100K for Smith's family

The city comes out to celebrate Jay Smith

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“I don’t really know where to start,” said a weary Matt Mays, eyes black with liner, near the end of his set Sunday night in the Schooner Room. Moments later he gently drifted into “Chase the Light,” from Coyote, which became a singalong, complete with a dozen lighters rising above the sold-out crowd: “Into the everlasting night/I’ll chase the light.” (I couldn’t have been the only one who heard “Jay’s the light.”)

It’s been a long couple weeks for Mays and his bandmates, whose guitarist Jay Smith died on tour in Edmonton. The music community rallied in record time—pulling together a day-long benefit featuring two songwriters’ circles, a rock show, a silent auction and an online donation site—and raised record funds for Smith’s young children, Noah and Amy—over $100,000, estimated host Mike Campbell.

The rock show fell somewhere between an Irish wake and a New Orleans funeral—bombastic, loud, joyful and musical, undercut with moments of sudden sadness. Between sets from The Meds, In-Flight Safety, Young River (playing all Rock Ranger/Smith songs with a bunch of guests including Mays, Dave Casey of Gloryhound and Dustin Bentall), The Stanfields, Joel Plaskett Emergency and Mays, videos of Smith playing at the Carleton by himself and with Willie Nile ran, as did a Going Coastal spot in which Mays explained how Smith ended up in the band (“I woke up in a cold sweat one night going ‘JAY SMITH!’”). Smith’s sister and widow spoke. Plaskett, mid-“Maybe We Should Just Go Home,” paid tribute to other fallen Haligonians like Bob Switzer and Scott Tappen, while bassist Chris Pennell taped “J.S” onto his guitar.

Some people—the drunk, yelling ones—were just there for the music. But the Schooner Room was largely a friends-and-family situation, a high-ceilinged room of hugs and wet shoulders, a string of guitar solos trying with every note to reach the sky.

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