Music

It’s a SMASH

Of hope and health care

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

When the group of community-minded musicians who formed Seattle Musicians Access to Sustainable Healthcare—or SMASH, as it is known—first appeared on the music scene, their goals were lofty, but they were smart enough to start small. Their long-term plan was to find a way to provide health care to the many musicians in the city who fall through the cracks of our current system.

That’s quite the objective, but any big job is really just a series of small tasks. So SMASH began by paving the way with the small stepping stones that would eventually lead to their desired destination. First step: ear protection.

As a mission directive, it was an insightful one. Everyone knows that hearing loss is a widespread issue among musicians and it’s one with solutions that are often not covered by insurance, even for those who have insurance. From there, they branched out into offering free and low-cost health care in a variety of forms, funding their efforts with a series of concerts.

It was a formula that was working and their plan to be part of the framework that helps musicians to lead healthy, sustainable lives that allow them to pursue their artistic goals was yielding positive, real-world results.

I bet you can guess what came next—yep, that’s right: then COVID hit.

It speaks to the bighearted nimbleness of SMASH that they immediately retooled their near-future objectives to figuring out how they could meet the needs of those in the music community impacted by the pandemic. Once again, they focused their resources on providing stopgaps where the cracks lie, from the beginning understanding that COVID would imperil not only the physical health of those it sickens, but also the mental health of, well, just about everyone in their network, and would disproportionately affect communities of color.

But without the live shows that have served as a funding source for them, there’s only so much they can accomplish. And given that their concerts have set a high bar for quality entertainment—they managed to get Mother Love Bone to reunite, after all—any livestream event they could conjure up would have to go big.

Again they proved themselves to be more than up to the task. At SMASH, they are not messing around.

On Nov. 22, SMASH will premiere “Songs of Hope,” a benefit that will feature the release of videos with what they’re calling “dynamic pairings of local musicians” who have performed songs of their choosing that imbue them with joy.

In keeping with everything SMASH does, the Songs of Hope lineup reads like a Who’s Who of Seattle’s music community (and one musician Bellingham lays proud claim to). Dave Matthews is teaming up with Tomo Nakayama. Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready (pictured) and the Black Tones will take on a U2 classic. The Head and the Heart, Allen Stone, and Whitney Monge have something up their collective sleeve. Guns N’ Roses alum Duff Kagan and Bearaxe’s Shaina Shepherd are cooking up a song. And because all musical roads cut through Bellingham at some point, Lupe Flores is bringing her skills to bear with Ayron Jones and Cameron Lavi-Jones.

That’s not all of the artists taking part in Songs of Hope—and I fully expect SMASH to add more local music luminaries to the list before it’s all said and sung. Should you want to see it for yourself—and given the dearth of our musical entertainment these days, this seems like the hottest ticket around—tickets are available online with a suggested donation of $10 for the whole song and dance. Should you want to donate more, SMASH has offered incentives at various levels. A hundred bucks gets you a T-shirt or poster with a Songs of Hope art designed by Victor Melendez, but SMASH isn’t here to shut anyone out, so if you find yourself sans money and still wanting to watch, you can join the audience for the bargain price of free.

Given that we are facing a statewide shutdown during the dark days of winter, times are hard. I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life, but I feel strongly that we can use all the Songs of Hope we can get.

For more information about SMASH and Songs of Hope, find them at http://www.smashseattle.org.

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