Connecticut Musicians Organize For Massive Newtown Benefit Festival

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Official flier for 'Downtown Rocks For Newtown.'

Official flier for ‘Downtown Rocks For Newtown.’ Click to enlarge.

Like so many others, the question of how to help those affected by last month’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting struck a chord with Kenny Mehler.

“We’re a bunch of musicians from around the area, but none of us are millionaires. Whats the best thing we can do other than donating tons of money?”

For the Glastonbury native and father of 3 year old identical triplet girls, the answer appeared pretty easily: put together a benefit show. But the response was something bigger than Mehler expected.

“We thought we were gonna do a show at the Great Hall and maybe one other venue, just to try to raise money. We envisioned about… 500 people? nothing crazy,” said Mehler. “I put it on Facebook, calling all musicians. It went viral.”

The resulting event, “Downtown Rocks For Newtown,” swelled to an all day event with more than 50 bands at 9 music venues. Money raised from Jan. 27 event will go toward the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, through the United Way of Western Connecticut.
The artists are a veritable who’s who of Connecticut music, from Echo & Drake to Columbia Fields, Joey Batts to Little Ugly, Klokwize, Becky Kessler, Ladyhips, Forward Motion, and 1974. Plus The McLovins, Alternate Routes, and Max Creek.

Kenny Mehler, one of the artists performing on Jan. 27, shown with his triplet daughters. (Handout Photo)

Kenny Mehler, one of the organizers who is performing on Jan. 27, shown with his triplet daughters. (Family Photo)

“The toughest thing is just trying to coordinate so many people over a one day event,” says Rob Griffith, the Bronze Radio Return drummer who has been the primary talent booker for the event. “Luckily we’ve had so much support. From the artists to downtown restaurant groups, the city and police, they have all been very supportive.”

“When it came down to it and we were reaching out to other downtown businesses, it was really easy,” says John Phillips-Sandy, a manager at several of the downtown venues including The Russian Lady and Tavern Downtown. “Sure, there’s competition in business. But after what happened in Newtown, everyone, not just in Connecticut but really across the country, had a gut check.”

Bronze Radio Return is one of the more than 50 bands performing at the 'Downtown Rocks For Newtown' music fest. (Handout photo)

Bronze Radio Return is one of the more than 50 bands performing at the ‘Downtown Rocks For Newtown’ music fest. (Handout photo)

“Obviously this hit close to home for us,” says Griffith. “We [Bronze Radio Return] get to do some charity shows over the course of every year, but I’d say this cause especially has hit really close to home for everyone for the band.”

The $30 event tickets are all-inclusive, with access to all the venues all day. Having one also gives the added bonus of a 10% discount on food at participating venues.

“Obviously there are certain bands that certain people would really really want to see, and maybe some bands you haven’t heard of,” says Phillips-Sandy. “But in the process definitely build in some time to sit and grab a bite to eat. Enjoy the time with your friends, meet some new ones.”

In addition to ticket sales, there will be a silent auction at The Russian Lady, which includes items like a dinner and studio tour with ESPN anchor Jorge Andrés. Every venue will take up additional collections at the door, and $10 commemorative glasses are for sale, with proceeds going toward the cause.

“Our big focus is to bring people together,” says Phillips-Sandy. We respond in a community, we’re stronger in a community, we’re here for our friends in the community of Newtown.”


Downtown Rocks For Newtown is Sunday, Jan. 27, from 3 p.m. until 1 a.m.

Participating venues are Black Bear Saloon, 187 Allyn Street (music starts at 5), Black-Eyed Sally’s, 350 Asylum Street (music starts at 5:15), Great Hall At Union Station, 1 Union Place (music starts at 4), Pigs Eye Pub, 356 Asylum Street (music starts at 6:30), Pour House, 105 Allyn Street (music starts at 3:30), The Rocking Horse, 181 Ann Uccello Street (music starts at 5:15), The Russian Lady, 191 Ann Uccello Street (music starts at 4), Tavern Downtown, 100 Allyn Street (music starts at 6:30), and Up Or On The Rocks, 50 Union Place (music starts at 5).

Advance tickets are available for $30 at or at participating venues.

Tickets are available day-of at the Great Hall beginning at noon.

To volunteer or donate for the silent auction, email

A full schedule including artists and venues is expected to be posted at

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