Rocking on while helping out
When Hunter Ackerman, lead singer of Hunter and The Dirty Jacks, walks into Santa Monica's Harvelles Blues and Jazz club before his band's gig on Tuesday night, he immediately draws the attention of the entire room.
With a big smile on his face and a shofar filled with a mysterious beverage in his hand, he cheerfully hums a melody and proceeds to greet and embrace a few strangers nearby.
The band’s drummer, Brian Lara, is already on stage setting up his equipment. Jon Siembieda is carrying his guitar into the club through the backdoor.
“We’ve been playing here since January of 2013,” Siembieda says. “We decided when we took over Tuesday nights, we wanted to do something different and meaningful with music.”
That something different is helping feed the homeless in Santa Monica, as well as teaching music to foster children with the money they raise at Harvelle’s by turning the night spot into a non-profit entity.
“Music is what kept me going through high school,” says Lara. “So for me, helping with the music lessons is important.”
Hunter believes music is becoming a disappearing art.
“It’s the art form that’s being neglected by the school system,” Hunter says. “Foster children are the ones that already started below the starting line by most people’s living standards, so why not start there?”
Right now, it’s only Tuesday nights that are non-profit, customers pay five dollars at the door or can provide two cans of food to get in to the club.
However, within the next 90 days, Hunter and The Dirty Jacks are hoping to turn both Harvelles in Santa Monica and Harvelles in Long Beach into music venues that are non-profit seven nights of the week instead of just one.
“They’re going to be non-profit benefit concert venues and we believe that will lead to bigger acts that will want to play here,” Siembieda says.
After the lights have been dimmed and the first few guests have walked through the entrance into the murky, red-lit room which has an underground rock bar atmosphere, Hunter and The Dirty Jacks walk on to the stage.
They introduce themselves and launch right into the first song of the night.
At the end of the bar sits supporter and friend Holly Covella with a drink in her hand and her eyes fixed on the stage.
“This gives me a reason to come out,” she says. “I come here almost every Tuesday.”
Another visitor tonight is saxophone player Gunther Klaus from Canada.
Halfway through the show, Klaus goes on stage to play a couple of songs with the band. Klaus is impressed with the work that is being done at Harvelle’s, and agrees that music is in need of all the support it can get.
The band puts on a great show. Hunter’s originality and charisma captivates the crowd. The singer moves in rhythm with the music, blows kisses into the crowd and occasionally picks up a large, oddly shaped glass container from which he drinks a mysterious pink liquid.
With a mixture of rock and blues, charming personalities, and a good cause to fight for, Hunter and The Dirty Jacks hope to be able to keep spreading their gospel of bringing music education to underprivileged children and feeding the poor.