By Michael Aushenker
Think of it as an urban hoe down to help the homeless.
After a two-year hiatus, the Venice Concert for Hope — part of an ongoing fundraising efforts to involve beach community musicians in the cause — returns Friday night at Good Hurt, featuring a plethora of local acts.
Proceeds support the St. Joseph Center in Venice, a support and resource center for homeless men, women and families.
St. Joseph board member Randy Wooten, who organized the first Venice Concert for hope at the now-defunct Air Condition lounge, has this time enlisted the help of Derek Brandon Walker.
Walker is executive chef of St. Joseph’s Bread and Roses Café, a restaurant that provides gourmet, multicourse meals to homeless in people in need.
It’s an interesting career move by a guy who would be welcome in many a commercial kitchen, especially after winning the Food Network reality show contest “Chopped.” Walker started out in the business a line cook at The Wilshire in Santa Monica and Alain Giraud’s late restaurant Bastide and went on to work as a chef at Dutch Café in Culver City.
But seven years into helming Bread and Roses’ “fusion of Asian and Latin flavor profiles with classical French technique,” (and his own catering business, Commis, on the side) Walker is hooked.
“It’s a unique sit-down café. It’s not a soup kitchen. People make reservations through their case workers,” Walker said. Some 150 patrons each day receive a full meal that includes fresh fruit, salad, an entrée and dessert in a real restaurant setting that returns “dignity to folks that are disenfranchised, alienated by society as a whole and from their own families.”
With Walker and Wooten’s combined connections, the roster for Friday’s show evolved to include the Miles Kahlil Quartet, Sullied River, Samadhi and Vyas, the Christopher Hawley Rollers and the Johnny Stachela Band.
Christopher Hawley of the aforementioned Venice band said this year’s show offers a different lineup and venue, but “the same motivation to help St. Joseph Center in Venice do what they do.’
At St. Joseph Center, homeless people battling mental illness and addiction can get showers, access laundry machines, receive mail, receive hotel vouchers for family visits, search for permanent housing and obtain treatment for medical and mental health needs, Wooten said.
No fair-weather fan, Hawley sometimes answers Walker’s call for kitchen volunteers.
“I’ll get the call and go down and help,” said the singer-songwriter, who has “learned how grateful these folks are to have a nice meal and be treated with dignity and to make eye contact with people.”
Hawley, who regularly plays solo gigs at Basement Tavern on Main Street in Santa Monica, Prince O’Whale’s in Playa del Rey (every second Wednesday), and O’Brien’s Pub (every third Wednesday), also knows Wooten and Walker as musicians.
Wooten “has co-written a lot of our songs and he moonlights as a keyboard player. We’ve got a pretty extensive catalogue,” Hawley said.
Walker will also get a chance to show off his musical talents with the alternative rock band Fret a Stare.
The musician/chef has high hopes for future Venice Concerts for Hope.
“Our goal is to do it twice a year, to brand the name and have larger acts. It’s a great way to raise awareness and raise funds,” Walker said.
Hawley, whose roots rock, reggae and funk reflects interest in acts such as Johnny Cash, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Grant Green, Duane Allman and Little Feat (the latter’s keyboardist Bill Payne even played on half of his last album), said he generally writes and performs “songs about gratitude and optimism: stuff that makes people dance and bring some joy to the world.”
So dabbling in this kind of philanthropic effort makes perfect sense.
“It goes along with the music I’m trying to put out there. I feel that part of my goal is to uplift people through everything I do,” Hawley said. “Venice brings together this very diverse group of people who have really fallen in love with the place and its spirit. Music and art is such a huge part of it.”
St. Joseph Center presents “The Venice Concert for Hope: A Benefit for Homeless & Low Income Families,” from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday at Good Hurt, 12249 Venice Blvd. Tickets are $10. To learn more about St. Joseph Center, visit stjosephctr.org.
Concert keeps ‘Hope’ alive: A star chef and local musicians team up with St. Joseph Center to help the homeless
By Michael Aushenker