“I don’t know how it is possible that there are musicians up at 6 o’clock in the morning,” Austin mayor Steve Adler joked as he helped kick off the 11th annual HAAM Benefit Day at the downtown Whole Foods Tuesday morning. Even more implausible was that the band he introduced, Nakia & the Blues Grifters, had played Monday night at Antone’s.
“I got about one and a half hours” of sleep, band leader Nakia Reynoso said after his group gave a spirited 40-minute performance for a small handful of folks who gathered at the store before sunrise. The 6 a.m. crowd consisted largely of media members and Health Alliance for Austin Musicians officials and volunteers, with a few early risers on hand for coffee and some tunes.
By the time Scrappy Jud Newcomb took the stage just after 7 a.m., things had picked up a bit, with the full store now open for shopping and breakfast. Newcomb’s solo acoustic set was the second of 14 acts scheduled at HAAM Benefit Day’s flagship location, but hundreds more musicians will play all over town at locations ranging from pharmacies to bank lobbies to even a few McDonald’s restaurants, as well as traditional bar and nightclub venues.
“Our goal is to raise $500,000 for Austin’s musicians, and we’re well on our way,” HAAM director Reenie Collins announced as she introduced Adler. Much of that already has been attained through official HAAM Benefit Day sponsorships, Collins noted later. The rest will come from the participating businesses, who will donate 5 percent of Tuesday’s proceeds to HAAM, and from public contributions to donation boxes at all the locations around town.
Collins said the day’s proceeds represent about 25 percent of the organization’s $2 million budget. She added that HAAM continues to increase both memberships and services for the Austin music community, with around 500 new enrollees in the program over the past year.
Nakia & the Blues Grifters, meanwhile, will be back at it again tonight, playing a GigTown-sponsored event at El Mercado Backstage. (The full HAAM Benefit Day schedule is available on the GigTown app, and on the HAAM website.) Between now and then, Reynoso said via Twitter in a simple message, “Must. Nap. Before. Next. Show.”