A benefit for the National MS Society that doesn’t want your sympathy.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) fucking sucks.
More specifically, it’s a disease that occurs when the immune system attacks the central nervous system (the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves), with symptoms ranging from mild pain or aching to paralysis and blindness. How it affects each person is extremely varied and hard to predict. It’s also heartbreakingly common, and chances are good that someone you know is affected by it.
But even though MS is painful and chronic, it’s not necessarily the end to fun as sufferers know it.
Just ask Amanda Nichols, the Bostonian rock writer and musician who was diagnosed with MS in 2008.
She and Pete Hayes, the drummer for The Figgs who was diagnosed at the same time, came up with Crash Safely, a four-night benefit bringing together some awesome Boston bands under the same cause.
“Crash Safely was an idea hatched by me and Pete when he started his bikeMS team,” said Nichols. “His idea was to try to get as many musicians on the team as possible, which then became, ‘Wait a minute! Let’s have shows, too!’” This year, the crew includes The Upper Crust, The Nickel & Dime Band, Parlour Bells, Mount Peru, Titanic, Gene Dante & The Future Starlets, Sidewalk Driver, and a whole slew of other badass acts, with shows at OBERON, Davis Square Theatre, and the Midway Cafe over the course of two weekends.
“All of the bands have a connection to MS in some way,”
Nichols said of curating the stacked lineup. “They know someone who has it. Sometimes I think it’s a stretch and that person is me, but then I find out that there are other connections I wasn’t aware of. I started there, and then I wanted to have bands who like each other. That makes sharing space and equipment a lot easier, but also has a tendency to create another vibe as the night goes on. It’s not a gig, it’s not a benefit, but a party.”
And it’s that attitude that separates Crash Safely from other causes.
The party vibe is a sign of resilience, sure, but also a way for people who are diagnosed to recognize the support system in their own city.
On the Crash Safely site, there’s a disclaimer: “Please, no talk of miracle cures, diets or expensive scams. No stories of the great aunt who’s almost dead, or the ultra-athlete who did some crazy triathlon because they’re on drug x. Good for the athlete, sorry for the great aunt. It’s different for everyone.”
“It actually comes from my personal experience as an MS patient,” said Nichols. “I have friends with the same diagnosis—even the same neurologist—and we’re on different drugs and have different symptoms.
There’s no one way to have MS.”
Though the goal for the events is, of course, to raise money, it goes beyond that. “I want people to know that they do know someone with MS. They might not know it, though,” said Nichols, adding that dealing with MS means dealing with the diagnosis as well as its related issues, like employment, insurance, and its social impact. And of course, the night is about people coming together and having a good time.
“For those of us who live with it, we want to be seen for who we are regardless of the diagnosis,” said Nichols.
“MS is scary, so let’s do something not-scary to help combat it!”
CRASH SAFELY. @CRASHSAFELY. CRASHSAFELY.ORG.
FRIDAY 9.13.13. OBERON, 2 ARROW ST., HARVARD SQ., CAMBRIDGE. 8PM/18+/$15
SATURDAY 9.14.13. THE DAVIS SQUARE THEATRE, 255 ELM ST., DAVIS SQ., SOMERVILLE. 8PM/21+/$12
FRIDAY 9.20.13 + SATURDAY 9.21.13. THE MIDWAY CAFE, 3496 WASHINGTON ST., JAMAICA PLAIN. 8PM/21+/$10