Service Your Soul at Harvelle's Brings Homeless People the Blues, In a Good Way
There are a bunch of people congregating in the dark crevices of a Los Angeles blues bar, plotting to subvert the system, overthrow the music-industry machine and lift up the downtrodden. Most of whom have played in this bar too many times to count. But instead of talking about music, these co-conspirators are talking about a music-business revolution.
Christopher Barnes Hunter and the Dirty Jacks
Cevin Clark, owner of Harvelle's in Santa Monica, the oldest existing blues club in Los Angeles, enlisted the prestigious law firm Gibson Dunn, working pro bono, to determine whether he can turn his business into a nonprofit. The idea came from the success of the club's Tuesday-night Service Your Soul music residency with rock/blues band Hunter and the Dirty Jacks.
The $3,000 raised through the cover charge since January has provided more than 4,000 meals. Clark and his cohorts are hungry to do more, not only because it makes them feel golden, but because more help is desperately needed.
It has been a year since the idea was originally hatched, and the do-gooders are excited to bring their new program, also called Service Your Soul, into Long Beach's Harvelle's location (below the Congregation Ale House) every Sunday. "We want to expand because more needs to be done," says Hunter and the Dirty Jacks guitarist Jon Siembieda. "We're just scratching the surface."
The Sunday-night residency features not only Hunter and the Dirty Jacks, but also Roy Gaines, a blues singer and guitarist who has backed Big Mama Thornton, Junior Parker and T-Bone Walker. Buffet-style soul food included in the cover charge sweetens the deal, as well.
After hiring the band to take over Santa Monica's Tuesday residency in late 2012, Clark approached Hunter and the Dirty Jacks about playing a pub crawl that December. The annual event donates proceeds from participating bars to West Side Food Bank to help feed the needy during the holidays.
Because of conflicting schedules, the band couldn't participate. But the gesture sparked another idea with year-round impact. Siembieda wanted to go bigger. "We were talking, and I said, 'Problem with this is that it only happens during the holidays,'" he recalls. "'But people have these problems every day.'"
From that, the regular Service Your Soul fund-raiser and food drive was born, with 100 percent of the night's cover charge going to the 501(c)3 nonprofit Feed Your Soul--which started with a few people and 100 burgers, then grew to provide meals for many more.
According to the most recent information from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Los Angeles' homeless population rose 15 percent from 2011 to 2013. More than 57,000 included themselves among the displaced during a one-night count last January.