Doing some H.A.R.M.
Even though he's no longer on this level of existence, says Atlanta Harm Reduction Center program coordinator Mona Bennett, "Benjamin is still helping us." The non-profit office, on DeKalb Avenue, will be the beneficiary of a fund-raising show — H.A.R.M., HIV/AIDS Rock Marathon — this weekend featuring a number of former associates of the late entertainer.
A flamboyant, button-hat-wearing social worker, Bennett was a close friend of Benjamin, the equally colorful singer and performance artist who fronted Smoke until his untimely death from AIDS complications last year. "We sort of admired each other from afar at first, since we both sort of stood out in a crowd, then we became great friends," Bennett says. "He was a big supporter of AHRC." Fittingly, several of Bennet's musician friends will gather at The Earl to raise awareness and cash for the center.
Like the desperate characters of Benjamin's songs, the AHRC walks the mean streets of Atlanta. "We go where other folks might not choose to go because we are needed there." A "grassroots street outreach program," the focus of AHRC is to stop the spread of HIV by providing information, condoms, referrals and other services to the homeless or otherwise underserved.
Certainly no strangers to the dark streets are headliners the El Caminos. Having lost guitarist Damon Moore to drug abuse last year, the 'Caminos are ready to rock for the cause, Bennett says. "I really think we have something for everybody," she adds. The organization will have information available at the show, and Bennett will take the stage to say a few words about the cause as well.
Former Smoke member Brian Halloran will kick off the evening with Debbey Richardson as Downhill Cadence. Thirty-minute turns by Mad Kate, Tastebud, Chris Verene's sonic conspirators Bach on a Hook and Hubcap City (featuring Bill Taft) will precede the El Caminos' late set. Surprise guests are expected and jams may ensue, she hints, and the spirits of both Moore and her late friend will surely be in attendance. "The next puff of smoke you see might be Benjamin," she says with a smile.
"No H.A.R.M. Done, An HIV/AIDS Rock Marathon" is held Sat., Aug. 26, at The Earl, starting at 7:30 p.m. For more information call 404-526-9222.