The Pressure Boys, The Connells, Let’s Active play Be Loud! 14
Picture it: Chapel Hill, the 1980s. Prominent on the music scene was The Pressure Boys, a high energy ska-pop band that made it big in and out of town. They broke up in 1988 and moved on, reuniting just two times in the decades since – first in 2008 for a benefit concert, and now, this weekend for a different benefit concert.
The Pressure Boys are headlining Be Loud! 14, a weekend of shows to benefit the Be Loud! Sophie Foundation, named for the late Sophie Steiner, a Chapel Hill teenager who died last year from cancer. The Sophie Foundation seeks to give adolescent cancer patients at UNC Hospitals a better experience. The concerts, held Friday, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night, will be held at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro. Along with The Pressure Boys, other bands of the 1980s and ’90s will perform, including The Connells, Let’s Active, Dexter Rombweber Duo, Cosmic Punk, Sacrificial Poets, Cheryl Park’s 116th Dream, Popup Chorus, Tom Maxwell and A Number of Things.
The Pressure Boys will perform twice – at 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights. Rob Ladd is the drummer. After the band broke up, he moved to California and has played with many other recording artists, including Don Henley, Sting and Roger Daltrey of The Who. Ladd moved back to his Chapel Hill hometown in 2008.
“I still play professionally, but I’ve really kind of retired from it, just to get off the road and concentrate on my family,” he said. But Ladd still plays with local and national bands. For the past two years, he has been the drummer for The Connells, the Raleigh-based band that will also perform at Be Loud! 14. The Connells perform about a dozen concerts a year, which works for Ladd’s schedule, as do the Red Clay Ramblers, in which he also plays. He also spends time with local musicians and producers in recording sessions. Drummers are a little more collaborative in nature, he said.
“Also, drums on their own are a guy making a lot of noise, so you have to collaborate to make something musical,” Ladd said. “A reason drummers are more laid back is 99 percent of kids want to play drums, and drummers get to do that. We have no regrets because we did what we wanted to do.”
The impetus for being part of the Be Loud! benefit was simple – Niklaus and Lucy Steiner asked them. Ladd went to Chapel Hill High School with Niklaus Steiner.
“We were buddies and hung out with the same group of folks. When Sophie got sick … we were devastated. I knew Sophie before, as a little kid, and watched her grow up. She was such an amazing person it didn’t seem possible she was gone. When Niklaus and Lucy asked, we said, ‘Yes, everything, everything you want,’” Ladd said.
Niklaus Steiner went to the last The Pressure Boys benefit concert six years ago and said it was like an informal high school reunion for those who graduated in Chapel Hill in the 1970s and ’80s.
“This show will have that same pulling together of that kind of show, that kind of music,” Steiner said. “We only asked [The Pressure Boys] to do one show and they made a whole weekend of shows.”
This is the first big fundraiser for the Sophie Foundation, he said, and they plan to do one or two big events a year, including an annual concert at Cat’s Cradle. The Cradle, the bands and the publicity have all donated their efforts for the benefit.
“It’s been this amazing coming together of generosity,” Steiner said. He said that his daughter would have loved the event.
“Nothing would make her happier than me sitting around with guys from high school, planning this event. There was lots of shooting the breeze, too,” he said. Sophie loved local places like Pepper’s Pizza, he said, and had an affinity for her hometown. Sophie was 15 when she died last August.
“What’s so hard about adolescents – cancer patients in general, but adolescents – is you are stripped of dignity, independence and identity at a time they’re becoming who they are,” Steiner said. Her family and hospital staff made her stay in the pediatric cancer ward a bit more bearable, he said, with things like the UNC field hockey team coming to visit Sophie, who played hockey.
“We’re looking at creating a youth coordinator position – pulling together resources in and outside the hospital,” he said. Steiner thinks this is just the beginning of a national movement to address adolescent cancer care. The staff at UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center did everything they could for Sophie, but tragically it didn’t work out for her, Steiner said. The foundation to benefit the hospital is a way to pay them back, he said.
The Be Loud! benefit could be the last opportunity to see The Pressure Boys in concert. Ladd said The Pressure Boys haven’t discussed another gig together, and he doesn’t see a future anniversary show.
“But who knows,” he said.
WHAT: Be Loud! 14 benefit concert featuring The Pressure Boys, The Connells, Let’s Active and more
WHEN: Friday and Saturday
WHERE: Cat’s Cradle
300 E. Main St., Carrboro
TICKETS: $40 for weekend pass, $20 Friday only, $30 Saturday full pass, $10 Saturday matinee only
www.beloud14.com or www.catscradle.com
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