As everyone knows, the entertainment industry is littered with stories of excess and debauchery, and these tales extend from those with superstar status to the grassroots level. From the destruction of hotel rooms to limos outfitted with hot tubs to band members each traveling in their separate tour buses, we have all heard about the resulting effects of the vacuum of stardom. In the wash of these urban legends and anecdotes, it is often the altruistic ventures of our musical heroes that go overlooked, and it is of no surprise as we live in the age of sensationalism and shock journalism. But alas, these acts of charity are often the conditions that remind audiences that aside from the glam and fanfare, these artists are people too, and at the core share the same soul as the rest of us and the words they have sung are not mere lip service to humanity but are meaningful and true to their own and the shared perspective.
Last week, the people of Fort Collins, Colorado had the opportunity to witness the other side, the human side, of entertainment through the lens and talent of the jam-infused amalgam of The Contribution. Comprised of members from Railroad Earth, New Monsoon, ALO, Great American Taxi, and The Black Swan singers, this supergroup of musical aptitude came together for a three-night Colorado run to release their latest album, Wilderness and Space. This album, a follow up to their debut release, Which Way World of 2010, reflects that the outlook among these players falls outside of the formula of most groups, where producing a recording and supporting its sale through touring is typically the end result. Instead, the band decided to repurpose the approach with the perspective being on serving others, contributing as it were, rather than serving themselves. Starting in late 2017, The Contribution released single tracks periodically, in digital format only, and offered those who wanted to own the music the opportunity to give back in their own way. For every $ 0.99 digital download, the group would donate the money to a specific charity and for each of the seven tracks, the charity was different, including The Rex Foundation, Conscious Alliance, HeadCount, Rock The Earth, The Delaware Riverkeeper Network, The Breast Cancer Emergency Fund, and The Piedmont Land Conservancy.
The characteristic way the band tours also sets itself outside the norm. The Contribution is not a band that is out to play every major market and reach every listener but is more a communion of friends, sharing a musical language, and doing it for the fun of it. For example, outside of the three nights in Colorado, the band has no other dates on the calendar, and this sporadic play has been consistent since its inception of 2010, playing only a handful of shows annually to the lucky few who turn out to the intimate venues that house their exchanges.
For this particular night in the North Country of Colorado, The Contribution delivered a single 90-minute set to the intimate crowd of The Armory, a seated performance space at the edge of the historic Old Town District. Performing most of the new album, half of their freshman release, and a couple of covers, including Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams and The Rolling Stones Gimme Shelter, the tracks showed strong deliveries from each of the members and left the close of each tune filled with the warm applause of the audience asking for more. The performance as a whole was tight and well-executed, which was a bit of a surprise due to the infrequency of this conglomeration, but then again not in light of the prowess of its parts.
Following the show, the band dispersed itself among the tables of the hall and took to conversation and exchanges with the audience, talking everything under the sun and signing autographs. Looking out at this final scene of the evening revealed that The Contribution that was given on this night was not one-sided, but rather exchanged, as old friends were hugged and new friends were made for both the audience and the band. It must be mentioned that the omission of the who’s who that makes up this band was intentional, as it is not the celebrity or the association that makes these performances special, but rather the message and the community they spawn. In closing, if you see this band is coming to your area, consider yourself fortunate and do yourself the privilege of attending an evening of music that will remind you that we all have the opportunity to be a part of The Contribution we call life.