King Camel's Jeffrey Brown Tells Us Why We Should Care About His Big Have a Heart Benefit Show.
In nearly a year-and-a-half booking shows under his King Camel Productions brand, Jeffrey Brown has never thrown an event on the scale of Have a Heart benefit that he's throwing at Trees next weekend. Quite easily, the Beach Fossils-headlined, 13-band fundraiser is the biggest show he's ever had a hand in.
It's not that he hasn't wanted to head up a larger scale event; he's just never had quite had the right catalyst to set a plan in motion. Recently, though, an old friend, John Bullard, has run into some financial setbacks due to his battle with cerebral palsy, which you can read more about here.
In short: Coming to his pal's need was all the impetus Brown needed to start hitting up national acts like the aforementioned Beach Fossils, plus The Appleseed Cast, Indian Jewelry and top-notch locals like Telegraph Canyon, Madison King, Leon Bridges, Son of Stan, Matthew & The Arrogant Sea, Ronnie Heart, Moon Waves, The Blondettes, The Outfit, TX and Dead Mockingbirds to play this first-ever Have a Heart show.
Ahead of that event, we caught up with Brown to find out more about it and if he plans on expanding the brand to help other North Texans in need.
How did you meet John Bullard and why did you feel compelled to throw a benefit show for him?
I met John through his brother Joel. I went to school with Joel, and we kinda hung out then, but not really, as he was a freshman when I was a senior. However, as time went on, I became close friends with Joel and [we] started hanging out a whole lot. So Joel would bring John to our hangouts — to the bar, concerts, Irish fest, etc. — and that's when I was introduced to the man that is John Bullard. After meeting John the very first time I could tell he was a special kind of dude. Not even because of his struggle with cerebral palsy, but really just his attitude on life and his immense wisdom. That, and the guy has the best sense of humor you can find. You always see just a big ol' smile on his face. And he loves to just crack jokes. Long story short, he's one of the best human beings I have ever met. Now that he is a little older, a lot of the financial support he has received for his disability has lowered or disappeared. Due to private family circumstances, his primary caretaker cannot be in the picture anymore, so his brother Joel had to quit his job to become John's primary caretaker. As you can imagine, that has put a lot of financial stress on the family as handicap equipment like vans and such are not affordable at all.
How much money are you hoping to raise, and what types of things will John use the money for?
I can't say we have a set number in mind, but we are really hoping we can get him in the $5,000 to $10,000 range — or maybe even more. Depending on the amount, it's going to go towards either fixing up their crappy handicap van that they have now or maybe putting a deposit down on a newer van. It will also go to help alleviate some of the financial burden of medical costs, such as the medicine and physical therapists that are a must for him to not be in excruciating pain.
Is this the biggest event you've ever put on? How has that been? What kinds of things have you learned from it?
Yeah, it's definitely by far the largest event King Camel has put on — and I'm damn glad it's for a good cause! You guys don't even have enough room on your website to list the things I have learned from this experience. Some of the main things I've learned is that I really want to do this type of thing more often. It's insanely stressful, but entirely worth all the early mornings and late nights to be able to even be in a position to help John out.
Have a Heart was originally supposed to happen last fall at South Side Ballroom. What happened there?
Now I can only give you my side of the story, obviously, but the long and short of it there was some miscommunication about the cost of the facility. We had told them our idea and that we were looking to do a day-long festival, and they had quoted us a price that we were told included everything back in mid-September. Well, barreling down to three weeks before the show, we were sent an invoice with about a 130 percent increase in the total cost for us to rent the venue on that date. I'm not necessarily blaming anyone. It could have been miscommunication. But there was zero way we could afford the new rate and conceivably make some money for John. I was just taken aback because this was a benefit event and there didn't seem to be much bending on the new price. Oh, well. They were very nice, but it did screw some stuff up for us; we were supposed to have almost an entirely different lineup — although, in the end, I can't tell you how happy I am that it did happen [this way]! The lineup we have now is super tight, and Clint [Barlow] and Gavin [Mulloy] over at Trees have bent backwards helping us out on this venture. I mean — surprise, surprise — Deep Ellum venue owners have always been badass and helpful to me and the community.
How'd you get hooked up with Matthew Gray, who is helping you with this event? How has that partnership worked out and/or helped make this event possible?
Well, I had booked his band Matthew & the Arrogant Sea a couple times, and each time we hung out and just swapped stories of what we wanted to do in this crazy music industry. We just found out that we shared a lot of the same goals and dreams, so we decided to kind of team up and see how it went. I can tell you that his presence has made this show possible for us to do. I can't even imagine attempting to do this on my own. We work well together and I think we balance each other's strengths and weaknesses out. The guy has a lot of good insights and good connections since he's been doing the music thing for, like, 15 years. It's just nice to have another person that has a positive mindset so we can lean on each other when things get stressful.
What band or bands are you most excited for? Which do you feel most fortunate to have on the bill?
I know everyone is going to hate me for this, but I'm really happy to have everyone on this bill. I'm telling you right now, every single band on this bill is full of the kindest and most patient people I've ever worked with. I mean, just having bands like Beach Fossils, The Appleseed Cast and Indian Jewelry is enough to make the nips perk up, but dropping fudgin' Leon Bridges, Madison King, Telegraph Canyon, The Outfit, TX and all the other amazing local artists is enough to drive a music lover up the walls with anticipation. Shit, I'm just going to say all of them. I mean, look at this: We also have Son of Stan, Ronnie Heart, Matthew and the Arrogant Sea, Dead Mockingbirds, Moon Waves and The Blondettes! It doesn't have a single dull moment. It's a great mix of up-and-coming acts. If you want to know what's happening in music in DFW and beyond, this is the show you must attend. And it's for a great cause!
Will you continue to keep the Have a Heart brand going, either to throw future benefits for John or to help out others in need moving forward?
Oh, definitely! We are going to keep doing benefits under the Have a Heart brand. The beneficiary is going to change each time. It will always be a local DFW person or family that truly needs help. There are so many great causes and charities out there, but rarely are the beneficiaries given a huge chunk of cash that can actually put a sizable dent in their financial needs. As Have a Heart grows, so will the amounts raised to local families. I'd really like to make it big enough — with sponsors and the like — so we can give large checks to multiple families in need. This has truly been one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life, and I can't foresee any time that I won't want to do large-scale benefit events. It's way too satisfying!
Beach Fossils and more perform on Saturday, January 17, at Trees as part of Have a Heart. Get your tickets here — or try to win a free four-pack of tickets for you and some friends, courtesy of King Camel, by heading here.