Among the hundreds of people likely to be in attendance for Friday night’s Concert 4 MACC at Turner Hall, most will undoubtedly be on hand because they want to see noted Wisconsin-sired heavyhitters Cory Chisel And The Wandering Sons, Hugh Bob And The Hustle or Nashville’s Los Colognes. Others, unfortunately, will turn out because their own lives are in some way impacted by childhood cancer. Yet some will be on hand because they simply want to invest a little part of their weekend to help fight a serious illness in some small way.
Put Ben Conrad firmly in that third camp. By day, Conrad is the Director of Database Marketing for the Milwaukee Bucks. However, the office professional recently took on the respectable hobby of benefit concert organizer in his spare time. This weekend, Conrad’s baby—the inaugural Concert 4 MACC—will take its first steps. Though in its first year, the cancer-combating concert took root long ago, as Conrad took notice of the team’s extensive involvement with the organization.
“That was one of my first impressions of philanthropy,” Conrad says. “Starting with the Bucks and learning about the MACC Fund, it was the first [charity] that I really learned about everything they’re involved with and really felt like I was a part of it.”
In addition to the game day experiences and player involvement he witnessed in the workplace, he also saw MACC-oriented events being organized by friends over the course of the year, such as TMJ4 meteorologist Brian Gotter’s annual “Bowling 4 MACC” fundraiser, occasional social events thrown by OnMilwaukee’s Jeff Sherman to garner donations for the charity, and another friend’s annual night golfing tournament in Grafton to benefit MACC. Still, Conrad—whose concert booking experience previously peaked with a collaboratively-organized benefit show at a Shank Hall—knew more could be done to help. Beyond his ample firsthand exposure to the good the fund does, the father and aspiring organizer was also sensitive to the difficulties childhood cancer poses on entire families.
“The biggest thing that hit me is seeing those kids, being around those kids, and then having my own children,” Conrad says. “I get a lump in my throat just thinking about of the possibility of what would happen if that was me, and who would be there for me.”
Once the concert seed was planted in his mind, one site stood out to him: Turner Hall. Conrad considers the venue his favorite place in town to see a show, citing the ballroom’s history and intimacy. A date was set aside, and Conrad credits the Pabst Theater Group for helping him book Cory Chisel and Los Colognes to bookend Hugh Bob And The Hustle—whom he’d previously approached about playing the benefit.
“Having never done it before, relationships are so important. If you’re doing a one-time event that you’ve never done before and you have no history for [bands] to base a relationship on, you have to be super persistent,” Conrad says. “The Pabst people helped out a ton. They’ve been great to work with.”
In addition to the help the venue has given Concert 4 MACC, the ambitious undertaking is being supported by Corona, who donated metallic coolers for a raffle, and will give $1 for ever Corona sold to MACC. Koss has donated headphones and ear buds to the raffle. Cousins Subs, Odd Duck, and Water Street Brewery have also pitched in to the raffle. Of course, the Milwaukee Bucks wanted to contribute too. Every Concert 4 MACC ticket can be redeemed at the Bradley Center box office for an upper level ticket to the team’s October 31 home opener against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Even with all the assistance, Conrad and his collaborators are shouldering a mighty burden of attendance expectations and the first year event turning a profit so that this benefit show can actually benefit the organization that holds a special place in his heart.
“The support that MACC Fund does for research and the support that they give the families who are just blindsided with the news—helping them through the process of understanding what’s going to happen and what they can do to help—I think what they provide is invaluable to the families,” Conrad says. “I just wanted to do more to help.”
The inaugural Concert 4 MACC takes place at Turner Hall Friday, September 26. The show features Cory Chisel And The Wandering Sons, Hugh Bob And The Hustle, and Los Colognes. It begins at 7 p.m. and costs $20.