WESTERLY — The inaugural “Pass the Guitar” concert was so successful, the 2018 edition is moving to a larger home — one with plenty of pews, twice the seating, and an attention-getting lineup.
“It was standing room only last year, said Joe Glennon of Pawcatuck, the chief organizer of the benefit fundraising concert for Westerly’s WARM Center. “It was absolutely incredible.”
“Pass the Guitar II,” — scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 18 from 2 to 4 p.m. — will move inside Christ Church Westerly so there’s sure to be plenty of room for everyone. Last year’s concert was held in the much smaller church hall.
Some of the region’s finest singer-songwriters — from Hugh Birdsall to Glenn Kendzia to Nancy and Ben Parent — are on the schedule to perform this year, Glennon said. Marc Douglas Berardo will be the featured guest, Glennon added, and Braiden Sunshine, the young Lyme, Conn., man who was a fan favorite on NBC’s “The Voice” back in 2015 when he became a semifinalist, will join the performers in passing the guitar.
Last year’s concert — which starred some of the most recognizable names on the regional music scene — was so well attended people were lined up outside the church, hoping someone would leave the concert so they could sneak in and listen to a bit of the unusual music.
This year’s event will follow the same successful formula as last year: Musicians will play a song, then pass the guitar to the next singer on the roster. The idea, said Glennon, was inspired by Birdsall, a well-known New London area musician who will open the concert.
Birdsall, who co-founded the iconic New London punk rock band The Reducers 30-plus years ago, and more recently, the high-energy roots band, Dogbite, is one of the founders of the New London version of “Pass the Guitar,” which began as a fundraiser for the New London Homeless Hospitality Center.
It was while spending time with Birdsall at the shows and watching him play that Glennon, a drummer, became inspired by Birdsall and his altruism, and decided to bring the idea to Westerly.
When he told Birdsall that he wanted to steal “Pass the Guitar,” Glennon recalled, Birdsall told him, “Please do.”
Westerly’s Glenn Kendzia, a popular songwriter and member of the band Wild Sun, participated in the 2017 Pass the Guitar and is on the roster for this year’s concert. (Kendzia is also scheduled to appear at La Grua Center in Stonington this Friday for a 7 p.m. concert.)
Like everyone involved with the concert, Glennon volunteers his time for the fundraiser. The Rev. Sunil Chandy, the pastor at the local Episcopal Church, has been a huge support, Glennon said, as have other volunteers and dozens of businesses.
“It’s a reflection of the community,” said Glennon, noting that a number of gift baskets will be raffled off during the intermission when there’ll be an opportunity for a meet and greet with the musicians, and the opportunity to buy coffee and treats. The Ocean House is donating desserts to sell during the intermission, he said.
The Feb. 18 concert will also feature WARM Center Executive Director Russell Partridge, Judy Hall Gray, Tim Quinn, Steve and Jen Müeller, Will Houlihan, Nina J., Sandy Allen, Frank Critelli, Dennis Whalley, Sue Menhart, Kevins Shea, Will Schramm, theh Hart Strings Duo, and Vince Tuckwood.
Glennon, who sits on the board of the WARM Center, wanted to find a way to give back to the organization that helped him through a rough patch a few years back. Organizing the benefit was just the ticket, he said.
“Now we want to make it an annual thing,” said Glennon.