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Friends rally round longtime engineer Dave Schmitt

Dave Schmitt may not be a name that jumps out at Triangle music enthusiasts, but without his work over the years the scene here would be markedly different. This Saturday at Local 506, where many know Schmitt as the man behind the soundboard, an all-star cast will perform at a benefit to help him pay for much needed emergency dental work. Bands and friends jumped at the chance to help out. The lineup includes Countdown Quartet, Zen Frisbee Lite (three-piece), Dexter Romweber and Friends, Jule Brown, John Howie, Killer Filler, The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers and Evil Wiener, starting at 6 p.m.

Schmitt, who has no health insurance, said he was taken by the response for the show. Another benefit is planned at the Cat's Cradle in late June. "People have made it really easy for me. It's been great that I haven't had to coax people into it at all. Many have insisted on playing. It's kind of touching."

For his start harnessing the sounds of local musicians, one must go back to the first colorful pages in the book of Triangle rock 'n' roll history.

Schmitt moved back to North Carolina in 1979, working for Raleigh bands Nantucket (who often played with KISS and Cheap Trick) and Stones-y legends The Fabulous Knobs. He was the sound man at storied venue The Pier, the house guy at The Brewery, and then worked at an early incarnation of the Cat's Cradle. He later became full-time soundman with Southern Culture on the Skids for the next seven-plus years, and worked extensively with Dexter Romweber. He recorded SCOTS, Romweber, Zen Frisbee, Family Dollar Pharoahs and Greg Hawks. Schmitt also finds himself in that important, if sometimes unwieldy, role of advocate for the bands as they work with club managers and owners. He also plays music with his occasional group the Schmitt-Tones and other bands.

Artists and those in their immediate circles often find themselves in the precarious position of being outside the system, balancing their own passions with trying to pay the bills or having health benefits. Schmitt's case reflects this dilemna. "I got to enjoying what I was doing so much, the other parts just didn't seem as important." His humility, a trait that endears him to those who get to know him, put Schmitt off of even asking for assistance in this case, but it became his last resort.

He gets rankled like many Americans by the current harsh economic climate. "It's kind of down to the wire for me, and I know there are people worse off than me in this way," Schmitt says. "But when you talk about health insurance in this country, it's just such a Ponzi game. The work I have to get done is something that no health care now would cover."

The show will be emceed by Hoppy, a familiar face from the Cave who has hosted the music trivia show Bandelirium, to keep a casual "party atmosphere." The door money goes directly to Schmitt, at this event and the not yet finalized Cradle show "Dave Aid" on June 25, which he describes as "nearly a mini-Sleazefest." Come on out to support a Triangle music original; it sounds like the right thing to do.

"Bene-Schmitt" with Countdown Quartet, Zen Frisbee Lite, Dexter Romweber and Friends, John Howie Jr., Killer Filler, The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers and Evil Wiener, starts at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 21 at Local 506 in Chapel Hill.

  • Friends rally round longtime engineer Dave Schmitt

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