When tragedy befalls an artist or group of artists – such as the Jan. 2 fire started by a still-at-large arsonist that burned down Raw Paw’s headquarters full of irreplaceable art – it isn’t just an affront to those particular people, it’s an attack on the entire creative community. Yet, such a widespread feeling of pain and loss is likewise often the rallying cry for a mass movement toward healing, as was the case during the art collective’s Saturday evening arson benefit held at Spokesman and St. Elmo Brewing Company, which drew hundreds of supporters for a showcase of local bands and the sale of art saved from the flames.
"We were already in a marathon of surviving when the fire took us by total surprise," says Raw Paw co-founder Chris Dock. "It was going to be impossible to recover without help from the community. Friends and friends of friends giving 20-50 dollars saved our dreams from being taken from us."
“Snapshot” covered the benefit and chatted with the three founders – Chris Dock, Kyle Carter and Jen Rachid – as well as performers and supporters to illuminate Raw Paw’s method of moving forward, which hinges on the goal of proliferating success for artists of all stripes.
Nathan Wilkins of Hikes at the benefit performs solo as Monté: “I don’t care about a silver lining ... because I don’t think I should have to search in tragedy for that kind of thing,” reflects Wilkins during a postshow chat that quickly turns emotional when discussing how the fire occurred weeks after the removal of Hikes guitarist Will Kauber following allegations of sexual assault. “All I know is that I want whoever the fuck did that ... to get better. The goal is for these people to get better, and then our world gets better.”
St. Elmo Brewing Company head brewer/owner Bryan Winslow holds the official poster for the benefit. The brewery donated 10% of all bar sales: “Raw Paw is on their way to being one of our neighbors here,” says Winslow, referring to Raw Paw’s new home base, which likely launches in three to six months. “Hopefully, we tell enough people [about their troubles] and have enough impact through the event so it maybe doesn’t happen again.”
Jesus Acosta performs as SOBBRS at Spokesman: “I think as artists, we put so much of ourselves into everything we create, and seeing that fellow artists lost almost all of their creations is just heartbreaking,” he says. “There’s a line in one of my songs – ‘I’m cleaning all my scars/ I treat them like trophies now’ – and that’s pretty much been my motto through life. I always write when I feel down – it’s when it comes more naturally – but I think there’s something beautiful in experiencing these terrible things and bouncing back and coming together stronger.”
Supporters at St. Elmo Brewing Company view selections of art saved from the fire, just a handful of more than 1,000 posters (worth more than $60,000 and created by Carter) plus countless other collaborators’ art, merch, and vinyl destroyed in the fire. “We chose to save and show these particular pieces because that is the small set of works in there that symbolize me and Kyle starting out, [our] interaction in college, then meeting Jen and introducing our art to the scene,” says Dock. “It’s just sort of what Kyle grabbed on our way out in a weird way. When you see so many things destroyed, it’s strange that these things that have this sentimental value sort of ring out more than other works.”
Raw Paw’s co-founders Carter, Dock, and Rachid find solace from all the support: “We are in a really lucky position to have this kind of beautiful fucking community that really has shown us that we can take refuge in them and what we do does matter because walking into that fucking house [after the fire], it did not feel like that,” says Rachid. Adds Dock, “These people here tonight, the city of Austin and the creativity here have given us the opportunity to come back stronger than ever, and to matter and create and exist and to dream.”
Wilkins agrees that personal and creative evolution – like the establishment of Raw Paw’s new facility, which will include a storefront hawking local art, books, music, clothes, and more – is the way toward healing. “It was hard [to play] tonight ... it was the first time I’ve even thought about a stage in a while,” he admits, revealing that Hikes will eventually “transform into a different version. ... We’re just gonna evolve, and maybe that goes back to the whole silver lining thing, too – you just adapt, because life is good, and it’s getting better.”
Raw Paw still needs more financial support to fully recover from this terrible tragedy. Those who wish to donate can do so via the band’s online fundraiser: www.generosity.com/emergencies-fundraising/raw-paw-arson-recovery.
See more online at austinchronicle.com/arts. Want to pitch an event, happening, idea, or person for “Snapshot”? Email the author/photog: firstname.lastname@example.org.