Giving cancer the big kiss-off
Danny Secretion rallies the punk community for his 11th annual cancer benefit show
Who said that punk rock doesn’t make the world abetter place?
Here in Sacramento, for example, the local scene rallies together to raise money for the American Cancer Society as part of an annual benefit show, Danny Secretion’s Lame-Ass Birthday Bash, a three-day event scheduled to take place at Luigi’s Fun Garden from Friday, November 1, through Sunday, November 3.
Now in its 11th year, the show has grown exponentially since its inception. Founder Danny Secretion, drummer and singer for the Secretions, sees the fundraiser as a natural extension of punk’s DIY ethos.
“With punk rock, we want to take control of things, and we want to do it ourselves,” he says.
This year, the benefit showcases 14 bands, including Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits, Bastards of Young, and Secretion’s other band, the Knockoffs.
The benefit’s origins are rooted in fun and friendship: In 2002, Secretion decided to throw a bash to celebrate his November birthday. He rented the Capitol Garage, booked a bunch of his friends’ punk bands and made it a free show.
By the following year, however, Secretion had learned that a good friend, local musician Jay Onyskin, had been diagnosed with cancer.
And so Secretion held his birthday show again—but that year, he charged admission and gave all the proceeds to Onyskin to help with treatment.
“[Onyskin] was one of the guys that got me into the punk scene,” Secretion says of his friend, who was in the Sea Pigs and the Lizards, and currently lives in Japan.
The money helped. Onyskin’s cancer eventually went into remission, and Secretion, who decided to stage the fundraiser annually, started donating proceeds to the American Cancer Society.
Now, Secretion says, the amount raised each year grows. In 2011, for example, the benefit raised nearly $2,000. Last year, the donation was $3,000.
The show’s also become something of an event for local musicians.
“It’s always a blast. People might gripe about paying a cover on any other night of the week, … but Sacramento really rallies around this annual event,” says Sean Hills, singer for Bastards of Young.
Not surprisingly, the fundraiser also carries a deeper, personal meaning for many of its participants.
“My grandfather … died of cancer when I was a teen. It was very difficult for me, because he was like a father to me,” says Corbett Redford, of Bobby Joe Ebola.
Each year sports a theme—usually a loose idea. This year’s, however, offers perhaps the most specific guidelines: Bands have been tasked to cover one Ramones song in their set. The catch? They won’t get to choose the song. Rather, songs will follow the Ramones discography in chronological order, with artists assigned selections based on their set time. For example, the first band on the first night of the benefit will cover one song off of the Ramones’ first album. The first band on the second night (the sixth band to play the fundraiser) will cover a song from the Ramones’ sixth album, and so on. At the close of the benefit’s final night, there will be an all-out Ramones karaoke open-mic jam backed by yet another one of Secretion’s bands, the Moans.
The connection to the legendary New York punk band, is personal, Secretion says.
“The Ramones are my religion,” he says. “I really felt like I didn’t have many friends in high school, and the Ramones really helped get me through every nervous breakdown I had and every heartbreak.”
“We lost Joey and Johnny Ramone to cancer,” Secretion says. “That brings things full circle.”