Remember that Virtual LemonAid concert in May? Sure, you do. There were a number of livestreamed performances and recorded pieces from people like David Byrne and Buffy Sainte-Marie and Luke Bern Carr? A bunch of money was raised for the All Together New Mexico Fund and the Santa Fe County CONNECT Fund as relief for those affected by COVID-19? That concert? Do you remember?!
Well, it raised roughly $60,000, and it's happening again or, to be more precise, Tonic for the Times is happening, and it's brought to you by some of the same people.
"The theory behind it started out being fairly similar [to Virtual LemonAid]," says organizer Cyndi Conn, the former executive director of Creative Santa Fe. "What really sets this apart is that we ended up getting a documentary film crew that went throughout New Mexico and interviewed frontline workers, so we really got the stories about how hard they're working, what the days are like, that they essentially never leave the hospital in their minds."
Conn says the anonymous philanthropist behind the event wanted to celebrate such workers, but that any funds raised through the virtual concert will go to the Poeh Cultural Center which then, in turn, will distribute micro grants between $250-$700 to needy New Mexicans both on a first-come-first-served basis and by need.
"It's literally just show them a hospital bill, a house payment," Conn says. "We just want to give people as much money as possible."
But what about that lineup, huh? Well, performances are being filmed in both Nashville and closer to home, in Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return venue. On the music front, you'll find artists like blues legend Cedric Burnside, "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover" singer Sophie B. Hawkins, reality television darling turned country superstar Chevel Shepherd and more. Tonic for the Times includes a robust roster of locals as well, including Albuquerque indie rockers Prism Bitch, Taos duo Tan Cologne and Santa Fe's own Mike Marchant, aka Lightning Cult.
"There are two reasons why I'm participating," Marchant tells SFR. "The first is the important one—I want to be useful to my community by helping those in need and honoring New Mexico's health care workers. I'm very fortunate to not have had my life totally upended by the pandemic the way that many people have. If I can help feed people by singing songs in my living room, I will sing happily and loudly for whomever asks me to do so. The second reason is the somewhat selfish one—I made a record at home during the early days of lockdown, and I really want to play it live."
Marchant describes the new album as "spacey pop." So down.
New Mexicans have really been pulling together in artistic ways to support one another. This February, for example, AMP Concerts presents the virtual Food for Love event, an absolutely sprawling online show featuring Alejandro Escovedo, Ben Dickey, David Byrne, Eliza Gilkyson and tons more. Those raised funds will go to a variety of sources across the state, including hard-hit Indigenous areas.
Back on the Tonic for the Times front, expect celebrity appearances as well, including magician/comedian Pen Jillette, celebrated lover of all things New Mexico Bob Odenkirk, golfer Notah Begay and more politicians than one knows how to handle. The event goes live on Friday, Jan. 30 across its proprietary website and social media accounts and will run for 24 hours. While free, Conn encourages anyone who is able to donate. Afterwards, the website will live on and accept donations pretty much forever.
"We're really proud," Conn adds, "that we're not creating just another concert, but a true story of frontline workers."
Tonic for the Times
5:30 pm Saturday, Jan. 30
Food for Love
5 pm Saturday, Feb. 13