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‘Music Folk for Ocracoke’ Benefit Oct. 14

Craicdown at 2019 Ocrafolk Festival. The band has worked with Carolina Theatre in Durham to organize a benefit concert set for Oct. 14Photo: Peter Vankevich

Reprinted from the Ocracoke Observer

Many talented musicians have stepped forward over the years to help those in need.  George Harrison and Ravi Shankar did in 1971 with their Madison Square Garden concerts for Bangladesh.

One of the most famous and successful was Live Aid in 1985, a world-wide effort that raised money and conscientiousness to the famine in Ethiopia. The concert has been immortalized in the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

The musical trio Craicdown, in conjunction with the Carolina Theatre in Durham, has organized a benefit concert to support the Ocracoke community that was ravaged Sept. 6 when Hurricane Dorian struck the remote island.

Joseph Terrell Libby Rodenbough of Mipso20*. Photo: George Wood

The fundraising concert is at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, in the historic theatre’s Fletcher Hall. Tickets, $27.50, went on sale Tuesday and are available at the venue’s box office, at and at

Proceeds from ticket sales will be given to the Outer Banks Community Foundation disaster relief campaign for Hatteras and Ocracoke Island.

Performers include Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba, Jonathan Byrd and the Pickup Cowboys, Chatham Rabbits and Joseph Terrell and Libby Rodenbough of Mipso.

“We’re just really thrilled that we have a time open, that it wasn’t too far off,” said Rebecca Newton, the theater’s executive director.

Craicdown’s Rob Sharer came up with the idea for the concert after hearing from those on the island and seeing news reports on the damage the hurricane wrought. For several days, the island was without power and the water had to be boiled before drinking. Most homes, businesses and vehicles were badly damaged or destroyed when a seven-foot storm surge suddenly overtook the village after dawn.

“Friends of mine were in their upper stories, watching their yards, and their houses completely fill up with water,” Sharer said. “It was physically painful to watch. Livelihoods and homes and possessions getting destroyed in real time. It was almost like I could feel the water coming in my own house.”

Jonathan Byrd. Photo: George Wood

In particular, he was concerned about a beautiful 1908 Steinway piano that Marcy Brenner and Lou Castro had on the first floor of their house on Sunset Drive that he is love with and plays every time he visits.

“I waited a day or so because I didn’t dare ask, and when I did, Marcy said it got wet and the keys are swelling together, so that might be it for the piano,” he recounted. “She sent some pictures, and I just started freaking out.

“The piano just seemed so emblematic of what was going on down there. You know, things that I love, were getting destroyed. And I wrote to her and I said, ‘Is there anything I can do? Do you want me to come down and bring you a dehumidifier, or anything like that?’ And she said, ‘Oh, sweetheart, just play some music.’

“What could that mean? That could mean lots of different things. I mean, just sending vibes out there. No, let’s do something more. So really, that was the genesis of this benefit concert.”

Sharer and the trio’s other two members, David DiGiuseppe and Jim Roberts, have a spiritual connection to the island. Craicdown has performed at the Ocrafolk Festival for the past 11 years. The festival, which began in 2000, takes place annually on the first full weekend in June. Craicdown has also given musical workshops at the school over the years.

“So, it really is like the spiritual home of the band,” Sharer said. “It’s our home away from home. We’ve written songs and made great friends out there. And it’s just a magical, enchanted place that I look forward to going to every year.

“The very thought that something terrible has happened to the place and to the people that we love so much, how could you not do something? So, this was thing that I thought I could do. You know, I can’t hold the waters back, but I can organize a concert.”

On the stage that night will be Jonathan Byrd, a seventh-generation Carolinian. He is a preacher’s son and sang “Amazing Grace” solo in church when he was a young boy. He has recorded many albums, with his most recent “Pickup Cowboy.” His songs are about strong characters, tough times and filled with powerful lyrical imagery.

Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba. Photo: George Wood

The performers Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba, Chatham Rabbits and Joseph Terrell and Libby Rodenbough of Mipso have all performed at the Ocrafolk Festival in the last several years.

Will Ridenour is the percussionist for Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba, a high energy rhythmic dance band that can also do soothing story songs.

“Every time we go to Ocracoke, we’re just met with a really amazing community,” he said. ”And so, yeah. When I found out that they were hit hard by Hurricane Dorian, you know, the first thing you as a musician to think is ‘I want to put on a benefit because I to share my music to help raise money.’ So when Rob asked us, it was hands down, ‘Yes, right away.’”

Diali Cissokho (first name pronounced “jelly”), originally from Senegal, West Africa, is the band’s lead singer and master of the kora, a 21-string instrument. He has taught students about African music during arts week at Ocracoke school that takes place every spring for the past several years.

Chatham Rabbits. Photo: George Wood

Chatham Rabbits are a husband and wife duo, Sarah Osborne McCombie and Austin McCombie. From Bynum in Chatham County, they took their name and music inspiration from the original Chatham Rabbits, a local mill string band of the early 20th century.

Joseph Terrell (guitar and vocals) and Libby Rodenbough (fiddle and vocals) are part of the music group Mipso. Defined as an indie Americana quartet, their music has been described as “full of wistful beauty, hopeful undercurrents, and panoramic soundscapes,” and combining classic folk-rock and modern alt-country sounds mingling easily with Appalachian tradition.

Also on stage will be Marcy Brenner, who with her husband Lou Castro, are the recording artists, Coyote. She is a former director of the Outer Banks Community Foundation. In addition to the piano casualty, their Coyote Den, located on the dock at the Community Square also suffered substantial damage.

Not listed officially as performers, it wouldn’t be surprising if Craicdown, in some fashion makes it to the stage.

If you cannot  attend and still want to support the musicians’ efforts, you can donate directly to the Outer Banks Community Foundation. In the donor information line, add Music Folk for Ocracoke.

This story is provided courtesy of the Ocracoke Observer, a newspaper covering Ocracoke island. Coastal Review Online is partnering with the Ocracoke Observer to provide readers with more environmental and lifestyle stories of interest along our coast. 

About the Author

Peter Vankevich

Peter Vankevich is co-publisher of the Ocracoke Observer and formerly with the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress.