By CHRISTOPHER TREACY
The Coronavirus Pandemic has been rough for just about everybody, but folks that work in event-related fundraising have especially been feeling the squeeze. It was enough to make Rockin’ 4 Vets founder Jim Tirabassi reevaluate his sense of purpose.
But in the end, he doubled down: he’s got three music fundraisers to benefit homeless veterans scheduled through early fall.
Just before the late winter lockdown of 2020, Tirabassi was working with friend and Saugus native Dennis Moschella on a project to send ten Vietnam vets on a weekend ‘trip of a lifetime’ to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a.k.a. The Wall, in Washington D.C. The pandemic put the pair’s plans on hold for over a year.
Determined to see it through despite Murphy’s Law-style setbacks galore, Rockin’ 4 Vets finally produced its first gig of 2021 last month, starring John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. Tirabassi walked away knowing the ten vets would get their trip to D.C., but he was also burdened with some new knowledge that helped him get his fundraising groove back.
“During that show, the company that does our ticketing told me a rather disturbing story,” he recalled. “It involved a Vietnam vet who’d become homeless and was living in a shelter, but his wife was unable to reside there and was forced to make other, less-than-healthy decisions about where to live. They’ve since found housing together; not the greatest, but an improvement. But this story was very concerning to me since I’ve had a place to put my head at night and food if I’m hungry, even during the toughest times in my life. Our vets deserve better.”
If there’s one thing Tirabassi’s never short on, it’s talented musicians who are eager to help. The upcoming trio of shows will feature Boston co-founder Barry Goudreau’s band Engine Room (Sept. 25), James Montgomery Band’s 50th Anniversary show (Oct. 2), and revered Beantown ax-man Jon Butcher, with special guest Sal Baglio from the legendary Stompers (Oct. 9). All three shows will be outdoors at the Kowloon on Rte. 1 in Saugus.
“It’s been a privilege having been successful in the music business and being able to continue to write and perform new music,” Goudreau said of his latest project. “It’s also a privilege to be able to do what I can for the veterans who volunteered to serve our country and make it possible for the success I’ve enjoyed. I hope folks come out to these shows to support our veterans and enjoy an afternoon of rockin’ good music in a wonderful setting.”
For Tirabassi, however, getting to this point was a journey unto itself.
“During the 2020 shutdown, I debated the idea, purpose, and overall identification of my organization,” he explained, referring to the newly renamed Rockin’ 4 Vets — formerly V is for Veterans — which he’d founded some years earlier.
“I eventually came to the decision that I needed to identify a more specific set of causes to attempt to assist and to rename the organization to better reflect how, exactly, it raises funds. To that end, the name was changed to Rockin’ 4 Vets since all the events have been live concerts.”
Tirabassi has spent the better part of his adult years moving back and forth from the east coast and warmer locations, feeling the alternating pull of the private job market and his music industry connections, which date back to the 1970s.
“In the late 70s, while in L.A., I did some booking for Steppenwolf, The Grass Roots, and The Guess Who,” he said. “When I got back to Peabody, I started working on the production end of shows — sound, lights, and staging — for local and regional talent. To be honest, it was the kind of life you had to love since there wasn’t much money in it. I’d periodically leave it to take better-paying work and then feel like I was missing out on a hard-to-finger level of excitement. It must’ve come from taking pride in a job well done because I was pretty disconnected from the crowds. It was behind-the-scenes work.”
Tirabassi’s small-time production work eventually landed him bigger touring jobs with Foghat, Badfinger, The Outlaws, and others. The lure of being involved in the staging of live music has never left him, so it makes perfect sense that his fundraising endeavors would be rock’n’roll-related.
It also makes perfect sense that Boston-area blues legend James Montgomery would be involved. Montgomery has often used his music to raise funds throughout his long and storied career, beginning in the Vietnam era. His mother served in the Women’s Army Corps in Europe during World War II, and his father fought in Okinawa. Safe to say, the issues that face veterans returning from duty are at the forefront of his consciousness, and fundraising has been a facet of his music almost from the beginning.
Tirabassi and Montgomery have worked together on various projects since the 70s, and it was from their relationship the ideas behind Tirabassi’s organization initially came alive.
Joining Montgomery for his 50th Anniversary celebration on Oct. 2 will be gritty soul shouter Barrance Whitfield and former U.S. Senator/Ambassador Scott Brown on guitar.
“It’s always an honor to play with James Montgomery and his All-Stars,” Brown enthused. “I’ve been a fan for decades. I’m even more impressed with the amazing philanthropic work James does for our veterans. I encourage you all to come out to a great concert for a great cause. Come out and make a difference!”
Tickets for all shows are $35.00 in advance and $40.00 at the door, available individually or at a discount for a series package. They will also be offering VIP packages. For more details, click HERE.
100% of all profits from this series will go to area veterans organizations in the area dealing with the vets homeless crisis.
These are outdoor concerts. Gates will open at 1:00 PM, and music starts at 2:00 PM.