Recently a local street performer, Keytar Bear, was punched in the face (twice!) in Faneuil Hall, a place both deeply connected to our history but often removed from resident's everyday experience. This incident, which broke his keytar but not his spirit, could've been a sad example of a side of Boston too often mistaken for the whole. Community builder Abigail Taylor of Workbar and a group of fans, strangers, and fellow artists have rallied around their neighbor to do the right thing.
Crystal Germond: You started an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for Keytar Bear. What inspired you to help?
Abby Taylor: When I found out he got punched in the face all I could think was, "What? That's insane! Who would do that?" I was talking with some friends on Twitter and they we're like, "We should host a fundraiser for Keytar Bear!" I thought, "I can host a fundraiser for Keytar Bear, I'm an events planner." Honestly, I've never met the man under the bear costume. I've been speaking with him over the phone and on Facebook. It really bothered me that some people seemed to think, "This is so typical Boston, for someone to punch Keytar Bear in the face." I don't think we're about that, I think we're as great community of people and we support our artists.
CG: What do you think that's about, that someone would think this kind of thing is typical of Boston?
AT: It's a way we've been portrayed, that we're violent ruffians who only like the Bruins and beating people up. It bothers me that one person's actions in Faneuil Hall painted the town in this light. It's not true. For that one person there's a bunch of other people who love Keytar Bear and think he's great and want to support him.
CG: What's been the reaction to the fundraiser?
AT: It's been crazy, I've been completely overwhelmed by the show of support. He has a cult status on Twitter so I knew people care about him, but he's not a technical guy and I don't think he even realizes how popular he is. I don't think that before this he knew just how much Boston loves him. And I had no idea it would get as big as it's gotten!
CG: Yeah, you surpassed your campaign goal in under twenty-four hours! How did you decide how much to raise and what's the money going to be used for?
AT: Originally the goal was just to buy him another keytar and use the leftover money to pay for his medical bills (I wasn't sure how much he had or if we had any at all from this experience). I thought $2,500 was a good number to show we cared about Keytar Bear and what he's doing. With that amount he could also put first and last down on an apartment and really establish himself here as an artist or buy a bunch of t-shirts and have merchandise to sell at shows he does like a real band.
It's completely surpassed that now, which has been nerve wracking for me! He's a street performer and off the grid, so it's really tough to figure out how to give him this money and help him use it in the way he needs it. I had no idea it would be so involved but I'm happy to do it.
CG: Since you're an event planner will there be an event?
AT: Yes! Originally we were going to hold a fundraiser at Workbar, where I work, but when the Facebook RSVPs got over 500 The Middle East contacted me and said they could hold the capacity and would be happy to donate 60% of the door to Keytar Bear. It's been so great to have so many people want to get involved and help.
CG: It's really cool that a neighborhood like Central Square in Cambridge, which many people in Boston only know for bars and rock shows, seems to have joined together as a community around this.
AT: Yeah! Workbar just moved into Central Square recently (the last year) and it's been amazing- the neighborhood is so closely knit and the community is really strong. I wanted that to be reflected in this, for our community to stick up for the little guy and say, "We support people and want them to do what they love." We have that entrepreneurial spirit and aren't just running around Faneuil punching people.
CG: And an artistic spirit! We support our artists.
CG: I'm sure people want to help even more, is there anything people can do if they are inspired by this, beyond giving money?
AT: Definitely! They can donate things to the raffle we're having at the event, a painting or CDs or whatever. They can also donate their time, like design skills. He is going to be looking for people to help him create his brand. Beyond that, come to the show this Thursday, May 8! Dirty Water Brass Band are friends of his and will be there along with Freezepop, and all the bands are playing for free.
CG: That's awesome. You know, as someone who didn't really have any exposure to Keytar Bear it was just inspiring to see someone not just talk about doing something but taking action, and doing it quickly. You're the catalyst and we need more of those- we need the artists and the talent and we need the catalysts that connect them with the people that will show up. We need all of those people to make things happen.
AT: Thank you! This is all due to Keytar Bear and his talent, he's the one that got all the support and he deserves it. But if I hadn't been in this position I would have never thought I would be capable of doing something and that it wouldn't be too hard- and it really hasn't! It took me an hour to set things up. It's important to me that I was able to do something good for a local artist and I'd like to see more of that, but it's really about him and our community.
Tickets for Thursday's Keytar Bear fundraiser at The Middle East are $10- come out and support Keytar Bear and more initiatives like this! For more information visit the Facebook page or follow Abby Twitter @MagneticAbby!