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Bartender Tom Curtis, who worked at the Empty Bottle for eight years and the Twisted Spoke for two, is a curt-talking, badass-looking ex-Marine. But terrible things can happen even to tough people, and on the night of December 8 in Wicker Park, he was robbed and beaten nearly to death, probably with a shovel. According to Nan Warshaw at Bloodshot Records, who's organizing the benefit, doctors in the county ER did not expect him to survive--but he has, and is recovering faster than anticipated. He's had multiple blood transfusions, a tracheotomy, and extensive emergency surgery and is about to undergo more surgery to repair his cheekbones, lower eye sockets, nose, and sinuses. He is on antiobiotics for an infection in his brain, but there is no permanent brain damage and he has regained the power of speech (though his jaw is currently wired shut).
A benefit for him on January 30 includes not just performances by Nora O'Connor and Danny Black, Galactic Inmate, and Can-Ky-Ree, with Matt Fields DJing, but also a vast selection of raffle prizes donated by local luminaries--including a mastering session by Mike Hagler at Kingsize (a $450 value), a party at Delilah's (with a $500 tab), a day of recording with Eric Block at Semaphore Studio, goody bags from American Apparel, Eight Fifty Seven, Bad Dog Tavern, and Bloodshot Records, posters by Keith Herzik, and gift certificates from the Twisted Spoke and Flameshovel Records. For the evening, all Empty Bottle staff will be donating their time and tips. Suggested minimum donation is $12; for those who can't attend, donations can also be mailed c/o the Empty Bottle.)
If it seems to you that there've been a lot of benefit concerts lately for people who've found themselves in horrific medical circumstances and about to be saddled by crippling debt on top of their illness/injury/tragedy, consider this: While it's wonderful to see the lengths the music community will go to take care of its own, that doesn't make it less appalling that it has to. The Future of Music Coalition offers a Health Insurance Navigation Tool that's a good place to start for both finding insurance for yourself and getting involved in the cause. And while you're writing your checks for donations, perhaps a few lines to your congressperson and senators on the urgency of health care reform for everyone in the very near future wouldn't require too much more effort.