Two hours from the start of his sixth annual Sneakers and Speakers charity concert, Matt Bonner was putting the final touches on the event’s silent auction and raffle. The final touches included standing on a milk crate to hang up an autographed Spurs jersey (Bonner is 6-10!), and writing with a sharpie on blank pieces of paper what the actual silent auction and raffle items were. Bonner was not asking the staff of the venue, Plymouth, New Hampshire’s The Flying Monkey, to help; he was doing it all by himself. Now this seems like a good time to remind you that he signed a 4 year, $13.89 million dollar contract back in 2010; yes this is a millionaire not using an event planner to setup and run an event.
But this is typical Bonner. Hard work and dedication brought him all the way from New Hampshire to the NBA, so why should he change his work ethic now?
Country blues band, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, and indie folk artist Strand of Oaks headlined this year’s concert, with local New Hampshire comedian Jon O’Hara providing some comic relief in between the musical acts. Hosted by the Bonner bros, Luke and Matt, the night felt like one big reunion as basically everyone who came was there to support the Bonners, and the charities. “I’m expecting close to 200 people tonight, and I will probably know 198 of ’em,” Bonner accurately predicted before the event.
I was able to pull Bonner away from his setup duties and chat with him about Sneakers and Speakers before the event started:
Dime: Tell me about Sneakers and Speakers, how did the idea for the charity come about?
Matt Bonner: My brother Luke and I started this charity event six years ago because we wanted to support local New Hampshire charities. It spawned from our love of basketball, obviously, and also music. We bring in our favorite bands that typically don’t tour in New Hampshire and we cover all of the overhead costs and give every penny raised to local charities.
Dime: Why the name Sneakers and Speakers?
MB: Sneakers, basketball. Speakers, music. They rhyme, it’s catchy. For a number of years, we didn’t do it this year, but we do a free charity clinic at the Concord Boys and Girls club; that’s the sneakers part and speakers would be the concert. It was a fitting name.
Dime: What charities do the proceeds go to?
MB: This year half is going to the Concord Boys and Girls club and the other half is going to the Captain DiCenzo Camp Fund. I went to the Boys and Girls Club every day after school growing up, it gave me a place to go and was the first place I started playing basketball. I was a Boys and Girls Club kid and it had a very positive influence on my life. It helped me become the person and player I am today.
The Captain DiCenzo camp fund is a local charity here in Plymouth. We wanted to support a local charity in the actual town where the concert was taking place. Captain DiCenzo is a war hero who died fighting for us in Iraq and left behind a wife and son. They started a charity to honor him and it sends underprivileged kids to summer camp here in New Hampshire.
Dime: The concert has been held in different locations every year, right? How do you decide on a location?
MB: We are trying to find a place where the event will stick. We are into indie rock; New Hampshire is not exactly a hot spot for indie rock. We bring really good bands here and unfortunately most people haven’t heard of them. It’s not like there is a shortage of things to do in New Hampshire in the summer so it’s very hard to get people to come out. We have a small following who trust our taste in music and even if they haven’t heard of the band will come and check it out. Everyone really enjoys it and we take a lot of pride in bringing really good bands to the state.
Dime: How do you get these bands to come to New Hampshire?
MB: Just ask ’em. It’s getting easier now because we have a reputation. We can say we brought Okkervil River, Felice Brothers, and Deer Tick – bands that have gone on to become very successful. A lot of them shared the same booking agents or managers so they know how we treat bands. It is becoming easier.
I go to a lot of shows in San Antonio and Austin so usually I contact a band beforehand and let them know I am coming and see if they are interested in checking out a Spurs game while they are in town. There is usually a basketball fan in every band so usually I get a good response. I developed a good relationship with bands and managers that way.
Also, the Spurs have this event called Overtime, where a band will perform after a home game. They usually get local bands to come and play, which is great. I was talking with the guy who coordinates Overtime and found out that they could probably get some pretty well known bands to come play. So I asked him if I could get a band to come and I would even come out, introduce them, and hang out with the fans. He was all for it so I got The Hold Steady to come.
It was awesome because right after the game because everyone stays for a little bit but slowly fans started filtering out so by the end of the night for their final songs there were probably only fifty people there. How cool is that for those fifty people? After going to a Spurs game you get an intimate show with The Hold Steady.
Dime: That’s great. Your teammates Stephen Jackson and Tony Parker have their side rap careers. Did you ask them if there were interested in performing tonight?
MB: Yeah, I don’t know if New Hampshire is ready for Stephen Jackson. For Tony, maybe some of the minority French Canadian population will understand what he’s saying but the rest of New Hampshire probably wouldn’t want to see Tony Parker rock the mic.
Dime: (Laughs) I have heard stories about your brother, Luke, who has skills as a freestyle rapper under the moniker Big Huggie. Will he be dropping some rhymes tonight?
MB: (Big smile) It is actually Big Hug. I doubt it but maybe that should have been a silent auction item. I might have to go add that right now. If we raise this amount of money, Luke will go up and free style.
Dime: What about you? You have any musical talents?
MB: I got nothing. I had trouble with Hot Cross Buns on the recorder. It’s really bad. I’m from a basketball family not a musical one. I can’t sing. I have trouble even clapping to a beat. I’ll tell you a funny story:
Luke and I went to a Tom Rush concert at some random tiny town hall. I can’t remember where it was but it was near New Boston, the middle of nowhere New Hampshire. We walked in and we were probably the only people at the show under 50 but we are huge Tom Rush fans, great singer/songwriter, he’s a legend, so we didn’t care. We know all of his songs because our parents listened to him so much when we were growing up. He was playing “Gavelston Flood,” (Bonner sings) “Wasn’t that a mighty storm.” I told you, I can’t sing.
We started clapping trying to get all of the old people to clap along to the song. He was by himself, doing an acoustic set. The old people didn’t want to join us so we were the only ones clapping. Luke and I were clapping as loud as we could along to the beat. He stopped playing the guitar during the chorus and corrected our clapping. He looked right at us and was like (Bonner starts to claps) to get us clapping the right way. Then he went back to playing and singing. It was hilarious. So that sums up our family’s musical talents.
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