For 20 years, this benefit concert has used covers to fight hunger


E! The network’s series “Clash of the Cover Bands” offers new visibility to musicians performing songs popularized by other artists.

Meanwhile, an annual benefit concert in Indianapolis has used covers to fight hunger for 20 years.

Tonic Ball, which debuted in 2002 with 12 acts honoring country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons, will be premiered as an online event on November 19. Each year the show raises funds for Second helpers, a non-profit organization that collects food from wholesalers, retailers and restaurants and also trains people for careers in the restaurant industry.

Previous editions of Tonic Ball have celebrated the music of more than 40 iconic acts, including The Beatles, Prince, Dolly Parton and REM. stage on stage to see more than 70 local bands perform interpretations of familiar tunes.

Due to the pandemic, Tonic Ball will go virtual for the second year in a row. The 2020 edition released a 15-act video performing sets of three hit wonder songs such as “Party All the Time” by Eddie Murphy and “Lovefool” by the Cardigans.

When asked what her favorite moments from the 2020 show were, Tonic Ball co-chair Kirsten Eamon-Shine mentioned a rendition of “Tainted Love” by the Indianapolis singer-songwriter, The Girl Called Books.

“I love that it’s a cover of a song that was made famous as a cover, like a kind of meta-cover,” Eamon-Shine said.

Originally recorded by Los Angeles R&B singer Gloria Jones in 1965, “Tainted Love” Reached 8th on Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100 chart thanks to a 1981 cover by the English duo Soft cell.

This year’s edition of Tonic Ball will feature songs that reached # 1 on the charts.

If she had the option of picking a chart-topping three-song set, Eamon-Shine says she would pick “Call Me” by Blondie, “Fallin ‘” by Alicia Keys, and “Happy Together” by the Turtles.

Staged the Friday before Thanksgiving, Tonic Ball was originally inspired by Loser’s Lounge, a series of New York tribute shows started by former Psychedelic Furs keyboardist Joe McGinty in 1993.

Tonic Ball co-founder Ken Honeywell, who will retire as creative director at advertising and public relations firm Well Done Marketing in December, says his original idea gained his reputation as a “the best annual event in Indianapolis.”

“Tonic Ball has two special ingredients – we are supporting an amazing mission and our volunteers want everyone at the event to have a wonderful time,” said Co-Chair Eamon-Shine. “Every artist becomes a star, every audience member has a fresh and fun evening, and everyone helps fight hunger.”

To watch this year’s edition of Tonic Ball and support Second Helpings, visit tonicindy.com.

20 years of honored acts of Tonic Ball

  • Gram Parsons (2002)
  • Elvis Costello (2003)
  • Neil Young (2004)
  • The Rolling Stones (2005)
  • Prince, Talking Heads (2006)
  • The Shock, Madonna (2007)
  • Elvis Presley, Queen (2008)
  • Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin (2009)
  • The Beatles (2010)
  • Michael Jackson, REM, David Bowie (2011)
  • The Kinks, Stevie Wonder, U2 (2012)
  • Tom Petty, Pixies, Grateful Dead (2013)
  • The Velvet Underground / Lou Reed, Fleetwood Mac, Nirvana / Foo Fighters (2014)
  • Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Beck, Tina Turner (2015)
  • The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, David Bowie, Prince (2016)
  • James Brown, Simon & Garfunkel, Dolly Parton, The Cure, Wilco (2017)
  • Johnny Cash, Elton John, ABBA, Pearl Jam, Beyoncé (2018)
  • Radiohead, Beastie Boys, Ramones, Diana Ross, Bob Marley (2019)
  • One Shot Wonders (2020, online)
  • Hits topped the charts (2021, online)


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