It’s the epitome of random – and that’s what makes it so cool.
Every year since the creation of the Songs for Kids Foundation in 2007, the organization has staged 500 Songs for Kids, a series of live performances held around town to benefit the Atlanta-based non-profit.
Some years, local luminaries such as Cee Lo Green, Janelle Monae, Zac Brown Band and Shawn Mullins have popped up to perform. Other years have leaned heavily on lesser-known – but not lesser-important – local acts to fill in the gaps.
They’re all welcome at the event, which kicks off Thursday and spans four weekends, bouncing from Smith’s Olde Bar to The Earl to The Loft at Center Stage.
The 2014 theme is Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Each band or artist will perform one song from the list, counting down in chronological order.
Josh Rifkind, the founder and president of Songs for Kids, which exists to enrich the lives of children suffering from illness or hardship through music, already has about 350 acts confirmed. He has faith that he’ll get to the magic number of 500 volunteer musicians.
“It does take forever to do the lineup. I don’t really have a social life,” he said with a laugh. “The first year was so unbelievably hard, but now so many bands have played it before that they get the vibe.”
Some of the participants announced so far are ‘80s hair metal faves Skid Row (sans singer Sebastian Bach), Georgia-based Americana sweetheart Sonia Leigh and Thomas Hardy Morris, frontman for alt-country-rock band Dead Confederate.
Oh, and if you’re looking for an official lineup, there really isn’t one. Rifkind will post information as it comes on the organization’s Facebook page, but part of the fun is the surprise. Also, this year the entry fee has been changed from $15 to a “pay what you want” process.
“No matter who you are, no matter how much money you have, you can still show up,” Rifkind said.
While 500 Songs for Kids is the foundation’s biggest and splashiest fundraiser, Rifkind is plenty swamped throughout the year.
He and Songs for Kids comrade Sanjay Kothari visited 239 hospitals last year, spending more than 200 nights in a van as they traveled the country to perform bedside concerts for ill children.
The organization has a supporter in folk-soul singer Ray LaMontagne, who is teaming up with Tickets-for-Charity on his current tour (which plays Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Alpharetta July 18) to offer prime seats to his shows with proceeds benefiting Songs for Kids.
Also, the May Shaky Knees Music Festival at Atlantic Station will tie in with Songs for Kids by turning the stage over to Rifkind and some kids at the start of each day of the weekend event.
But first comes the kickoff of 500 Songs for Kids, which, exhausting as it is to plan, still has Rifkind fueled.
“The event is just so fun,” he said, “and totally weird.”
500 Songs for Kids
Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Smith’s Olde Bar, 1578 Piedmont Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 1-877-725-8849, www.smithsoldebar.com.
April 17-19. The Earl, 488 Flat Shoals Ave. S.E., Atlanta. 1-877-725-8849, www.badearl.com.
April 24-25 and May 1-3. The Loft at Center Stage, 1374 W. Peachtree St., Atlanta. 404-885-1365, www.centerstage-atlanta.com.
All shows run from 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Entry is “pay what you want” with all proceeds benefiting Songs for Kids Foundation.