Musicians give back to Philly charities with “Friendsgiving” show

Philly charities Dirty Heads mural arts
Dirty Heads
Jared Polin

This month, the popular band Dirty Heads played a benefit concert at Parx Casino and donated all ticket sales to Philadelphia charities, spearheading an innovative approach to combine music with social impact in communities.

Hosted by iHeart Radio and ALT 104.5, all of the proceeds from the sold out “Friendsgiving” event went to two local organizations: Mural Arts Philadelphia, the nation’s largest public art program, and Morris Animal Rescue, America’s first animal welfare center. These nonprofits have a long history of working to make communities better, and are well known by the city’s residents.

The concert was sponsored by Family & Co. Jewelers and Miller Lite, who gave a free drink pass to every fan entering the 1,500-person venue. As concertgoers from as far as Oregon socialized at the lounge before the show, many talked about the generosity of the band and the message of giving back to others.

“Music has the ability to bring people together,” said Dirty Head’s keyboardist and Pennsylvania native, Shawn Gonzalez. “When artists play for fans that have shared values of empathy and love, it has the power to raise awareness and shape the culture.”

Since 2001, Dirty Heads have mixed hip-hop, reggae, and rock to create a unique sound that both fully embodies their Southern California roots and resonates with audiences around the globe. Their fans are a community within themselves, and the band has been playing free shows at places like senior homes and alternative schools for years.

The keyboardist added that it’s tough to survive as a touring artist starting out, but that bands can still affect change without donating money. “Musicians can be an ambassador for a charity, make appearances, and use social media to bring attention to important causes,” Gonzalez said.

While Dirty Heads have also volunteered their time and exercised their popularity to support good causes, charity concerts like Friendsgiving can have a major impact on nonprofits like the urban arts program and the animal shelter, and can improve a community in many ways.

“The additional funding from the concert will be a game-changer for us,” said Grace Erikson, Director of Development for the Morris Animal Refuge. “It will directly fuel and amplify our ongoing initiatives and programs aimed at animal welfare and community support.”

The animal refuge plays a crucial role in the community by facilitating adoption—over 1,200 animals a year—reducing the population of homeless animals in local neighborhoods, and providing loving homes for pets in need. Additionally, their Cat Program spays and neuters unowned cats, which controls the stray feline population in Philadelphia.

The money will also contribute to maintaining and improving our facilities, and ensures that the Morris Animal Refuge can provide a comfortable and nurturing environment for the animals in our care.”

Donations like the one from Dirty Heads allow charities and nonprofits to fund new programs, expand operations, and continue to serve communities. But these events are only possible when bands, businesses, and other organizations work together for a common goal. Parx Casino and iHeart Radio, for example, have hosted four concerts to support local charities, with sponsors and advertisers all backing the events.  

“When we were approached by iHeart and Dirty Heads with this opportunity, we were thrilled to jump onboard,” said Helmut Perzi, Director of Entertainment for Parx Casino. “Having the ability to support meaningful charities via our concerts is a terrific way to build awareness for those organizations and as well as our XCite venue.”

Dirty Heads currently have over 1.3 million digital track sales and 2.7 billion on-demand streams since 2018. The band’s global appeal reached new heights in 2021, when their hit “Vacation” garnered over six billion views and streams across social media via the ubiquitous #VacationTransition TikTok challenge, introducing the band to new international fans by the millions.

Some of those fans were at the Parx Casino for the show, and many of them weren’t surprised that the band was giving away all of the ticket proceeds to charities.

Edward and Maggie Evanco live locally, and were overjoyed when they were told that the concert was raising money for Mural Arts of Philadelphia. “This band does so many good things for different people so we love to support them,” said Maggie Evanco. “They are bringing a voice to causes that are meaningful and using their platform for positivity.”

“More bands should do this, too,” Edward Evanco added. “If other artists were to get involved with helping charities, then it would make an impact in the world. Just look at the beautiful murals in our city.”

Mural Arts of Philadelphia was founded on the concept of “sharing and amplifying the creative, dynamic voices of Philadelphians,” according to its mission statement. Their public art and civic engagement projects are famous throughout the city and beyond, and the artwork is responsive to community histories and current needs, and envisions what each story looks like on the brick wall.

With over 250 artists and 100 works of art created each year, an influx of funds from the Dirty Heads concert will enable the socially conscious organization to generate more iconic murals for the City of Brotherly Love.

“Giving back is a great way to exercise a mindset of abundance, and the gratitude you receive as an artist inspires us to do even more,” said Gonzalez, the Dirty Head’s keyboardist. “You don’t have to be a celebrity to care about someone else, because we’re all human. It’s the power of a community working in harmony.”