The aroma of spices from 24 area restaurants mixed with live rock and roll at Monday night's Annapolis Bartenders Ball, much to the delight of a crowd speckled with black ties and colorful sequins.
The annual event is run by the H.E.L.P. organization, which aids members of the Annapolis-area entertainment and hospitality community facing unexpected medical emergencies.
The 300 guests helped raise more than $10,000.
"I live in this area and I know what it's like to have a job without health benefits," said Neci, a disc jockey at radio station WHFS who emceed the second half of the show.
Neci arrived with an ulcer in her eye, ignoring doctor's orders to stay home and rest. "There is no reason to miss something like this," she said. "I'm very glad they asked me to come."
The Hospitality Entertainment Life-support Program is a loose community of 2,000 people in the food service and entertainment industry. The group's 12 board members organize events to raise money, sometimes in response to specific cases.
In February, the group gathered 10 bands at Carroll's Creek Cafe in Annapolis to raise money for area entertainers John Starr and Barry Yeager, who had recently been faced with unexpected medical fees.
Bill Kuethe, president of H.E.L.P., said a blanket health care system for the community is difficult, if not impossible. But the group is now trying to focus on educating its members. "We have to convince them that they need health care, and then show them how to get it," he said.
"This kind of thing gets Annapolis entertainers out in formal," said Julie Addison, who was born in England and has lived in Annapolis for seven years. Ms. Addison was involved in founding the group in 1991 and likes the way the young organization is progressing.
"We all have to work on the 'dress up' nights like New Year's Eve, but this is one night when we can dress up and party for the cause," she said.
But for many Monday night, the cause took a back seat to the music. Son of Bop took the stage at around 9 p.m., with what lead singer Dean Rosenthal called "New Orleans mambo funk."
Women in sleek dresses spun with roses clenched in their teeth; people born before and after the Beatles lost generational gaps. Son of Bop covered songs by legendary blues singers Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, right down to the haunting slide guitar style that made both men famous.
Guests dined on the exotic and American cuisine provided by the area restaurants. The menu included sushi from the Joss Sushi Bar and chunks of tender sirloin steak and broiled chicken from the Outback Steak House. The 24 restaurants donated food and labor for the event.
Radio City played after Son of Bop and turned things around a bit. Opening with industrial dance grooves, the band boasted a brass section that may have truly saved the show.
In the middle of their set, a blown fuse doused overhead lights. As the song crawled to a halt, the brass section retaliated against adversity, shaking the crowd with a powerful jazz number.
"If you are in this industry, you have to help the people that help you," said Wild Wes, another disc jockey at WHFS and emcee for the first part of the show.
For more information on H.E.L.P., call Scott Hymmes at 798-5574.