W. Washington Blvd in Austin, where The O’My’s with Wyatt Waddell and Kara Jackson are slated to take the stage.
“Friday’s event will have a more traditional structure,” said Biggins who is also owner of Golden Dagger in Chicago and the former head of music at FitzGerald’s Nightclub in Berwyn. “Kara Jackson is an artist from the Oak Park community, and it is a real honor to have them be part of the show.”
Jackson, an OPRF graduate, is an activist, author, and singer-songwriter who served as the third National Youth Poet Laureate from 2019-2020. Their performance at the Food Aid Festival’s Friday show comes in advance of dropping their debut album this fall. In 2020, Chicago Reader’s Gossip Wolf said Jackson’s “striking acoustic guitar melodies and tender singing go straight for the gut.” Notable Chicago based artists, The O’My’s and Wyatt Wydell will round out the evening with R&B sounds and meaningful melodies.
Day two ticket holders will be welcomed into School of Rock Oak Park, 219 Lake St, Oak Park, for a freer flowing afternoon and evening of live music. Artists including Mary Lane, FURY, Mikey Everything, Since96ix, Yomí, Trichomes and The School of Rock show team will perform between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Saturday July 23. Taylor’s Tacos will be at School of Rock on Saturday serving up their “street tocos for the soul.”
“I said yes right away, and I am excited to partner with the Kehrein Center for the Arts,” said Amy Renzulli, owner of School of Rock Oak Park. “When it comes to using music, art and food to help the community I am always going to raise my hand.”
Eighty-six-year-old headliner, Mary Lane, is a member of the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame and her first solo album in two decades, Travelin’ Woman, released in 2019 helped her earn recognition as “comeback artist of the year” by Living Blues Magazine. Lane was the recipient of the prestigious Koko Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Jus Blues Music Foundation last year. Expect her soulful and timeless voice to connect with the audience.
“We are excited and truly honored to host legendary blues singer Mary Lane,” said Renzulli. “We owe our rock and roll roots to groundbreaking musicians like her and her fellow blues musicians. We look forward to seeing the incredible line up of music and giving back to the community at a time when resources are stretched thin.”
The Saturday concert also boasts hyperlocal flair with performances by hip-hop artist, Oak Park native and LGBTQ activist, Mikey Everything and Austin based rapper, FURY. Sure to be a draw, FURY, standing for “finally understanding the real you” will bring her socially conscious themes to the stage; an artist and activist, she is focused on revitalizing Chicago’s West Side — her passion for community dovetails nicely with Food Aid’s mission.
Clark established Suburban Unity Alliance in 2016 and over the years addressing food insecurity has evolved to become a core issue the equity focused organization aims to address. Both he and Biggins hope Food Aid will become an important funding source for interconnected community organizations dedicated to hunger relief efforts this year and for years to come.