Unsung Heroes 2020: Charlie Hernandez
Unsung Heroes 2020, published in IQ 95 just before Christmas, is a tribute to some of the organisations and individuals who have gone above and beyond to help others during a year unlike any other – be that through their efforts to protect the industry, or helping those who were in desperate need.
We turned to the readership and asked you to nominate worthy causes and personalities for consideration as the inaugural members of our Unsung Heroes awards. Now, IQ can reveal the dozen most-voted Unsung Heroes of 2020, continuing with Charlie Hernandez, founder of Just a Bunch of Roadies (JABOR), who follows UK association Music Venue Trust.
The concept for Just a Bunch of Roadies began following the 2004 Christmas tsunami in south-east Asia, when Charlie Hernandez was in Malaysia for client Petronas, working on a glitzy event to roll out a new Formula 1 car.
“We shifted our focus into a humanitarian effort for the people of Malaysia, and their government gave us support with the aircraft and freight that we needed to move into Malaysia,” he recalls.
Hernandez visited the disaster zone and describes the horrifying scene “as though a bulldozer of immense proportions had just devastated a city.” However, on returning to his hotel in Kuala Lumpur, a pre-show cocktail party was in full swing and along with fellow production worker Lori Tierney, they hatched an idea for roadies to handle such initiatives themselves, rather than involve pop stars, and Just a Bunch of Roadies (JABOR) was born.
Since then, the organisation has helped people in dire situations, such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and flooding in Pakistan; Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013; and Project CURE in the likes of Nepal and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Indeed, the network involved in JABOR consistently likes to think outside the box. “For example, there were some hospital beds that were used in the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics in London. Tait were making the beds as props but put in the extra work so that they could become proper hospital beds, while Rock-it Cargo then delivered them to a children’s hospital in Tunis,” says Hernandez.
JABOR can call on numerous production suppliers in its efforts, such as Sound Moves, Clair Global, eps, Live Nation and Upstage Trucking, and individuals like Jake Berry, David Bernstein and Opie Skjerseth.
“If you truly want to help out, go and fucking do it yourself – because individuals really can change the world”
Hernandez also notes that JABOR principals Lori Tierney, John Campion and Dan Parise all passed away during 2020. “They are a huge loss to us all,” he says.
He continues, “Many people and companies do extraordinary things and we’re very blessed to have their support. Our industry is the last bastion of the handshake, and we basically run on the compassion of the roadie, who would rather crawl across broken glass than see someone get hurt or in pain.”
With Covid-19 devastating the live events industry, this year JABOR turned its attention to its own. “Food is security for people in our industry, so we shifted our mission and tried to communicate the message that people are not alone in their suffering,” he says. “We set up food drive-throughs and partnered with the likes of Musically Fed with Maria Brunner to feed people in Nashville. And since then, we’ve had similar food drives in Minneapolis, Denver, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Phoenix.”
JABOR also liaises with local food banks to identify where they can help make a difference. “Basically, we’ve learned how to do it, but then applied what we all do for a living as production crew and used the knowledge of our industry to do it better and feed more people.”
Hernandez explains that using those principles, JABOR ran a Labor Day effort in Minneapolis where 300 cars were each loaded with enough food to feed a family of six for an entire month. Similar efforts around Thanksgiving distributed 400 meal kits, each to feed 6–8 people through that holiday period.
“We’re able to make a difference and give people hope, but there are so many people involved and they are the true unsung heroes – I would not be Charlie Hernandez without them,” he says. “We have a mantra that if you truly want to help out in a crisis, go and fucking do it yourself, because individuals really can change the world.”
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