A concert on Friday night will raise money toward medical bills for Michael Avery, a longtime fixture of the Missoula music scene. Avery is in treatment for recently diagnosed lung cancer.
Avery, a soft-spoken and humble guitarist and singer who played in out-of-state groups Shadowfax and Tuneswith, has been a long-standing presence in the Missoula music community. For 12 years, he ran the popular open-mic night at Sean Kelly's, the Irish pub now known as Thomas Meagher Bar.
University of Montana students, staff and faculty will recognize Avery from his non-musical gig as a groundskeeper on campus.
"Every local band that has started out has probably worked with Mike at one point or another," said Kevin Pyka, of rock group The Conversion. Pyka is one of many who helped organize Friday's "We Band Together" benefit after hearing of Avery's diagnosis.
As in most college towns, the open-mic was a place for fledgling musicians to take their first shot at performing in front of an audience. It was also a regular, reliable outlet for musicians who wanted to step on stage for a quick set.
After Sean Kelly's closed, Avery moved over to the Badlander, where he's led the Tuesday night Missoula Music Showcase for more than three years now, continuing to provide an outlet for up-and-coming artists.
He's directly helped quite a few people over the years, said Kailee Bruskotter, the Badlander's general manager, and the community response has been strong.
The Friday concert has a $5 entry fee to hear eight bands, starting at 7 p.m. with an acoustic atmosphere before working up to the bigger groups. A raffle will feature prizes donated by local businesses, including recording studio time, concert tickets, and more. There will be custom screen-printed "We Band Together" T-shirts for sale as well.
Pyka said it was originally planned as a surprise, but word quickly spread online, and local businesses were generous with donations. Pyka can be reached at email@example.com for more information.
A GoFundMe account has also been created to help with Avery's bills.*
"We Band Together," a benefit for Michael Avery, will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday, March 26, at the Badlander, 208 Ryman St. The bands scheduled to play are the Ghost Peppers, Fine Lightning and Thunder Scott, Two Foot Titan, the Conversion, Time to Kill, Shot Stereo and Megaton Gypsies. The cover is $5. There will also be "We Band Together" T-shirts for sale.
*This story has been updated with the GoFundMe information.