Event Preview: Come Celebrate Marty's Birthday, featuring Cowboy Indian Bear, Cloud Dog and others

Just how old is Cowboy Indian Bear member Martinez Hillard anyway? Although Hillard has decided to downplay the conceit of Marty is 47? — an inside joke used to promote his birthday shows — he won’t give me a straight answer. “I decided to go ahead and opt out of the theme this year…It was a fun joke that even had a couple of people fooled for a couple years.” Rugged estimates mark the man as early to mid 30s, but when I press him he recommits. “Quote me. 47.”

Fair enough. Hillard may be more than a few years shy of 47, but the hardworking musician/rapper continues his annual tradition of celebrating his birthday by doing what he does best; hustling a show together. This year’s event, on Saturday, features Hillard’s own band, about to release its second album, "Live Old, Die Young," Cloud Dog, Kansas City’s The Soft Reeds, and Paper Buffalo. This is the fifth time Hillard has celebrated his birthday in concert.

It also marks Hillard and co.’s return to fundraising for Family Promise, an organization that provides direct support for homeless families in Douglas County. In previous iterations of his birthday bash, Hillard donated portions of the cover charge to the group, after becoming aware of the organization through a friend and former employee. “Getting acquainted with the work she had done over the years, [fundraising] was something I thought would be fun to do… It was something I had always wanted to revisit, but hadn’t had the chance until now.”

Family Promise is national network of direct support affiliates that began nearly 20 years in New Jersey and has since spread to 174 cities in 41 states. Since opening in October 2008, the Lawrence affiliate has garnered a 92 percent success rate of graduates of the program maintaining permanent housing, says Executive Director Dana Ortiz. Ortiz says the reason for success is social capital — “people connecting with people” and the organization’s “practicing the lost art of hospitality.”

The program maintains a circuit of churches and congregations that offer temporary housing to a limited number of families — four families, or 15 individuals, the maximum allowable by city ordinances. The program also focuses on reinforcing necessary life skills to secure permanent housing.

“We try to help come along side them. It’s not us doing for them. It’s us coming along side the families,” Ortiz says.

Having recently visited the organization’s outreach center, Hillard remarked “it’s very evident that a lot of the work they do is very hands on.”

Ortiz expresses it as “doing life together,” a particularly rich phrase that encapsulates the organization’s focus on making their guests feel comfortable and arm them with the skills to graduate through their program and secure housing.

Hillard reflects “it’s something that really resonates with me on a personal level. The more I learn, the more I want to help in the ways that I can. For me as a musician this is definitely one of the ways I can get more hands on.”

You can come celebrate Marty’s Birthday featuring Cowboy Indian Bear, Cloud Dog, The Soft Reeds, and Paper Buffalo starting at 8 p.m. Saturday at The Bottleneck, 737 New Hampshire St. Cover is $6-8, with portions of the door going to Family Promise, as well as donation bake sale.

Cowboy Indian Bear's Martinez Hillard will celebrate his birthday with a concert Saturday at the Bottleneck.

Cowboy Indian Bear's Martinez Hillard will celebrate his birthday with a concert Saturday at the Bottleneck. by Jon Ralston

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