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.