Bil "Negril" Szarabajka owns two of the hottest clubs on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans, The Spotted Cat and Café Negril. On Sunday, January 31, Bil (yes, that's one "l") used the two clubs' proximity — they're practically across the street from each other — to host a benefit for Haiti relief.
He contacted 30 bands that regularly play at his clubs about performing and wound up with a total of 24 acts. Bil recounts, "We had 24 bands, and every hour on the hour, we switched it up. All the bands donated their time, and nobody said ‘no'. I was pretty proud of that."
100 percent of the $10 door donations, which got you into both clubs via a stamp on the hand, went to Doctors Without Borders for much needed Haiti relief efforts. Bil also donated a percentage of the bars' cash rings during the event to the same organization, bringing the total proceeds from the event to $5007.
While attendance wasn't as heavy as Szarabajka hoped, he says, "I was just happy that people turned out and we had a lot of fun. And I hope we get to do it again!"
Performers included Soul Project, Sunpie Barnes, Jazz Vipers, New Orleans Moonshiners, Cottonmouth Kings of New Orleans, John Lisi & Delta Funk, Higher Heights, Jamey St. Pierre & the Honeycreepers, Jerry Jumonville, Dominic Grillo, Washboard Chaz, Margie Perez, Panorama Jazz Band, Loose Marbles, Dave Gregg, Meschiya Lake, Smoky Greenwell & the Blues Gnus, and more.
WWOZ salutes Bil Szarabajka and all the performers at the event for lending a hand where it's needed.