Concerts for a Cause: 13th Annual Dear Jack Benefit featuring Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Chicago, IL

This past week I had the pleasure of attending a series of events surrounding the 13th Annual Dear Jack Foundation Benefit show featuring Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness in Chicago, Illinois. Dear Jack Foundation is a non-profit organization that benefits adolescents and young adults (AYA) diagnosed with cancer. Through programs and strategic partnerships, Dear Jack addresses the physical and emotional needs of AYA cancer patients, survivors and their families. One-on-one patient support and wellness programs allow the Dear Jack Foundation to empower patients, survivors and their caregivers in their healing and to provide assurance that they are not alone in their cancer journey. Dear Jack was founded 2006 by Jack’s Mannequin frontman Andrew McMahon after his own battle with cancer at just 23 years old. He often says “my body healed faster than my mind and my heart” and the programming has been inspired by what Andrew and his wife Kelly wished they had while they were going thru it. The goal for this year was $250,000 in hopes of supporting even more AYAs next year.

11.10.22 – Thursday evening we arrived Thalia Hall, a historic landmark located in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. Everyone was all dressed up and ready to celebrate the successes of the Dear Jack Foundation from the prior year. Candles were lit, cocktails and appetizers were served while fundraisers and fans mingled and waited for the evening to start. The lights dimmed and Andrew McMahon appeared on stage to introduce a very special guest performance by Color Failure, a funk synth rock band from Dallas Texas. Brandon, the guitar player is a Dear Jack Foundation LifeList participant who used his wish budget to fly himself, and his bandmates to Chicago. They announced that he is currently 61 days post treatment and doing well.

Following Color Failure’s performance, Andrew McMahon was joined on stage by DJF Board Chair, Steve Mitzel and Executive Director Sonji Wilkes to talk about how things are going with the foundation, this year they were able to support 100 LifeList participants who were actively treating and host 4 Breathe Now wellness retreats for survivors and their partners who are one to three years post treatment. At this point there was still a ways to go to reach the $250,000 goal, so Sonji politely asked anyone who could to donate, even just a few dollars! Andrew McMahon then sat for a panel discussion with two LifeList participants, and Dear Jack’s Kayla Fulginiti, Director of Programs and Social worker to talk about the direct impact their programs have had. There was so much love and hope in the room.

Finally it was time for Andrew to come up and play a stripped-down solo set, just Andy and his piano. The hall was filled with some of the deeper cuts and b-sides, from the AMITW’s “Black and White Movies” to Jack’s Mannequin’s “Sleazy Wednesday” to Something Corporate’s “Ruthless” and I think there was a collective gasp from the audience when the opening notes to “Keep Rising” came floating out of the piano. It was certainly a night to remember.

11.11.22 – Friday Night, it was finally Dear Jack Day! House of Blues Chicago opened their doors on the chilly evening to welcome a full house of fans to the sold out 13th Annual Benefit Concert. Andrew McMahon welcomed everyone, excited to be back at full capacity after a tough few years with the pandemic. He explained that Dear Jack Foundation was about $30,000 away from their $250,000 goal and urged anyone who could donate to donate because he believed it could be done. Andrew then introduced special guest, William Beckett (vocalist from The Academy Is..) who played an acoustic set with his guitar that included some of his solo work, and “Your Heart is an Empty Room” a Death Cab cover. Andrew joined William on stage to perform a song they worked on together years ago “Sputter” and of course he closed out his set with fan favorite “About a Girl.”

After Beckett exited the stage, the Dear Jack Foundation staff was up on stage. They spoke of their programs LifeList, Breathe Now, and wrapped up by sharing some videos from a couple of the patients they have served this year, really driving home how the money they were raising tonight directly impacts the lives of AYA’s and their families.

Finally, it was time for the rock show to start and the piano roared to life with a Jack’s Mannequin favorite “Crashin” the floor was shaking from everyone dancing. Andrew played pieces from across his entire catalogue, going all the way back to Something Corporate’s “Punk Rock Princess,” “Hurricane” and of course “Konstantine” it is “11:11” after all. Classic Jack’s Mannequin tunes “Swim, “The Mixed Tape,” and “Dark Blue” were mixed in along with AMITW staples “Fire Escape” and “Cecelia and the Satellite.” We were dazzled with new songs “Stars” and “Skywriting, and he promised us a new album next year, he is finalizing everything. In typical McMahon fashion, there was crowd surfing on an inflatable llama, a light up cape, a parachute and of course stomping on the piano keys in his signature Converse sneakers. The evening closed out with an announcement that the Dear Jack Foundation surpassed their goal, coming in at $253,000 and the crowd went wild. Andrew invited William becket back on stage along with auction winners to sing “La La Lie” and wrap up the incredible evening. It was a sight to be seen.

Andrew McMahon will be back in Upstate New York in just a few weeks, performing solo at the Westcott Theatre in Syracuse on December 3rd for 95X’s “Pajama Jam.”

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