Tomorrow night, one of Kingston’s best-loved holiday traditions kicks off its 24th annual fundraiser at Stages Nightclub. Since 1995, The Holiday Rock show, organized by former Weeping Tile bandmates Luther Wright, Sarah Harmer, and Sean Kelly, has raised well over $100,000 for local charities. Weeping Tile has reunited many times over the years just for the Holiday Rock Show, but this year, Wright and Harmer will act again as hosts, though fans can expect a couple of guest appearances with other acts throughout the evening.
“Sarah and I started it as a Weeping Tile thing, with Sean Kelly who was our tour manager at the time,” said Wright. “It’s big enough to keep it going, but small enough that we can run it on our own. The bands are great and very pro, everything runs smoothly and on time. We really try to emphasize the awareness of social services in our community, and to get people to think about those in need. It’s not just a Christmas thing, we want to make people aware of the charities that are working year-round.”
This year, the majority of the money raised will go to Dawn House for Women.
“They do really important work, providing housing services and a place to go for vulnerable women,” said Wright. “They just lost their Trillium Foundation funding and really need some extra help this year. We’re gonna give them a large chunk, and Martha’s Table will get some money too. Martha’s Table has been a big part of what we do for many years.”
The Holiday Rock Show has moved around to a variety of downtown Kingston venues over the years, from places as small as the Kingston Brewing Company to this year’s location, Stages Nightclub.
“We’ve done it in most of the bars around town, half of which don’t exist anymore,” said Wright. “Stages is a great venue, and it’s the only time of the year they get people older than 25 in there. We talked with them about having less Red Bull behind the bar and more red wine and some different cocktails. Paul and Steve at Stages really do us a solid, putting up with the all-ages thing. The Hub Group has been a great supporter over the years.”
This year’s lineup includes Deck The Halls with Balls & Kelly, a “supergroup” of local musicians fronted by Greg Ball and Sean Kelly.
“They’ve been the headliner for seven or eight years now,” said Wright. “This whole thing started as a ‘Weeping Tile and Friends’ gig, but Weeping Tile stopped playing in 1998, though we kinda perpetuated the myth for a few years, really only doing the holiday show. Now these guys take the headlining spot, with lots of guests, and really bring in the party crowd. It’s a lot of fun.”
Rounding out the lineup are Piner (“a little junior folkie”), Fraze, Bad Germs (“they’ll bring the punk rock vibes”) Kris & Dee with their full band, Bloom (“it’s their 25th anniversary”), with Deck the Halls closing the show with a few guests, including Wright (“Who wants to hear someone sing on key when they can listen to me?”) and Sarah Harmer. The bands all donate their time, meaning almost all the money raised goes to the charities.
“It’s pretty expense-free,” says Wright. “We shove all the money and cheques in a manila envelope at the end of the night, then we take it to where it needs to go the next day. Especially with Dawn House, they do such great work. I wish we could raise $500,000, but we’ll probably do $10,000 or so.”
Next year is the 25th anniversary of The Holiday Rock Show, and Wright plans to start work on it almost immediately after this year’s edition wraps up.
“I really want to do something special,” said Wright. “It’ll be 25 years, and I want us to hit it out of the park.”
Doors open at 7:30, the show starts at 8 pm. It’s an all-ages event. Advance tickets are $25 and available now online through Ticketweb or at Zap Records (340 Princess st), The Brass, Stages, or The Ale House.