For the past four years, we have been lucky to be a part of a great music festival, Rock by the Sea. Even cooler than the fact that it’s a fun festival and we’ve become quite fond of the staff, other bands, and the festival attendees (it has a pretty loyal following and they return year after year, bringing new people with them every time), it’s a fundraiser for several Florida charities. Although the roster of charities that we support tends to fluctuate a bit, there are always the staples: The Pediatric Brain Cancer Foundation, Camp Sunshine, and the Down Syndrome Association of Tallahassee.
This year, the festival outgrew its original home of St. George Island and moved west to Panama City Beach I know, right? Because it’s all MTV Spring Break-ish, I haven’t actually been there since a senior field trip to the famed “strip.” I’m kind of okay with that—except that this experience broke my stereotype. And although I’m not sure that I’m ready to give Panama City Beach another shot in my spare time, it was a really fun trip and a nice change for our Rock by the Sea weekend.
One of the really cool parts about moving to Panama City Beach is that one of the new charities added to the roster this year was actually based in Panama City. The Anchorage Children’s Home is just over the bridge in Panama City proper and provides stable group housing for children and teens who have experienced abuse, severe neglect and runaways.
The Sarah Mac Band went to Panama City early so that along with Brian Fechino and Jackson Rohm, we could actually go to Anchorage and hang out with the kids, talk to them about what we actually do, and play a little music for them. Despite the fact that I’m pretty well versed in all types of music and could identify most artists and songs that I hear on the radio, I was not prepared for the barrage of requests for covers of Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert, Gretchen Wilson, and the Pistol Annies… and Carrie Underwood…. And Carrie Underwood… Did I mention Carrie Underwood? So instead, I sang backup harmonies for Jackson as he covered Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith (I did have to draw the line at Toby Keith—it offends every particle in my body to even say words that Toby Keith has made money off of, in spite of the fact that I idolize a guy who has written quite a few of his hits) and then later Brian and Charlie jammed to some Sarah Mac Band original songs that I got to sing.
We left and went back to the weird world of music festival-ness, but to my joy and surprise, as I was walking around the next night, watching some other bands before our set time, I ran into all of the kids coming in the gates. They got free VIP passes (along with the chaperones, RBtS ain’t no fool to let teenagers run wild at a music festival at an MTV Spring Break-ish club) to attend the festival as well. It was just kind of neat to see them in their world and then run into them again, seeing us in our world.
Anyway, they sent a thank you letter to Rock By the Sea not too long ago. I thought that it was really cool to know that on some level, what we do (entertaining, which on some level is just a really self-serving profession) makes a difference. So, I wanted to share.