Free the Cynics, Danny Vacon, 36? and other local acts want you to Listen Up for the Calgary Distress Centre

It’s that time of year again. The time when those in need are more in the spotlight.

They’re always there, always in need, but now is the season where it either becomes more apparent or more important, and the number of fundraising events or initiatives rise considerably.

All of them strike a chord with people for different reasons, many of them incredibly personal, and, for Rich Paxton, his couldn’t hit closer to home.

Asking the local musician why he’s staging, for the fourth year in a row, the Listen Up concert to benefit the Distress Centre Calgary, his response is one that comes entirely from his heart.

“In 2007, my mom passed away,” he says, before clarifying. “She committed suicide in 2007.

“And then my younger brother attempted suicide a year later. He’s now in wheelchair. He’s a lot better now, but he was in a coma for a few months.”

He continues. “We were lost, my brothers and I … and we had support from friends and stuff like that, but there was never someone that I could go outside the family and open up about it to in a safe way where it was as comfortable as it could possibly be.”

So when he emigrated to Calgary several years ago Paxton was heartened to come across the Distress Centre, eventually volunteering for the 24-hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year crisis line (403-266-HELP or 4357) providing support and resources for those who need it and have nowhere else to turn.

“It’s still surprising how many people even now in Calgary are either unaware of the Distress Centre itself or all of the services it provides,” says Paxton, noting that, yes, it is a place where those contemplating taking their lives can turn, but it’s also a resource for those who are stressed out, in need of financial help, without shelter and suffering through a whole host of other difficulties that life can throw your way.

“There’s definitely a lot of problems that could be helped, maybe not solved, but definitely helped if (people) were more aware of the service.”

Especially in these trying times.

In 2016, Distress Centre provided support for 113,975 people and that number has, according to Paxton, risen this year.

The fact that it’s a free service that relies on donations means that it is one of the many charities that are definitely in need right now and, Paxton thinks, more than worthy of it.

That’s why for the fourth year in a row he’s organized Listen Up. All proceeds from the event, taking place this year on Saturday, Nov. 4 at Dickens, go to the Calgary Distress Centre with everyone involved donating their time and talents.

The musical portion of things will see Paxton’s band Free the Cynics performing along with other local heavy hitters from the local indie rock scene including 36?, Crooked Spies and The Wild Elms, with Danny Vacon kicking everything off around 8:45 p.m.

Actually, Vacon also played an important role in last year’s Listen Up, with Paxton pledging to have his tush tattooed by The Dudes frontman if they raised more than $8,000.

They did. Did he?

Well, actually, Vacon apparently had to order new equipment, it took too long, Paxton kept getting grief about it, so …

“I ended up going to Black Owl Tattoo parlour at dinner time,” he says somewhat resignedly  about his experience. “They conveniently have a street-level window, which I was right in, face down, ass up, on a Friday at five o’clock. That was fun.”

This year, Paxton is hoping they can break the $10,000 mark and, other than the door receipts, there will also be a 50/50 raffle and a silent auction featuring donated goods and services including a signed Calgary Flames hockey stick, tattoo vouchers for Black Owl, a photo session with Paige Woodbury Photography, original prints from local photographer Haus of Skrastins, a snowboard, vouchers for such restaurants as Oak Tree Tavern and The Palomino, a recording session at The Sound Priory Recording Studio and, last but certainly not least, “a hot date” with Free the Cynics bassist Brad Wedekind.

Which naturally raises the question: What is Paxton putting on the line if they hit their goal for this year’s Listen Up?

“Anything,” he says. “I don’t really mind, anything at all. I’ve been asking for suggestions. If we hit that 10 grand I’ll pretty much do anything that anyone wants.”

Listen Up featuring 36?, Free the Cynics, Danny Vacon and others takes place Saturday, Nov. 4 at Dickens Pub. For more information of the Calgary Distress Centre, please click here.