‘BeCause the Night’ fundraiser champions women’s contributions to music

Female rockers such as Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks and Pat Benatar have had an enduring influence on popular music. This weekend, a variety of local musicians and bands will pay tribute to these groundbreaking artists while raising money to support programs for people with disabilities.

“It’s such a great opportunity for all these bands to showcase all the great music that was written by or made famous by women,” said Kate Twoey, a member of Pure Cane Sugar, one of the evening’s performing bands.

“BeCause the Night: A Celebration of Women in Rock” will be held at the State Theatre. The concert will feature local musical acts such as Miss Melanie and the Valley Rats, Jmac & Junior, Ted McCloskey & the Hi-Fi’s, Chris Vipond & The Stanley Street Band and The Nightcrawlers. All of the featured performers will put their own personal spin on songs written by or made famous by woman rockers.

Proceeds from the show will benefit the State Theatre and Easter Seals Central Pennsylvania, a nonprofit organization that provides services to more than 2,600 adults and children with physical disabilities and developmental delays, including individuals affected by conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, spina bifida and traumatic brain injury.

“We’re just really happy because we have some of the best bands in State College” (performing at the show), said Liz Wainright, a development specialist for Easter Seals.

The event also will include a live auction for prizes such as a seven-day package at a ski resort in Colorado and a signed “BeCause the Night” marquee.

Jennifer Lawler-Wagner, a professor in Penn State’s women’s studies department, will be the emcee for the event. Introducing the concert will be Easter Seals ambassador local student Mitchell Case.

“BeCause the Night” is a follow-up to last year’s “Heart of Gold” concert, which featured local artists performing Neil Young songs and raised money for Easter Seals. That event raised about $35,000 total, Wainright said, which was split between the State Theatre and Easter Seals. Ninety-nine cents of every dollar raised through “BeCause the Night” stays local, she added, and will benefit physical therapy programs such as horseback riding, which promotes muscle control and independent thinking in children with developmental disorders such as autism.

The idea for “Women in Rock,” Wainright said, was conceived by Roy Love, president of the State Theatre’s board of directors, and local musician Jason McIntyre.

“From day one, everyone was really enthusiastic about it,” she said.

The artists that will perform in “BeCause the Night” specialize in a variety of genres, including bluegrass, blues, folk rock and country rock. What they all have in common is strong ties to the community.

One of the featured bands is Erin Condo & the Hoofties, led by Condo and featuring Bill Wiggus on guitar and John Kennedy on bass. Condo, who has fronted the band for two years, originally started playing in State College while she was in graduate school in 2003-04. She writes original music that has evolved from what she described as “pretty sad country songs” into “more upbeat, less heart-wrenching” folk rock.

Her influences include female legends such as Lucinda Williams, Loretta Lynn, Chrissy Hynde (former lead singer of The Pretenders) and Aretha Franklin.

“I love the soul that (Franklin) brings to the music,” Condo said.

Condo, who also played at the “Heart of Gold” concert and performs shows at the Elk Creek Café + Alehouse and Chumley’s, said her bandmates are all seasoned professionals with extensive ties to the local music scene.

“I feel very fortunate to play with the band that I play with,” she said.

While the performers in “BeCause the Night” include men, Pure Cane Sugar, a group that performs Americana music with a focus on harmonies, is an all-female ensemble. In addition to Twoey, the group, which plays a mix of covers and originals at Zeno’s every Saturday, includes Molly Countermine and Natalie Race.

“We take inspiration from so many different women,” Twoey said, citing Joplin, Indigo Girls and Patty Griffin as a few of the group’s influences.

Female artists have been hugely influential in rock music, but their contributions have often been overlooked by critics and the public at large, Twoey said. In the local community, she added, Pure Cane Sugar fills a vacuum that previously existed.

“Pure Cane Sugar was created because there weren’t any bands (in the area) led solely by women,” she said. “It’s part of the reason we do what we do.”

“BeCause the Night: A Celebration of Women in Rock” concert will start at 7 p.m. Jan. 26 at the State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College. Visit www.thestatetheatre.org or www.facebook.com/events/173789189431608 , or call 272-0606 for more information.