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Aloha Winter Music Festival Is About Fighting Cancer, Fun, and "Celebrating Life on the Beach"

Dave Neri is no stranger to helping out people out by raising cash for their good causes through music. A Fort Lauderdale resident for almost 40 years, he's hosted and performed benefits since he was 17, first with the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He's done the toy run for Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital Foundation for about six years, and played with bands at the South Florida Tattoo Expo to support the same cause for over a decade.

This season of giving, he dedicating many hours and offering over 35 (35!) bands a stage at the Aloha Winter Festival to raise funds for Claudia, the mother of one of our writers, Natayla Jones, who is suffering from cancer.

"I know that music is a very powerful tool." Neri says, "And it helps. I have an autistic child myself, so I don't mind doing anything to help children or anyone get through life. Whatever we can do."

Aloha is taking over two venues -- Da Big Kahuna and Sopranos Dueling Piano Bar -- at Fort Lauderdale Beach Place this Sunday with four stages and 13 hours of music. The invite claims: "Aloha in the Hawaiian language means affection, peace, compassion, and mercy." It also means hello and goodbye. "We made it like 'Hello, Winter,'" Neri says, "because we're tired of sweating our asses off, and we're welcoming winter. It's like a change in Florida, everyone starts being nice to each other. We decided to extend that to Claudia. When someone's in pain or suffering, and we can help, we're all for that."

Natalya Jones says, "It's really a fantastic thing Oski, Dave, and Colby are doing for my mom. There is no cure for her cancer, multiple myeloma associated amyloidosis, so expenses regarding medical bills are going to be tough since this particular disease has the span of a lifetime." Neri points out that, "The money won't make her rich by any means, but you can't work when you're that sick."

Jones continues, "We've had to change everything - we have to be extremely sterile around her, can't have a real Christmas tree for example and have various hand sanitizers set up everywhere in the house. On the positive side though, we are extremely grateful for all the help we are receiving, from family to friends and even strangers. I can't tell you how touching it is when someone who doesn't even know me makes a donation for my mom! It's overwhelming, but my mom is a fighter, and I know she's got this. My mom can take on anything, and she has the support of her five kids and everyone else."

One of the three dollars for entrance fees goes directly to Claudia. "Natalya's always such a giving person to everybody," Neri says. And of his partner in this project, Colby Taylor, Neri adds, "He's such a nice guy, he'd give the shirt of his back to anybody." There's also Oski Gonzalez, who, Neri notes, "is very hard working and one of the most giving people I know." Together they are helping to fight cancer and exposing bands and their music to people who might not otherwise every hear them. "It's also great venues like Sopranos and the Kahuna are willing to help out and get everything done. It's amazing," he adds.

And Neri has a long background in music. In the '80s, he was in the band called Taken. He then joined the Headway who performed the Paul and Ron "Have a Hectic Day" theme song. He toured for about six years with Goth theatrical act the Wicked Screaming Squirts and played shows with Marilyn Manson. Next he played with Chicken for Chico. Now, with Colby Taylor, they're in an electro theatrical duo called Merger and the Black Machine. They also host the Altered Fest, an electronic music and animation festival that was at Kahuna before; but they're in need of a bigger venue. He's also working on two soundtracks and a movie. To top it off, Neri has a full time job as a cook at Da Big Kahuna, and he has three kids.

He pointed out a few standouts in the lineup, including Kingdoms and Crowns, "They're a very bluesy like rock band," he says, and they play all original music like most of the bands at Aloha. "We like to break out artists," Neri adds. There's Chris Dopey, an "amazing country artist with some blues, very original." Sopranos' stage will include more country acts. There'll be the pop-folk of Carly Jo Jackson and surf rock of Jimmy and the Stingrays. Bottles Belafonte is performing and is also a sponsor. He owns 4MK, For Mankind, and Neri says, "His message is just give love, and help each other out."

The School of Rock band will be opening with a special one hour set. They're also a sponsor. Neri wanted a children's band to open it, like a choir, since it's taking place on a Sunday. "I'm not like a spiritual kind of person, but I do believe in vibes, and what you send out, you also receive." And with Aloha, Neri is, he says, "giving people fun, celebrating life on the beach." And hopefully all that good energy will return to him three-fold.

The Aloha Winter Music Festival. Starts noon, ends midnight, Sunday, December 8, 2013. at Da Big Kahuna and Sopranos, 17 S. Ft. Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. All ages til 9pm. $1 of the door cover goes to help fight cancer. Tickets are only $3 and you can print the flyer and get in free. Visit Facebook. Read more about Claudia here. And "like" her Facebook page.


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