Interviewee: Jonathan Resh
Interviewer: Ivan Osorio
Date: April 13, 1993
0: Today is Tuesday, April 13, 1993. I am interviewing Jonathan Resh. First of all,
the main point of the interview is the two benefit concerts you organized for St.
0: How did the whole thing get started?
R: The whole thing got started because I am in a band called Spoke, in which I play
guitar and sing. We play a lot of benefit concerts for a lot of other people -
everything from literary magazines to the North Florida AIDS Network to political
parties on campus all sorts of people. I realized after having promoted shows
myself and just basically for the interests of Spoke, I realized how easy how it is
to put on a benefit, basically having a show with a lot of bands. In our benefit the
first time, we had, I think, seven bands and the second time we had five. All of
the money that was made by the admission price went to a single organization or
association of some sort. Then what wound up happening was, I realized that
sometimes benefits did not make that much money, simply because with so
many benefits going on in a week, the market for concert-going gets rather
saturated. So I thought of what my main interests were in helping people what
I would want to put a benefit on for. I did not want to make it something too
political, because political causes often end up in stratifying a lot of people, and
there is a lot of questionability as to how far you will go. [The question is,] where
[will] the money go if you are fully behind a political cause, so much so that you
will represent that cause by putting on a concert for it. So even some things,
some basic human rights causes, I would have done a benefit for had I not found
the St. Francis House and decided to go with it.
My basic rational was that everybody has been hungry once in their lives and
that being the richest country in the world, it is a travesty that there is still
malnourishment existing within our country. Nobody should be without food in
this country. That is all there is to it. That sounds simplistic, but is something
that I am very adamant about. There are still people, especially in rural areas,
who are not getting the sort of food that they need, as well as people living in
urban cities who will not get the food they need, because they go into shelters
that are basically hostile to them as human beings and to their lifestyles. The St.
Francis House is a community-based soup kitchen and counseling center and
shelter. I really did not know much about it until I had done a reporting story on
them for a class. I realized that if we did a benefit in which people did not
actually pay money but brought food an admission price being two cans of
food that would generate a lot of food. Of course, a lot of the bands that are
playing in these benefits are underground rock and roll bands, and money is not
the main objective to them. Some nights they will play for fifteen dollars and not
really blink an eye. So if they are guaranteed a good crowd, a good cause, and
playing with other bands that were their friends, many of them would do it. The
first time we got seven bands. The line-up was I think was Postage Paid, Words
Worth, Spoke, Bomb Shell, Radon, Grinch, [and] I think that is it. Maybe it was
six bands. I think there was one more; I just cannot remember.
It was a place called Club Velvet, and Club Velvet said that they would not take
any admission price at the door unless people did not have cans. So it was
either two cans of food or two dollars, and it could be any canned goods. What
wound up happening was people were bringing whole bags of food rather than
two cans, because it was really easy just to take two cans of green beans or
creamed corn or something off the shelf and walk in with it. Those who did not
have the food we charged two dollars, and that went to the St. Francis House.
About 600 people showed up and absolutely packed this little Club Velvet, which
held about 200 people safely.
0: Club Velvet is on Main Street about half a block north of University [Avenue].
R: Yes. We got all sorts of food. We got a lot of food that would not go bad, like
dry goods, pasta, and things like this. But overall, by the end of the night, we
accumulated about 1,500 canned goods and $150 all for the St. Francis House.
There was one other really beneficial thing about it, and this is more on the
sentimental side, not the pragmatic side.
0: Just one thing, do you remember the date?
R: March 25, I think. It was on a Saturday, I believe.
0: Was it 1992?
R: It was 1992; it was this last year. It was that spring, which meant a big deal
because it was at a really good time. It was about a month and a half before final
exams. It was that time a lot of people want to go out. It was just wonderful,
because people were also there, like local magazine publishers, and local record
distributors. Everybody was sort of selling their wares and being very politically
aware and conscious of the problem of hunger in Gainesville. It is a bigger
problem than I think people realize.
But as I was saying, more on the sentimental side, it was good to see that people
were bringing these cans, and they knew that unlike money, these cans were
going to be eaten by people who needed them. There was more of that bond of
giving and charity, rather than just cold hard cash that could go into a million
places; it could go into the promoter's pocket. They were literally feeding people
who needed this food. So that was really good. The club helped out a lot. They
just gave us leeway to do basically whatever we wanted, and there were no
problems with security or anything like that.
The St. Francis House was very grateful. They were so grateful that the second
time we had a benefit, they asked that we not [ask for] food again, because they
had all of the canned goods that they needed; they did not have room for any
more. We said, "OK. If we don't do food again, what are we going to do?" We
wanted to stick with the idea of bringing something rather than cash although
cash was good, too but bringing something that we give straight to the people
who needed it.
So we talked to the St. Francis House [staff] about other things to do this was
in the fall; I believe it was in October and about other things that people could
bring and what they needed. They said, "Well, you know, a lot of people come in
here, and they are in kind of bad hygienic shape. They need to shave, they
need to shower, they just need to look better to get a job. We could use hygienic
stuff." So I was thinking hygienic products.
Well, what wound up happening is, in October, we held the second benefit at the
Covered Dish on Second Avenue, where people brought two hygienic products.
This ranged from anything toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, deodorant,
shampoo, soap, brushes, toilet paper, tampons, [or] anything that they wanted to
bring. It had to be brand new [and] unopened. Either they could bring that or
three dollars. We had five bands play, and it was just as successful. It is hard to
determine exactly how many products we got, because they were in these huge
boxes and it is tough to say, because I am not going to go through each one of
them the next day and actually look. I think there were five big boxes, like
dishwasher-size boxes, of hygienic products which is rather an odd sight -
actually, full of deodorant and all of this other stuff, but it went straight to the St.
Francis House and they were very happy about it. Some people still brought
cans, some people brought other things like towels and stuff, which, of course,
they really needed too. They also made some more money I think it was $300
from people who did not bring anything and just paid to get in. It was
something like that. I am not really sure how much that was or how many people
came exactly. It was around the same number, maybe 500.
Basically that worked out really well. I am not sure how we are going to do it in
the future. It does take a toll on you somewhat, because getting all of the bands
together, scheduling them, persuading the clubs to do it without any money ([by
telling them] they would make enough money at the bar). [Also] organizing
things with the St. Francis House or whoever the people are in which they have
to pick up the surplus profit, in this case, food and hygienic products. It takes a
toll on you, putting up fliers, designing fliers, all sorts of things. We have public
service announcements in the radio and newspaper and these sorts of things. It
wound up working out very well. It was among the most gratifying and satisfying
things I have ever done.
0: Tell me something about the actual logistics of organizing this thing. What was
the first step?
R: It is not as difficult as it may seem. The first step was just coming up with the
idea and talking to other bands about it. That was a first step, thinking we want
to do it not using cash as much as the raw product of food or hygienic products,
and here is who we want to do it with. After calling the St. Francis House and
making sure it was okay with them (they were very enthusiastic about it), or
whoever you are doing it for, if you are doing it for cash, I would recommend
calling the organization immediately and getting a good rapport with them. When
you are dealing with cash, things are different. People want to be much more
efficient, tight, and organized with their cash, because they do not want to lose
anything. You have to be very straightforward as to where the money is going,
because sometimes the clubs will take some money at the door because they
need to, in order to stay open. [They have] to pay the rent. Luckily these two
clubs that we did it at did not have to take money at the door; they were willing to
just leave the doors open and collect the food.
The second step was finding the clubs to do this. The two clubs that we used
were very into it, mainly because it made good publicity for them. People would
be out on these nights. In the case of the first club, they did not have an alcohol
license, and they got an alcohol license just for that night because they knew
they would make a killing. And they did. They made a killing at the bar.
The next step was just organizing the bands. No band wants to play first and no
band wants to play last. Then just make sure that each band plays a half hour;
[you have to] enforce that. The next step is finding people to collect the food and
drive the food around, making sure that it is in a proper place or that it did not get
in the way and things like that.
0: Who did that?
R: We just basically recruited people. People volunteered. They said, "We'll do
this." At the first place, Club Velvet, it was less of a club and more of a hole in
the wall. People stood at the door and took the food from each person. They
were also checking I.D.s. It was such a loose club that the management was all
behind the bar, and nobody was up front. So, people under twenty-one were
checking I.D.s for people over twenty-one. It was just one of those situations
where we found a space that let us do this, and we took over from there. It was
a very do-it-yourself sort of ethic, which I prefer. Had it been at a very big
professional rock and roll entertainment center, a night club, or theater that has a
lot of business ethics and transactions, it probably would not have worked so
well because they want to see some money out of it. We were not interested so
much in making the club money as we were in getting food for St. Francis and
into people's mouths.
Then [the next step includes] designing a flier, putting up the fliers and getting
people to put up the fliers, [and] writing public service announcements. These
are for both the print and broadcast media.
0: What were these?
R: I think it was just a radio station. I gave it to somebody at the public service TV
station. Supposedly they got it on there.
0: At WUFT?
R: Yes. Supposedly they got it on there. I never saw it. I do not think I even heard
any of them, but other people did and they told me it was on there. So that was
fine by me. [The last step is] just working with the St. Francis House and getting
all of the cans and hygienic products over there. If you are doing cash, like I said
earlier, you want to make sure from the start that you know where the cash was
going at the end of the benefit: how much they were getting in terms of whether
it was a percentage of the door or if they were getting all of it. You also have to
let people know if you are doing it for another organization, that if nobody comes
out for the benefit, which is a real possibility, especially if you are doing it on a
weeknight, that it is not the band's fault, the promoter's fault, or the organization's
fault. It is just that crowds can be very fickle. They can be very picky. The fact
that ours is basically free, that you just have to take a couple of cans off your
shelf and come and see a lot of music, I think helped out with the crowd
situation. A lot of people were enthusiastic about a free show and helping others
out in Gainesville.
The other thing was that, as opposed to making money for an organization like
Care or something where all of the money is going to Somalia not that I am
against worldwide relief, quite the opposite; I think it is a very necessary thing for
our nation to do but if there are hunger and problems in our own backyard, I
want to take care of that first. That is just how I feel about it. I do not want some
sort of corruption from within our own society to be causing more problems for us
than the problems with population outside of ours. Obviously we have to come
first in order to ensure our survival, if nothing else than to be sure that we can
continue worldwide relief to other countries. This is my opinion. Anyway, that
was my rationale for doing it.
0: OK. Now, let me ask a little bit about yourself. When were you born?
R: September 15, 1970.
0: You are in what year at UF?
R: I am a senior at UF and graduating in two weeks in May. So I will be a
graduate of UF in 1993. I am going to be working at the University writing press
material for a little while, probably for a year, before I venture out and pursue my
career in the real world which will revolve mainly around print journalism, writing
and copy editing and all of these things I have studied for four years in the
College of Journalism and Communications.
I am originally from New York, Kentucky, and Orlando, Florida. I have moved
around a little bit in my life. I have been in this band for two years. We have a
couple of records out, and it has been an enormous catalyst for all sorts of
creative projects and constructive things. I have worked on the Independent
Florida Alligator newspaper, on Orange and Blue magazine, [and on] various
underground rock and roll magazines. Outside of that, that is a basic description
of my life that one needs.
0: So you are going to hang around Gainesville for a year then?
R: Yes, it is not so much hang around.
0: I mean you are going to work here.
R: Yes, I am going to be probably working two or three communication jobs. This is
what I am really trying to get, I am working on it right now. In order to put my
diploma to work this is a very big thing with me it is sort of a transitional
period for me to work and to look nationally at what else is out there while I am
still here. I love this town, I absolutely do; it is my favorite town in Florida by far,
and I am not in a real big hurry to leave it, if I can help it. If there is a better job
opportunity in Atlanta or Chicago or some place, I would definitely go.
Gainesville does not have enough power over me to keep me here, but I like this
town enough that with these jobs that are in my field that I have been schooled
in, they can keep me here basically.
0: As long as you are here, you are going to try and have another benefit or
anything like that?
R: That is a good question. It partly depends on how long the band continues. The
band may not continue for a while, because there are three of us in this band
and we are all very good friends. But we all have other lives to lead beside it,
and we have gone much farther with this band than we ever hoped or dreamed
that we would. Now we have other things to move on to, and we sort of want to
end it on a high note. [We want to] end it with a bang rather than a fizzle; [we
want to quit] while we are still ahead. We realize that we do not play the music
that is going to make us hundreds of thousands of dollars, that is going to be
played and is extremely popular all over the nation or all over the world. We
realize our limits, but we have also surpassed those limits. We seem to draw
enough people to buy our records to leave us surprised to say the least, so we
really want to end it on a good note. If I am still in the band, I doubt I will put on
another benefit, because being in a band and being in the benefit and playing in
that benefit is really taxing. If I am not in a band, I would be happy to put on
another benefit, because then all my energy could go towards promoting it,
making sure that the bands have a good time, that the club is happy with it, and
most of all, that the organization gets as much as they can out of the benefit.
So, "possibly" is my answer.
0: [Do you have] any final comments or anything you would like to say to anybody?
R: As far as closing comments?
0: Yes, and what would you say to anybody who is thinking of doing this sort of
thing if you do not continue.
R: OK, as far as doing this sort of thing, I think it is great, I think you should
absolutely do it if you are considering it. It is not that difficult, it just takes a little
bit of commitment meaning three weeks of commitment and it does not take
up all of your time, and it is not that much of headache. If you are interested in
doing it, give me a call at 338-1489. I will tell you the absolute exact logistics, of
who to call and how to get it together.
As far as just final comments, one thing that we all feel and I think this is just a
result of the very technocratic age that we live in is that we have no control
over the society in which we live in, and that we are unable to change it for the
better at all. To some degree I still believe it, but my main point is that you can
find alternatives and options and new ideas in how to change things. This
benefit concert in which we ask for food in order to admit people so that they can
rock out and then have that food go to people who need it, is not something that
I would have thought of very long ago. But over the while, when I realized that
there was a need for it, you become aware that you want to do something that
will fill that need that is innovative, creative, and original. I would say do not look
for the same avenues of change that we have been relying upon, especially in
the past ten years. The 1990s is a very interesting decade, and now is the time
that people can really experiment with changing things and new ways, and using
new ideas to try to help people and lessen the pain, harm, suffering, and
basically the inefficiency of our government and our society that still lingers on
when it should not and when it can be altered.
0: With whom did you talk when you called the St. Francis House? What was their
R: The guy you want to talk to is Bob Tancig. He is a great guy. When we first
called, a darling old woman answered the phone I forget her name but she
answered the phone and we told her the plan, and at first. .
0: She was a volunteer.
R: Yes. At first she really did not get it, and she was asking, "What kind of concert
is this? What sort of bands are you?" We said, "Well, basically ma'am, we are
punk rock bands." She said, "Punk rock bands want to do a concert for us?
Punk rockers are going to donate cans to us?" She was totally perplexed, and it
was just really funny. I really grooved on the whole kind of dichotomy of the
thing, because there is one image that is very set in people's minds of what a
punk rock concert is and what punk rock people are like. Not to get too heavy
into this, but basically the reality of it is that most of these people who were
involved in this, whether punk rock or not, are just very caring, very concerned,
and very cool people with a great sense of humor and a great sense of
generosity, as well.
The St. Francis House was kind of taken by this, but they loved it. They thought
it was a great idea, and they said they all would have come, except that it was
too late because they close their doors at 10:00 and they have to go to bed and
the concert does not start until midnight well, that is not true but both of them
went on until 4:00 in the morning.
0: They have to open really early in the morning.
R: Yes. They have to open really early. They do a hell of a job. Just as far as
centers go, in small towns or large towns, if you compare the St. Francis House
to centers in large towns, they do a much better job, they are much more caring
and much more hospitable. In large towns, in New York City or in Washington,
D.C. or Detroit not that there are not caring people there they just have so
many problems with stealing and violence and drugs.
0: It is more difficult.
R: It is more difficult when it is on a larger level. Of course, there are even better
shelters in these larger cities, too, that are just amazing. Some of them get an
enormous amount done, and they do incredibly good things. I am not a person
who is a zealot about social work. I am not a sociology major. I do not lobby for
these things. It is just I feel there is a very pressing need in the interest of the
most basic human rights to get people fed who are hungry, to get people who
need help to get up on their feet. That is basically it.
[End of the interview]