About a year ago, a handful of music industry professionals decided to do something charitable for the New York City community they felt had given them so much. Inspired by Toronto's Long Winter, a series of concerts, panels, and activities curated by Canadian hardcore punk outfit Fucked Up, members of the Beggars Group, 4AD, Grandstand Publicity, and Mom and Pop Records, among others, formed the multimedia arts series Late Bloomers. After some deliberation, for their first concert they decided that the proceeds should go to the Ali Forney Center, the nation's largest LGBT youth services organization.
"Basically, it came down to the fact that Peter [Berard], head of marketing at Domino, has a close friend that works at the Ali Forney Center," says Brigitte Green, VP of licensing at Beggars. "As we started getting deeper into it, we definitely believed that it was a good place for us to start."
Once the Late Bloomers team decided on a cause for the multimedia series' first event, which takes place this Saturday at Williamsburg venue Baby's All Right, the lineup -- including Brooklyn synthpop trio Au Revoire Simone, punk upstarts Big Ups, and rising beatmaker the Range -- came together mostly through Julia Willinger, VP of A&R at Mom and Pop. "She took the bull by the horns and went for it," Green says. "She got all these artists involved through friends and working in the indie scene and these relationships she had." Though the lineup didn't come together easily, Green admits, it was easy to get artists interested in the cause.
Coming up on the 25th anniversary in March of the 1991 documentary "Paris Is Burning," arguably the best-known chronicle of New York City's ball culture, the issue of LGBT youth homelessness has been gaining traction in the media largely thanks to marriage equality legislation. Three years ago, when New York legalized same-sex marriage, the Ali Forney Center's director of development Alex Roque saw the organization's waiting list jump from 150 to 210 homeless LGBT teenagers, which are estimated to make up close to forty percent of the nation's 500,000 homeless youth (around 4,000 in New York City).
"The more attention it gets, the more kids are coming out at the age of 14," he says. "It was very clear that kids are saying, 'Hey, New York City allows it,' so they come out of the closet. A lot of them are met with families who support them, but tragically a lot are met with families who put them out on the street for being who they are. The media is raising the awareness it needs to raise, but the community needs to catch up with it; the more attention it gets, the more kids we're seeing."
It helps that more high-profile artists have recently been advocating for homeless LGBT youth. In addition to Cyndi Lauper's True Colors Fund, which in December held its annual "Home for the Holidays" benefit concert, featuring Pink, the Hives, and Matt and Kim; Dev Hynes, a.k.a. Blood Orange, has given a lot of vocal support to the community ("Uncle A.C.E.," a song on 2013's "Cupid Deluxe," refers to the MTA subway line most frequently taken by homeless LGBT youth); and in Detroit, fun. just pledged to raise $250,000 for local social services agency the Ruth Ellis Center.
For Roque, however, it doesn't necessarily matter who's involved as long as they're involved, period. "For us, it's telling a story," he says, speaking to benefit concerts' effect on the greater population's awareness of LGBT youth homelessness and the Ali Forney Center. "It's a very popular one and it draws more attention than some of the smaller ones we do, but we will work with anyone who's willing to connect us to the communities that will tell our story."
Though the communities Late Bloomers aims to reach with its multimedia series are smaller than a large-scale event like "Home for the Holidays," Green says that's for a reason. "We want to give back to the community in more than just the Ali Forney Center," she explains. "For the artists to meet each other, inspire each other, maybe collaborate. We want it on a really base community level: smaller and more DIY." In terms of gay audiences, which tend to influence mainstream pop because of their buying power, Green is aiming for younger music fans "who go to rock shows, who love Beth Ditto the way other generations love Barbra [Streisand]."
Except for costs incurred for extras like tote bags and silk-screened posters, all the proceeds from the concert will go directly to the Ali Forney Center, which Roque says will support a housing program that lost funding due to changes in a state funding source, as well as the shelter's drop-in program, which gives LGBT youth meals, showers, and medical and mental services. Green adds that so-called "angel donors" may make it possible to waive those costs for future events so all proceeds can go directly to the organization at hand; anything to give back as much as possible to the community "that's always embraced us in so many ways."
"We live in this amazing city with so many things at our disposal," Green says. "We get to take so much, and now we're giving back in a small little way."