Bill Bynum’s BreakFest Preview at Old Town

Feb. 26 show at The Ark to help St. Andrew's feed the homeless

On Sunday, Jim and Connie Johnston drove from Hanover, just south of Jackson, Mich., to Ann Arbor.

Bill Bynum and Co. Sunday Night Old Town

Bill Bynum & Co. Sunday night at the Old Town Tavern. Left to right: Mary Seelhorst on fiddle, Chuck Anderson on bass, Dave Keeney on guitar, Bill Bynum on guitar and vocals. (Photos by the writer.)

They’d come specifically to hear Bill Bynum & Co. play the Old Town Tavern – a neighborhood bar offering free live music every Sunday night. Yes, the Johnstons are fans – they buy a CD every time they see Bill play, says Jim, so they’ll have one to give away to another friend as an introduction to Bynum’s songs.

What kind of songs are those? Bynum announced his Old Town set by saying, “Howdy, folks, we’re here to play some hillbilly music!” And that’s what they did for two 45-minute sets, with a break in between.

The Chronicle didn’t have to drive nearly an hour to get to the Old Town like the Johnstons did – the Old Town is right down the street from us.

But we were there to see Bynum, too, because we wanted to check out one of the acts playing BreakFest 2010 at The Ark on Feb. 26. That’s when Bynum will be joined by Bonnie Rideout, Rev. Robert Jones, Sr. and Duck Baker in a benefit concert at The Ark for The Breakfast at St. Andrew’s, a nonprofit that provides a hot breakfast every day of the year to anyone who shows up at the doorstep of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on North Division.

Why Not Golf?

Jim Cain, who’s producing the BreakFest fundraiser, told The Chronicle that the idea of organizing a concert as a fundraiser was his attempt “to save Ann Arbor from yet another charity golf outing.”

Cain serves as a member of the board of The Breakfast at St. Andrew’s and works as a volunteer at the breakfast itself – washing dishes. The work of organizing the fundraiser, Cain said, didn’t really seem like work. Recruiting the artists was a combination of cold calling and connections – helped by Cain’s own musical background.

Cain played bass in the Saline High School orchestra with fiddler Bonnie Rideout and took piano lessons from her mom. But when he first tried to contact her, she was in Scotland recording a CD and couldn’t be reached. After finally tracking her down, she was instantly on board.

Cain didn’t have a previous connection to fingerstyle guitarist Duck Baker, so he cold-emailed him asking him to play the benefit. In his email, Cain included the fact that he was learning some Irish fiddle tunes arranged for fingerstyle guitar – using teaching materials created by Baker. Baker said yes, and Cain has helped arrange some shows in Kalamazoo and Lansing to make the trip from New York England worth Baker’s while.

But the first artist to agree to perform for BreakFest was Bynum – on a handshake deal. How did Cain get to know Bynum? Start with Bynum & Co.’s fiddle player, Mary Seelhorst. Her husband is an editor at Car and Driver magazine, which is based in Ann Arbor, and she herself is a photographer who on occasion shoots automobiles. Cain met them at the Rolling Sculpture Car Show in downtown Ann Arbor and got to know the band that way.

The Funding Challenge

Part of the impetus behind the need to ramp up fundraising efforts for The Breakfast at St. Andrew’s program was the end of support from the city of Ann Arbor. When human services allocations were made this current year, a new evaluation metric was implemented, along with a requirement that audited financial statements be provided.

The Breakfast was not able to provide audited statements for this year’s application cycle, so was not allocated any funding. As the city of Ann Arbor faces a challenging budget year – with all programs on the table – it’s not clear if any human services programs will receive funding in the coming year.

All of the $30 ticket price for the show at The Ark goes directly to support The Breakfast. To make a donation directly, call 734-663-0518  or make an online donation to the St. Andrew’s breakfast program.

Bynum at the Old Town: Photos

Meanwhile, here are some photos to document the rest of the evening at the Old Town Tavern.

Bill Bynum and Co. Sunday Night Old Town

In the first booth were Jim and Connie Johnston, who'd driven from near Jackson, Mich. to hear Bill Bynum & Co. play Ann Arbor's Old Town Tavern.

Bill Bynum and Co. Sunday Night Old Town

Bill Bynum

Bill Bynum and Co. Sunday Night Old Town

Dave Keeney

Bill Bynum and Co. Sunday Night Old Town

Chuck Anderson (on bass) and Dave Keeney

Bill Bynum and Co. Sunday Night Old Town

Bill Bynum

Bill Bynum and Co. Sunday Night Old Town

The pitcher is passed.


  1. By Russ Kennedy
    January 18, 2010 at 8:12 pm | permalink

    Hi Dave,
    It was a pleasure meeting you at the Old Town Tavern with Bill Bynum and Co. Your pictures look great, I’ll still send a couple of mine from sunday night.
    Take care!

  2. By Heidi
    January 19, 2010 at 4:23 pm | permalink

    I enjoyed this article and thought it informative and well-written. It correctly describes funding issues many non-profits now face after losing assistance from the City of Ann Arbor. Good reporting on local issues!