Originally, Bill Peters, the organizer behind the Cleveland Metal Holiday Food Drive that's now in its sixth year, didn't think he would be hosting a food drive when he booked a concert at the Beachland Ballroom to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his label, Auburn Records. "What started off in 2009 as a small one-time food drive attached to my Auburn Records' 25th anniversary concert has taken on a life of its own," he says. "It was a lot of bands from my label playing in celebration of the anniversary."
Peters' friend Iron Ingo Stührenberg, a German heavy-metal writer, was making his inaugural trip to Cleveland. He was going to introduce some bands on stage. Peters decided to make the event even more special by asking fans to donate food for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, which is located near the Beachland. He put the word out and fans responded.
"The response was amazing," he says. "We didn't do a lot of advertising for the food drive portion because I only announced it a week or two before the event. I met with the Food Bank people after delivering the food and was really educated. You assume everyone in this country has food but that's not the case. There are far too many children who go without nutritious meals each day. It was an eye-opening experience for me. It hit my heart. I wanted to do something to help. I felt like I was contributing and making a difference with this food drive. They were so appreciative and very supportive of what we did."
Peters decided to do it again the following year but this time expanded on the model and increased promotion. He received triple the number of donations. A few years later he invited the Friends of the Cleveland Kennel and the Lake Humane Society to come on board.
"Our neglected and abused animals need love too," says Peters. "These two non-profit organizations do a lot to help. We accept canned and bagged dog and cat food. We separate it when people bring it to the show and try not to mix the people food with the pet food."
Auburn Records, WJCU 88.7 FM and German writer and metal fan Iron Ingo Stührenberg are the sponsors for this year's event, set to take place at the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern. Local metal acts Shok Paris and Midnight are slated to headline. Black Death Resurrected, Sunless Sky, Suede Brothers, Wretch, Venomin James, Deadiron, Olathia, Vulgar Devils, Strong Tactics, JJ Grim and Mythrias are also scheduled to perform along with the Judas Priest tribute act Painkiller.
"Speaking as a metal fan myself, I think we have the best lineup ever for this event," he says. "Shok Paris are longtime veterans of the Cleveland metal scene who haven't played out much recently. They'll be featuring songs from their new album that's coming soon. Midnight are huge in the underground and perform regularly all over the world. They recently played a festival in Holland. They're headlining the tavern and requested to play the small room. It's going to be insanity. They'll definitely draw a big crowd. We'll also be raffling off some really cool prizes that were donated by The Exchange, Derek Hess, Guitar Center, Warner Music Group, Century Media Records, Roadrunner Records,Cleveland Agora, Cyclops Tattoo Studio, Janet Macoska, Anastasia Pantsios, Ken Kitt and Joe Kleon to name a few. All proceeds from the raffle will be donated to our three charity groups."
Playboy model Daniella Dior will add some sex appeal to the festivities. Peters met Dior at a 252 Tattoo anniversary party a few years ago. She runs her own modeling agency and is regularly involved with charity events. Last year, Peters contacted her and she came out to the food drive; she introduced some bands and gave away raffle prizes.
"Daniella donated her own personal money last year," says Peters. "She donated to all three of the organizations. She's really positive and upbeat and likes being involved in the community."
Dior and her friend Melissa Norris have already started collecting food, and Peters says that her apartment is almost completely filled with food donations.
"She called me to come get some of the food because she couldn't get to her kitchen with all the boxes stacked so high," Peters says with a laugh. "I think we'll fill up half the van just with the food she's gotten together."
The burlesque troupe Red Hot Heathens will be on hand as well. Peters knows them through the metal community since the troupe's leader, Aurora Sans, is a fan and supporter of local metal acts.
"Aurora does so much for the metal community," says Peters. "She is always promoting bands and local events. The Red Hot Heathens have been with us for many years now. They'll do some acts on stage and then go around with a bucket and ask for donations. They've collected hundred dollars for us. It's so great to have them part of our team."
Admission to the concert is free but fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items and/or cash donations to help those in need this holiday season. During the first five years of the food drive, Peters has received more than 8,700 pounds in food and $7,500 in cash donations.
"Those are some incredible numbers," he says. "It is truly amazing how much we have grown each year. Our donation totals keep increasing despite the challenging economic times we continue to endure in this region. It's been a total grass roots effort."
Peters points out that the event has no corporate sponsorship or financial backing from any individuals. The fact that the event has become so successful is a testament to the goodwill of the local metal scene, both the bands and the fans.
"Heavy metal fans are some of the most generous when it comes to supporting good causes," says Peters, adding that last year a guy who had just lost his job spent $250 on groceries and brought them to the concert. "He said it was that important to him. He had been supporting our food drive every year since we started and wasn't going to let losing his job stand in the way of helping again this year. Seeing his car completely filled with food when he pulled up to the front door brought tears to my eyes. I couldn't believe it! The generosity and kindness of people is still out there if you look past the news headlines for it. Working together, we've made our community a better place to live by helping those less fortunate during the holidays. It feels good to give something back. I can't thank the fans and everyone involved with this event enough for their support to our cause."
Proceeds will go to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and Friends of the Cleveland Kennel and Lake Humane Society. And for the first time in four years, Ingo will be on hand for the festivities.
"My motto for this trip is 'Back for the Attack!'," says Ingo, a longtime supporter of Cleveland metal who sent Peters a list of 25 local bands he wanted to see (and then kept sending Peters the names of even more bands after the lineup was set). "I hope to see all my friends at the show, along with many new faces as well. It's important we reach our goal and top last year's donation totals. Come on Cleveland, we can do it. Give a little bit to help a lot."
The Sixth Annual Cleveland Metal Food Drive with shok Paris, Midnight, Black Death Resurrected, Sunless Sky, the Suede Brothers, Wretch, Venomin James, Deadiron, Olathia (ft. Chris Emig), Vulgar Devils, Strong Arm Tactics, JJ Grim, and Mythrias, 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: Free, beachlandballroom.com.
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