This is not a story about a great night of live music — though there will be one tomorrow at 89K. It’s not about the release of a CD with songs by 14 different bands, all of which are or were based in Taiwan. This is a story about a community of people coming together to support one of their own. It’s a story about what happens when expatriates living abroad reach out to one another to form a bond as strong as that of an extended family.
It began when text messages were forwarded across the country looking for donations of rare type O negative blood for Fionn Byrne, born two months premature on Jan. 15, and announcements were made at open jam nights and gigs from Kaohsiung to Taipei.
“People donated blood from around the island,” said Fionn’s father, Patrick Byrne, who plays saxophone for popular super-funk band The Money Shot Horns.
Byrne is a household name on the Taichung live music scene for his role in booking acts and organizing local festivals; as owner of the now-defunct Grooveyard he gave many bands their start.
A friend, Shaun Bettinson, had organized a sponsored walk that surpassed its goal of NT$100,000 by a factor of four, but the baby’s medical bills were still mounting. Mark Harris, guitarist for Dirty Skies, compiled the CD as a way to “give local foreign musicians the opportunity to give something back to Patrick Byrne for all he has given to the musical community.”
The CD, Songs for Fionn (sounds like “Fin”), includes tracks by The Money Shot Horns, Wailin’ Soul, Three Day Bender, Dirty Skies, The Dolittles, and Reider, all of whom will be playing at the release party at 89K tomorrow, as well as songs by Point 22, Schlumpy, Milk, Nexus, The Rising Hedons, Black Lung Inner City Choir, and overseas artists Scott Cook and Faye Blais. Wailin’ Soul guitarist Russell Rodgers remastered the compilation, and artist Randy Bennett did the graphics for the cover.
WHAT: Songs for Fionn CD release party
WHERE: 89K, 21 Daguan Rd, Nantun Dist, Taichung City (台中市南屯區大觀路21號)
WHEN: Tomorrow from 10pm to 2am
ADMISSION: NT$500 minimum donation, includes a copy of the CD
ON THE NET: For information on private
contributions contact Patrick Byrne at byrnejazz[at]gmail.com
Taipei residents can also contribute. On Thursdays, both Perpetual Motion’s Ladies Night at China White, 2F, 97-101, Dunhua S Rd Sec 2, Taipei City, (台北市敦化南路二段97-101號2樓) and Bliss’ jam night at 148, Xinyi Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市信義路四段148號) will have copies of the CD and donation boxes, which will also be available at River Bash from May 29 to May 31.
Fionn was released into intensive home care on March 29. The hospital bills at that time were nearly NT$1 million, as “babies born to foreign nationals don’t get covered [by the Bureau of National Health Insurance] for the first four months,” Byrne explained. Though the hospital gave Byrne and his wife, Alison, both Canadians, a discount on the medical bill that
was matched by Taiwan’s Premature Baby Foundation (早產兒基金會), the couple are racking up debt as expenses mount for medical equipment and nurse’s wages.
“We knew that there was no coverage, but our first born was fine,” said Byrne. “In Fionn’s term everything was normal so we weren’t concerned until a day or two before he was born [two months premature].”
“It’s really cool to see all these people come together to be so generous to someone who deserves it so much and has been so generous to other musicians and to so many people,” said Patrick Reid, of Reider.
Byrne said that one night a Taiwanese couple who had seen the story on the news even came to his door. “The wife was pregnant and the man just said, ‘Here’s our [consumer] vouchers for your baby.’ We were really touched,” said Byrne. “The Taiwanese friends we’ve told were unaware of this antiquated law — we pay taxes, we’re legal residents.”