To create a strong independent music scene, a city the size of Pittsburgh requires venues, of course, but also bands, record labels, radio stations and record stores.
Friendship resident Karl Hendricks has been involved in all these aspects for three decades -- from his early Peas Kor label and WPTS-FM radio show, to the long recorded history of his legendary rock trio (including several releases on Merge, the label of Arcade Fire and Spoon) to saving Bloomfield indie bastion Paul's CDs from closing by reopening it in 2012 as Sound Cat Records.
Those who wish to donate to Karl Hendricks go to: giveforward.com/fundraiser/j805/help-karl-hendricks.
As such, Mr. Hendricks has a legion of loyal friends and fans willing to come to his aid. Prominent among them is Dan Allen, who assembled a benefit show for him this Friday at the Brillobox in Bloomfield. To sum it up, Mr. Allen explains, "Karl has oral cancer. He's working hard to get better, although it's going to be a long healing process."
The benefit helps cover the substantial portion of Mr. Hendricks' bills not covered by insurance, as does a Give Forward site (similar to Kickstarter but for nonprofits) set up by Jon Solomon, head of Mr. Hendricks' current label Comedy Minus One, which raised $34,000 to date.
"Within a day, we exceeded our initial $10,000 goal, and there's been 420 individual contributors so far," beams Mr. Solomon. "We completely 'George Baileyed' Karl to show how much everyone appreciates him."
Mr. Allen's efforts also gelled quickly, spurred by his friendship with Mr. Hendricks since 1989. "I moved to Pittsburgh from Erie that year, and found Karl's solo cassette at Dave Martin's mobile store in [defunct Wilkinsburg venue] the Sonic Temple. My band Thumper practiced at the [South Oakland] Juliet Street house where Karl lived. [Thumper's] Tom Hoffman and Tim Parker joined Karl's early Trio, while Brian Welcker was in Sludgehammer [which also included Ian Williams, later of Don Caballero and Battles] with Karl. He's been a good friend and I've always been a fan of his music."
After Mr. Allen's initial legwork, the benefit went "from zero to done" in one week as artist Mike Budai agreed to do a poster, local signed bands Carousel and The Gotobeds jumped on, and the remaining ex-members of Seattle indie icons Silkworm came on board: Tim Midyett and Andy Cohen [more recently of Bottomless Pit] and Joel R.L. Phelps [now of Northern Spy band Dama/Libra with Stuart Dahlquist of post-metallers Asva].
Following on that event's heels is a literary reading next month at Garfield gallery Modern Formations, organized by poet Jason Baldinger, who is running Sound Cat Records while Mr. Hendricks recuperates. The reading will feature a re-release of Mr. Hendricks' book "Stan Getz Isn't Coming Back" [in addition to his music, he has a master's in English and was an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh] and an anthology called "Good Noise: Poetry, Music and Pittsburgh" compiled by Kris Collins, fellow record store proprietor at Desolation Row (inside Oakland's Caliban Books).
The movement then spreads regionally with a Saturday night benefit at Columbus' Little Rock Bar starring members of Silkworm, Scrawl and Great Plains, and two weeks later on Oct. 3, the action moves to Easthampton, Mass., where Major Stars and Landing gather funds for Mr. Hendricks at the Flywheel space.
Mr. Solomon, who first discovered the Hendricks debut LP "Buick Electra" as a college radio DJ at Princeton's WPRB, isn't surprised by the outpouring, considering that Mr. Hendricks is also a "cool dad" who married his sweetheart Megan Balog and raised two daughters, Maeve and Nell. "I booked tours for the Trio in the '90s and we became friends. It's wild that Maeve's in college and I've known her since she was born."
Mr. Allen's own admiration for Mr. Hendricks' contribution to Pittsburgh's rich music history is boundless. "Being on Merge is no small feat, but keeping the doors open for Sound Cat as a huge resource of independent music of all types, bringing in records that don't show up anywhere else? Running a record store is an intense labor of love and that's a big reason to support him.
“But the older I get," he adds, "the more I understand that quality songwriting is what transcends the ages, and Karl is putting great songs out into the world, touching a lot of people's hearts in the process."