Chris Watson and Drew Stubbs know what it’s like to lose everything in a natural disaster. Both men were living in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, flooding their homes, destroying their vehicles and soaking all of their possessions. Both men sought refuge in Texas as the storm bore down on the Big Easy and now they want to repay the state that badly needs aid and supplies after the devastating flooding and damage from Hurricane Harvey.
“We’ve been in the same place as many of the people who are now enduring the aftermath of the storm,” Watson tells Billboard. “We saw how Texas rallied around the victims of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans and Drew called me up late one night with this great idea of how he could help Houston and I said yes immediately.”
That’s how the idea of Bands with Vans was born. It’s pretty simple — musicians volunteer to use their tour vans to pick up supplies at various music venues around Austin and New Orleans and then drive them to shelters in the Houston area.
Music venues and bands help get the word out on their social media feeds, telling volunteers where they can drop off supplies at popular music venues like Tipitinas and Preservation Hall in New Orleans, while bands, such as Video Age offer up their vans to make a run to hard hit cities like Chester, Texas. Those who live outside of Louisiana or Texas can donate gas cards and gift certificates to places like Subway to pay for lunches and meals for the drivers.
“We want to be super specific with what we’re asking people to bring,” Stubbs said. “We don’t want people to go through their closet and bring a bunch of old clothes. We need bottled water for one shelter, while another is only asking for brand new underwear. So when a band gets involved and they volunteer their time, their role is to help us promote that we’re collecting for flood victims and then they go to the venue and fill up their van with all the stuff that’s been donated and drive it out to the shelter.”
Watson heads up marketing for the second year Music Tastes Good Festival in Long Beach, California, while Stubbs is a filmmaker living in New Orleans. They recruited bands including Sweet Crude and Walker Lukens to deliver cleaning supplies from venues like Barracuda and Spider House in Austin and Saint Street Inn in Lafayette. Other bands include Lost Bayou Ramblers, Babes, Brass Bed, Quintron and Miss Pussycat, Kid Carsons and Bare Handed Bear Handlers.
“The first people we can think of are bands who had a very similar experience,” Watson said. “It started with bands in New Orleans and then we started getting good feedback from the folks in the Austin, Texas,” adding he’s looking for help from any band that “has a 16-passenger van, or a mini-van or even someone who has a bus or trailer.”
To learn more and to help visit bandswithvans.org.