N.O. musicians pitch in to help Colorado flood victims

New Orleans musicians love to play in Colorado. This Saturday, they’ll be playing for Colorado, raising money to help people in that state suffering in the wake of devastating floods.

“As far as the size of the crowds and the enthusiasm for New Orleans music, Colorado trumps almost every other place in the country,” New Orleans Suspects keyboardist C.R. Gruver said last week.

The longtime Denver resident moved to New Orleans in 2006. When flooding devastated Colorado in mid-September, he wanted to help, and a benefit concert featuring New Orleans musicians was a natural way to do it.

“Musicians have come out of the woodwork,” Gruver said. “It’s an impressive list of names, and every single person is donating their time.”

The lineup for NolaRado, as the benefit is called, includes Kermit Ruffins, New Orleans Suspects, Bonerama, the Dirty Dozen Brass, Papa Mali, a James Booker tribute featuring Booker band members Reggie Scanlan and Johnny Vidacovich performing with pianists Gruver, Tom Worrell and Bill Malchow. Guitarist Brian Stoltz will be the show’s artist at large, joining multiple acts.

NolaRado proceeds are earmarked for the Lyons Community Foundation, a fund for the small town of Lyons in hard-hit Boulder County. The county’s Office of Emergency Management reported that floodwaters damaged at least 397 homes and destroyed 340 others.

Gruver gets credit as the prime instigator of NolaRado, but he is far from the only New Orleans musician who wants to help Colorado flood victims. Marc Paradis, singer, guitarist and electric cellist in Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, and Craig Klein, one of the three trombonists in Bonerama, all independently got the same idea.

“When C.R. got in touch with me, it seemed like a good fit,” Paradis said. “He’d already gotten the wheels turning.”

“C.R. jumped right after it happened,” Klein said.

Klein’s friend, Jon Kardon, an events producer and former New Orleans resident who is in the process of moving back to the city from Colorado, is also aboard for NolaRado.

“So many people are making this whole thing work,” Klein said. “Playing the music is the easy part.”

In addition to the musical connection between Colorado and New Orleans, the two locales now have catastrophic flooding in common. Klein and Paradis are among the thousands of Gulf Coast residents who experienced water damage after Katrina.

“I understand how much doubt they have about their future,” Paradis said of Colorado flooding victims. “That’s probably the hardest thing for people who haven’t been through it to relate to. Your life turns on a dime. Things fall apart before your eyes. It gets to a point where you feel like it’s almost unfixable.”

Post-Katrina flooding sent 10 feet of water into Klein’s house in St. Bernard Parish. Later, during his work to help fellow musicians gut their homes, he saw many volunteers from Colorado helping as well.

“So we need to return the favor, because we were so grateful for all of the help we got,” Klein said.

Brent Boland, a Denver resident who grew up in Lyons, and his wife, Sarah, plan to attend NolaRado. Boland’s 80-year-old father, Gerry Boland, was among the four people killed by flooding in Boulder County.

“We’ve had people reaching out to our family over and over again, people we don’t necessarily know,” Boland said. “This is another example of that. I’m so appreciative that the people of New Orleans are willing to give their time and talents toward helping people so far away.”