In 45 days, Kevin Lilly and Sylvester “Duke” Myers will bike 1,411 miles for the love of music.
Their ride starts in Tampa Bay on Aug. 17 and they will end in Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 2. The Ride for Music charity cycling event supports the road crews of all the bands and artists that promote the ride on social media.
The concert industry has been devastated by the pandemic, so Lilly, 40, and his Ride For Music co-founder Kevin McCarthy, 45, wanted to help all the artists’ crews that have gone almost 18 months unemployed. They hope people donate whatever they can, but their slogan is to donate a penny per mile for a total of $14.11.
“The concert industry was pretty much just dead in the water,” Lilly said. “And a lot of the guys that I have spent a decade working with — tour managers, artist managers, roadies, guitar techs, everybody — completely lost their career.”
At the end of the ride, 100 percent of the raised money will be divided evenly between all the crew members.
Florida-based band Anberlin helped Lilly get the event off the ground floor and is a huge promoter. Lilly is in talks with several other artists and bands, including Boyz II Men, 311 and Mike Pinto. He’s hoping to gain more promoters along the ride.
Lilly, Myers and McCarthy will start their ride in St. Petersburg and stop first in Ybor City. They’ll make their way out of Tampa Bay in the following days and start the trek to Nashville, with stops in Jacksonville, Savannah, Charleston, Columbia, Charlotte and Knoxville. Lilly and Myers, 53, are the only two locked in for the whole ride, but their hope is to have people join for legs and enjoy a beer with them at the 20-plus breweries where they plan to stop. Lilly estimates that they will do 50 miles per day, and if people can find places to stay the night, they are welcome to join for as long as they want.
Most evenings they will stay in an RV in the parking lot of selected craft breweries. Since Lilly is a brewery founder himself, he wants to bring business to others in the industry along the way.
Many of the stopping points will have live music and their final destination in Nashville will feature a large concert on Oct. 2 with some to-be-named-later headliners.
They want to turn the ride into an annual event with a new music-based cause every time.
It’s not Lilly’s first adventure to raise money for charity. In 2009, he kayaked along the Mississippi River from Canada to New Orleans to raise money for What About Blue, a charity that no longer exists but worked to put freshwater wells in places where people do not have access.
Lilly co-founded The Attic and Rock Brothers Brewing in Ybor City, and McCarthy works in finance for the Moffitt Cancer Center. Lilly has worked in the music industry his whole adult life, and has seen the pandemic devastate his business endeavors and colleagues in the music industry. But he isn’t about dwelling on it.
“The whole point of this trip was to turn that negative into a positive,” he said.
The idea was a byproduct of Lilly taking up a new hobby. He needed a way to vent some of his anger toward the lack of relief funding that the concert industry was getting, he said. So he started cycling.
“Riding 50 miles a day is not something you just wake up and assume you’re gonna enjoy doing, but I fell in love with it,” Lilly said. “I fell in love with the community of it. I fell in love with the camaraderie of the other riders. ... This whole thing started through that.”
McCarthy and Lilly would often meet and chat about the world during the pandemic, until one day they both decided it was time to do more than talk.
“We want to do something. Let’s cycle across the country for music,” McCarthy said.
And so they will.
Ride For Music: https://www.rideformusic.org/