By Tim Leeds
The basement of the Blaine County Attorney's Office has had some items people might not expect in it stacks of Marshall and Peavey speakers, Gibson SG and Ibanez guitars, a Rickenbacker bass and Tama drums, posters and tapestries of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Doors.
What those items are being used for might not be expected either.
The band Brother Ruphus, with members from Havre and Chinook, is practicing for a concert in Havre May 4 a concert with all the proceeds going to charity. Donations will be made to local charities like the North Havre Community Food Bank and the Feed My Sheep Soup Kitchen, and to the Gift of Life Housing Center in Great Falls and the American Cancer Society. Brother Ruphus will join Thunder Heart, which has members from Havre and Hays, and Seasons from Wolf Point to put on the six-hour concert.
Brother Ruphus guitar player and singer Delmar Briere said choosing the American Cancer Society and Gift of Life, which provides housing for patients undergoing cancer treatments, was a natural when the band decided to do a benefit.
"When the idea came up, there was really no discussion," Briere said.
Briere is a cancer survivor, and he said everybody in the five-man band has had a friend or relative diagnosed with cancer.
Tonsicular cancer was found in Briere in April 2001. He underwent treatment, and thought he had beat the disease. Then he found it had spread to the other side of his neck, and treatment began again.
Surgery removed all of the existing cancer in Briere's lymph nodes in October, and he continued undergoing radiation treatment until the beginning of the year. He is now clean of cancer.
He still isn't recovered from the surgery and treatment, and Briere said his abilities probably never will be 100 percent. His taste buds and saliva glands were damaged by the radiation therapy, and probably will never completely return. His shoulder muscles are so atrophied he has to use a special strap around his waist to hold his guitar. Singing is still difficult. But he is getting back to a more normal life.
Being diagnosed with cancer "was the worst day of my life," he said. "It was a really miserable time."
The second time he went in for treatment, Briere said, he was referred to a specialist new to the state. A head-and-neck cancer specialist had moved to Missoula, and he performed the surgery that removed Briere's cancer.
"If they ever say there was divine intervention, I think it was him, for me," Briere said.
Briere is now working to regain normalcy in his life. He recently received his first paycheck with full hours in more than a year. Briere works at Northern Montana Hospital and the Havre clinic as a medical technician.
He is undergoing therapy to regain his strength, now using a weight machine his brother, Garret Briere, moved into a house. His daughter gives him massage therapy.
"(Renessa's) gotten to be a pretty good hand at it," Delmar Briere said.
Playing in a band once again is part of getting back to normal.
"It was pretty tough for me just to stand up four or five hours at first," Briere said.
He said Brother Ruphus, consisting of him and his brother Garret, Leon Main, Jared Maddox and Taylor Steiner, has been practicing about three months now. They practice three nights a week for about four hours or more each night.
"This is actually barely enough to scratch the surface, but we practice when we can," said Main, probably the most experienced musician in the band.
Scheduling practices can be hard at times, Briere said. All of the band members have jobs, and he, his brother and Maddox have families.
But their background helps. Briere said that between himself, his brother, Main and Maddox, they share about 60 years worth of musical experience.
All three bands playing at "Rock and Roll for Charity 2002," the May 4 benefit concert, focus on classic rock, Briere said.
Main, who also plays in Thunder Heart, said that band also plays country music in some venues, but will probably stick with rock 'n' roll at the benefit concert.
Maddox said that while Brother Ruphus will stick with rock, the songs might not be what most people would expect. Many cover bands have a list of 40 or 50 classic rock songs. Although many of the artists will be the same, Brother Ruphus is going to play some different songs, he said.
"Instead of playing the A' side, we'll play the B' side," Maddox said.
Doing a benefit for cancer groups fits into Delmar Briere's goal of educating people about the disease. He said he used chewing tobacco for years, and he would like to speak to kids, especially junior high kids, about the dangers of tobacco, and how to avoid cancer.
Briere said he always heard that people who chew tobacco for 20 years are guaranteed to get cancer. And he did.
"I knew the risk I had a microbiology degree," he said.
He wants to make people understand the risks.
Doing the benefit concert helps with that, providing funds for cancer education, treatment and research. Admission to the concert, in the Bigger Better Barn at the Hill County Fairground from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., is $5, or $4 with a nonperishable food item. The food items will be donated to the food bank. There will also be a 50-50 raffle, and local businesses are donating items and services that also will be raffled. The cash proceeds will be divided among the charities.
No one under 18 will be admitted, Briere said. There will also be a bar for concert-goers 21 and older.
The bands will benefit along with the charities, Briere said. Getting their names out never hurts.
"Obviously we want to promote ourselves, but we get to help a good cause," he said. "It should be a pretty big deal, we hope."