Smile Politely

Many Gifts for Kora

A Gift for Kora, regalo por korazon, played out this past Thursday at Mike ‘N’ Molly’s. The benefit show brought together Kayla Brown and Mike Ingram, Ryan Groff, Amiel Rysdahl & Kevin Cory, the Evil Tents, and Take Care. It gave the musicians and bands a relaxed and fun atmosphere to entertain the appreciative audience and show support for Annie Ferguson’s daughter Kora. Even though their sets where short, the fairly diverse group of musicians gave of themselves in the best way they know how, by making sweet sounds.

The Two of Us

The crowd started gathering around 8:15, old friends meeting up after a long absence, new friends being made, the uninformed wandering in not expecting anything other than a night of music. The musicians came, giving of their time — close-knit community coming together to help one of their own. Family members, friends, strangers, regulars, Kopi-customers, all came together to enjoy the music these musicians and bands provided.

The bands created a palette for the night, each performance layering on another level, each band expanding the mood of giving, providing the atmosphere that allowed Annie to be remembered, that allowed Kora to be taken into their hearts, that allowed a family to see the public expression of grief and healing.

Kayla Brown & Mike Ingram started off the music for the evening, giving a joyous rendition of the Beatles, “Two of Us,” allowing their voices to blend into a healing melody. They continued their set with favorite songs that allowed their soothing vocals to wrap around each other’s sound, pushed along by simple guitar rhythms. There was even a coming together of old friends, so to speak, with Michael Murphy joining the duet for a rendition of Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds.” “Kayla is going to pick out a song I’ve never sung before and I’m gonna sing it,” said Murphy.

Ingram produced some old CDs and offered them up for donations. “Any money thrown down for the CDs is going into the pot.” They also led the charge of giving Anna Marks a round of applause for putting the show together. Great music, playful banter, and a helluva way to start the show.

And then Charlie Chaplin walked into the bar

“Did you see Charlie Chaplin downstairs? Really, he’s here. I hope he comes up. I’ve seen him and I want him to see me.”

Elsinore member Ryan Groff took the stage next, accompanying himself on guitar with a set that provided an appreciation of his songbook and featuring songs that gave a frame for his wonderful voice.

“It’s good to be here, a pleasure to be asked,” Groff said between songs. “There’s lots of great music up here tonight. I’m happy to be part of it.”

By himself, showing off his vocal and songwriting range, Groff created a rich atmosphere of sound. He was able to fulfill a request by Annie’s father, Mr. Ferguson, to play the Beatles “Blackbird.” “I have a very special request, I’m happy to play,” he said, launching into the familiar song. He made it his own, giving it a prayer quality that Groff allowed to continue through his next song, “Life Inside an Elephant.” He told the audience it was about “being kidnapped and turning the tables on said kidnappers.”

He rounded out his set with a strong “The Thermostat and the Telephone,” that is, Groff said, a “love song of sorts. A song about when you love someone so much you need to stay away.”

Groff’s set demonstrated what the musicians felt about playing the benefit. “It’s so good to be here, part of this great night,” Groff informed the crowd before he left the stage. A volley of “Thank you Ryan!” from the crowd ushered in his last song, an epic showcase about living in the Midwest, “Landlocked.”

Love is Good

“Alright everyone, give it up for Anna Marks. That’s love right there,” Kevin Cory provided the audience with another opportunity to show more love. Cory and his musical partner Amiel Rysdahl played together for the first time this night and continued the musical karma with a very tight set. Cory brought a little funk while Amiel brought the jazz, with a voice that’s almost operatic in its range. Even though it was only the two of them, they gave the allusion of a full band.

After his set, Cory said that he and Amiel are roommates who talked about playing together for some time; this benefit provided them with an opportunity to do so. There was a control in their voices that allowed them to blend together, playing off one another’s style. During the a cappella “Love Again,” their voices held together the mood, rising together in a rough crescendo that was felt as much as heard. Their set also included “Save Me,” their most straight forward rock ballad. Their entire set showcased Rysdahl’s powerful vocals, with Cory showing off his musicianship on several instruments. This is a duet to watch out for. As Kevin said at the end of his set, “Love is good.”

This is for a beautiful cause

The musicians and bands gave not only their time, but their heart for the cause. This was evident in the set put together by Evil Tents. “Thanks for coming out tonight everyone. Good vibe tonight.”

The good vibe was pushed along with a spacey warm-up, showing off the bands chops and setting the pace for the rest of the set. The pop crunch of “Etienne” allowed the band to get straight to business. “John Brown’s Body” shook the floor with “Night Air,” ending their set with a full on rocker.

“It’s nice to see you out on Thursday. You’re here for a good thing.” The band, in-tune with each other, brought the audience along for the ride, as wave after wave of sound filled the space and filtered out over Market Street. Their offering — the pleasure of rock, the clash of guitars, a heady thump of bass — provided the benefit a kick into a higher stratosphere of giving.

Finishing a beautiful night

“She’s here in style,” said Marks before the show started. Annie’s sister Kim wore a pair of her shoes (zebra striped heels) and her mom wore a heart shaped necklace of Annie’s. Small touches of love were evident throughout the night — the gestures small, but their meaning significant.

Take Care, the last band of the night, provided the closing of the benefit show, but it wasn’t really the end. The band members took the stage silently, individually, building up the sound, each member joining in. Playing the part of the space-induced jammer, the band members became one. Wrapped up in their music, extending their jam session, inviting the audience on a journey to out there. They kept playing, song after song, allowing the audience to drift along, leaving promises of a continued journey with new friends, old acquaintances, beloved family.

A proper ending

The audience, musicians, and band members were extremely generous for Kora, the beneficiary of the group’s efforts. Plenty of people came out specifically to support the Ferguson/Stamos family, some just came out for the music — all participated in the group karma that was sparked by Anna and Isaac’s hard work and dedication, and nurtured by the musicians and bands. Marks said the benefit was a fantastic event with a great turnout and the family was moved by the show of support. In an email sent the next day to the participants, Arms said, “It’s all well and fine to play a nice drunken night at Mike ‘N’ Molly’s, but I haven’t felt so gratified as a musician, or proud to be a member of this community, as I was last night. Everyone’s love and compassion transformed a sad occasion yet a jubilant celebration.”

Corazon means “heart.” On this night, the music scene in C-U proved how big their collective heart is.

Contributions can still be made to the Korazon Ferguson Fund in care of First Federal Savings & Loan, 1311 S. Neil St., Champaign, IL 61821.

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