Friday, March 8th, on the North side of Chicago, almost but not quite directly across the street from Wrigley Field saw a night all about love. Love for Jerry Bryant, love for his creation, JBTV, which ranks the longest running music television program in the US. And by extension love for all those fighting or have fought cancer. Love this night was expressed by two words, “Fuck Cancer.” A chant repeated multiple times throughout one of the city’s most famous music venues, Metro.
Jerry Bryant founded JBTV in 1984 and since that time has been awarded Billboard Music Awards for “Best Local/Regional Alternative Modern Rock Show,” as well as numerous Emmy Awards. Performances are taped in front of a live audience and then broadcast. Green Day and Chicago’s own Smashing Pumpkins were among the countless acts who gained some initial exposure on JBTV. In fact, the latter band made its very first television appearance on JBTV.
On August 20, 2018, JBTV announced that its founder, Bryant, had been diagnosed with Stage 4 Colorectal Cancer. The diagnosis was followed by six months of chemotherapy. And so there was never any doubt that there soon would be a benefit for Jerry Bryant and this one was a joyous celebration of the man who has done so much for music. The MC for the night was Lauren O’Neil, Q101 personality. It was a night to give him thanks. Another chant heard throughout the night was “Jerry, Jerry.” And when the guest of honor took to the stage, he spent the majority off his time urging everyone to take care of their health, get their tests done and most importantly stay positive in the face of a cancer diagnosis.
Bryant urged everyone in attendance to make sure that last action was taken. He did spent his entire time on stage with a huge smile and as JBTV President Michael Harnett told me by email a few days after the show, “Jerry was thrilled by the turnout and the support of the Chicago Music community.” Harnett added his own take on the night, “It was a great evening and event, very pleased.” JBTV’s partner in making this night such a success was the event, Charity Bomb. Harnett of JBTV credited Charity Bomb with having “…produced the great event.”
A few days after the show I spoke with Charity Bomb founder Matthew Leone by email. In 2010, Leone, bass player for Madina Lake, was brutally assaulted in Chicago near his bandmate/twin brother Nathan’s apartment while attempting to help a woman being beaten by her husband. He suffered brain swelling, a broken jaw, a broken nose and a fractured skull, and was in and out of consciousness for several days. His attacker was later acquitted of the resulting attempted murder charge in a bench trial. Leone described the founding of Charity Bomb. “We launched Charity Bomb because I was severely injured a few years back was the recipient of the same magnitude of love and that we were able to procure for Jerry. In my case, the Smashing Pumpkins stepped up and did a benefit show at the Metro for me.”
The brothers Leone and their Madina Lake bandmates also performed at the benefit, and he also related to me the genesis of this particular event. “Greg from Kill Hannah contacted me and asked for help. This occasion exemplifies our purpose for existing, so it was in immediate yes. It should also be stated that Chicago is a very supportive scene. Everyone in the room was either friends or fondly aware of each other.”
After the benefit for Matthew Leone’s recovery, he was inspired to keep it going. “Subsequently we devoted our lives to giving back for that wonderful experience. We have done several shows in Los Angeles and have five in the calendar for a variety of causes and constituents. Namely our Strange 80s annual benefit for mental health sufferers in the music realm.”
Head below to check out our photos and rundown of the truly memorable night.
First and foremost, what was the reason this particular benefit for Jerry was called Strange 90’s? Because performers all played hits from the 90’s, mostly songs from other groups, in addition to some playing one or two of their own tunes. For example Plain White T’s Tom Higginson performed his own band’s smash hit “Hey Delilah,” he also performed “Buddy Holly” by Weezer, and was joined onstage by Darren Vorel of That Lying Bitch to share vocals on the Smashing Pumpkins’ hit “Today.”
Ours, with Matt Walker on drums covered Spacehog, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Soundgarden. Kontrolled Kaos covered Red Hot Chili Peppers and Foo Fighters. Marina City performed a very strong set but at least one tune was was a bit discomfiting: Michael Jackson’s ‘Black or White.” Around me, at the barricade I heard a few groans in my immediate vicinity and people asking each other if they has seen “THE documentary.” (Leaving Neverland.)
Among the other highlights of the night:
Chicago’s Kill Hannah performed another Smashing Pumpkins tune, “Cherub Rock.” There was a definite Pumpkins theme throughout the evening and the band, unable to be at the show, donated a signed print to be auctioned.
Kill Hannah also performed two of their own songs, “Welcome to Chicago,” and “Kennedy.”
Lizzy Plapinger shouted a stage name of hers, “ LXP” and ripped through hits by Le Tigre, Alanis Morissette, and Fiona Apple.
Marty Casey covered Stone Temple Pilots and gave a strong rendition of Green Day’s “Basketcase.”
Madina Lake, with aforementioned Charity Bomb-ers, the Brothers Leone, performed their take on a Smashing Pumpkins song, “Zero” and “March of Pigs” by Nine Inch Nails. Brittany Bindrim lent her vocals to help Jerry fight cancer. Local H had one of the longer sets, playing their own “Bound for the Floor,” Singer Scott Lucas was indeed bound for the floor of the venue, mixing in with fans, during a set which included “Creep,” by Radiohead, “Song 2,” by Blur; and “Nearly Lost You,” by Screaming Trees.
Immediately following Lucas was Andrew W.K. His one tune was his own, “Party Hard.”
The final act had the longest set of the night and is one of Chicago’s most legendary bands Naked Raygun. Highlights included: “Need You Around” by Smoking Popes, “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory” by Oasis, “She Don’t Use Jelly” by The Flaming Lips; “All the Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople with Local H providing back up vocals. “Suspect Device” by Stiff Little Fingers; NR’s own “Vanilla Blue,” again with Local H on backup vocals.
The final tally of proceeds is not at this time available, but watching heated bidding wars on at least some of the items which included a signed Riot Fest poster, Naked Raygun and Smashing Pumpkins’ posters, it’s easy to see how it was a very successful night. And a vintage Naked Raygun t-shirt which a man in the crowd actually took off his back for Jerry, fetched upwards of several hundred dollar.
However, Layne Staley Angry Chair per Michael Harnett of JBTV, “Was not sold as reserve was not met.”
So perhaps look for that item in a future benefit auction. If so, bring your wallet filled with cash or credit cards.
If you would like to help a Chicago legend in his fight please hit the link www.jbtvhealthawarness.org
As for Charity Bomb, Matthew Leone told me, “ We would like for your readers to know that we are so grateful for the opportunity to produce exciting events with major artists to benefit people in any aspect that we can. We have the great fortune of a network of high profile rock stars that have been so generous to our causes.”
Leone adds, “If anybody has a philanthropic need that we can fulfill please contact us; [email protected]”