Local musicians gather in camaraderie, support for the rainforest

Proceeds benefited the Rainforest Trust.

Kristin Hawkinson works on a painting to sell at Rock for the Rainforest, a benefit for the wildfires burning in the Amazon, on Thursday, Sept. 6.

Image by Jasmin Kemp

Kristin Hawkinson works on a painting to sell at Rock for the Rainforest, a benefit for the wildfires burning in the Amazon, on Thursday, Sept. 6.

by Norah Kleven

In the weeks since news broke of devastating fires in the Amazon rainforest, celebrities, environmental groups and civilians have taken to social media to raise awareness and funds for the rainforest. In Minneapolis, local artists did the same.

Rock for the Rainforest was organized by local reggae-rock band Space Monkey Mafia. As many as 60 people turned out to dance for a worthy cause on Thursday night at Veterans of Foreign Wars in Uptown. They rocked for the rainforest. 

“My band and I were driving to a gig in Fargo last Friday and the whole situation had been weighing on all of us pretty heavily,” said Blake Foster, the band’s guitarist. “We just wanted to do something.” 

After a few phone calls and no more than an hour, Foster said the event was confirmed. 

“Everybody’s down for the cause so that’s really cool,” Foster said. 

When it came to curating a lineup, Foster said a few environmentally-minded bands were an easy pick. 

Thursday night’s lineup featured The Immaculate Beings, Smokin’ Joe and The Floating Perspectives. 

Smokin’ Joe, led by Joe Scarpellino, started the night off. The group paid tribute to the wildlife lost in the Amazon blaze with an eco-friendly setlist. 

“I think about it all the time – the environment and what we’re doing to it,” Scarpellino said between songs. “That’s why I write songs about it, because what else can you do?’” 

As the night continued on, people migrated to the dance floor. The Immaculate Beings delivered an emotional indie-rock set.

In addition to live music, there was an auction. Items included donations from local artists, concert tickets and merchandise from First Avenue and the headlining band, Space Monkey Mafia. 

Off to the side of the stage, local artists painted rainforest-inspired scenes. 

Lauren Thompson traveled from Turtle Lake, Wisconsin — about 75 miles away — to attend the event. Thompson, a tattoo artist, put her artistic talents to work at the event, painting abstract Amazon scenes on canvases. 

The event raised a total of $2,050. One-hundred percent of the proceeds were donated to the Rainforest Trust, which purchases and protects endangered lands and species in the Amazon. 

Among the most moving moments of the night came when Kyle Samejima, executive director of the Minneapolis Climate Action and University alumnus, delivered an impromptu address about the importance of activism. 

“When we go out to do these things, it makes a difference. Our voices need to be heard,” Samejima said. 

“I believe that every action that we take — every time we say no to a plastic bag, every time we say no to a plastic cup … makes a difference.”