By Savannah Evanoff | Northwest Florida Daily News
Everyone has a cancer story.
Tommy Siren, bass guitarist for Something to Yield, has many of these stories, but one stands out. In 2007, Siren’s bandmate and close friend, Jereme Rightley, lost his grandparents to cancer.
“As I sat at his grandparents’ double funeral and just looked at his family bawling their eyes out, I didn’t like the feeling I had,” Siren said. “I didn’t like feeling helpless, like I couldn’t do anything to help them.”
After recently attending several funerals cancer had caused, Siren didn’t want to feel helpless anymore. He founded Rock For A Cure, a benefit concert featuring local bands that raises money for the American Cancer Society.
Siren will host the ninth annual Rock For A Cure at 6 p.m. Jan. 15 at The Block, 113 Eglin Parkway SE, Fort Walton Beach. It will feature 11 bands of varying genres on four stages, with a minimum $10 donation for admission.
Fokker’s Pub and Helen Back Café will provide food at the event.
Rebel cancer benefit
Rock For a Cure is no traditional cancer benefit.
“We’re definitely the rebel cancer benefit,” Siren said. “All the other cancer benefits are very reserved.”
The concert is a big party, Siren said. At a previous event, Siren said his friend’s wife who had cancer didn’t seem like she was sick while she was there.
“She was up dancing to the music and laughing and drinking and talking with friends and having a good time,” Siren said. “It was nice to get to see people like that be able to get away from their pain for a little while. That was one of the big eye-opening moments for me.”
It didn’t take much persuading to book bands for the festival, Siren said.
“Eight of the 11 bands were confirmed the day I asked them … “ Siren said. “They’re all phenomenal bands. Not one of those bands on that bill sounds like another one of the bands on that bill.”
The lineup is composed of Heritage, Continuum, The Wide Open, The Okaloosa Sound, Shenanigans, Austin Jennings, Hope Givens, Jay Werne & Friends, Filmore Drive, Something to Yield and Paracosm. It’s the first year more than 10 bands have agreed to perform, Siren said.
A slideshow will play at Rock For A Cure honoring Rightley’s grandparents and other deaths involving cancer. This year’s slideshow will feature another one of Rightley’s family members, his uncle and godfather, who died of cancer in November.
“I’ll be playing in his honor and his memory as well this year, which is kinda somber thinking about it,” Rightley said. “It’s gonna be kind of emotional for me.”
Rightley, drummer for Something to Yield and Shenanigans, has played at every Rock For A Cure event.
Like Rightley, Austin Jennings has dealt with cancer up close. Jennings underwent surgery and chemotherapy for testicular cancer in 2015.
“The community itself got together and really had my back and took care of me,” Jennings said. “Anytime I get an opportunity to contribute I jump for it, because it’s really important.”
This will be Jennings’ first performance at Rock For A Cure. In an eclectic mix of cover songs and original music, he will perform “Stronger,” a song with an uplifting message about his struggle with cancer, he said.
“People can relate in their own way,” Jennings said. “It doesn’t have to be necessarily an illness, just a struggle.”
Jennings hopes Rock For A Cure will raise money and awareness for cancer.
Cancer affects everybody in some way, Rightley said. He believes one day the world will find a cure for cancer, and they will still host Rock For A Cure, he said.
“Instead of raising money to find a cure … we will raise money for people who can’t afford it or play in honor of our fallen relatives,” Rightley said. “It’s kind of like a war for us. We have to keep remembering our relatives who have been taken by cancer.”