You’ve likely never heard of the band Morrissey Blvd.
Since starting up only a year ago, they’ve done just a handful of gigs. They have no albums, or iTunes, or Twitter.
Also, their drummer is in fifth grade.
But they’ve got one helluva moving story.
It’s the story of how a community of city musicians is rearing its next young generation.
It’s the story of how siblings communicate and bond through music.
And it’s the story of how young people today still harness the power of music for social change.
Zan, 17; Zoelle, 15; Henri, 13, and Wilson Morrissey, 11, came together as a band of brothers and sister last year, while jamming during a school break.
Soon, the New Bedford kids realized they sounded pretty good.
Then they realized they could use that sound for good.
They each used the word “horrified” when describing what they felt following the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) situation on the news.
The thought of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. before they were adults — dubbed Dreamers for the Dream act which sought to give them a way to residency status — being sent back to a country they may not remember struck a chord with the Morrisseys.
“We can’t imagine being separated from our parents,” said Wilson, a fifth-grader at Friends Academy in Dartmouth and the band's drummer.
“We’re lucky enough to have a good home, but some people don’t have that, or any food, and maybe some people aren’t doing so great,” he continued. “We feel it’s our job to help because we have so much."
Mom is Kristin; Dad is Matthew Morrissey — vice president, Massachusetts for Deepwater Wind and former Executive Director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.
“Oh, man. We were all just so shocked and horrified at these kids and their families being deported from the country that they know, to a country that they’ve never known,” added Henri, a seventh-grader at Friends Academy and the group’s bassist.
Henri said his parents asked family friend Helena DaSilva Hughes, executive director of the Immigrants Assistance Center in New Bedford, if a benefit concert would help.
“And Helena said yes!” the 13-year-old said, genuine excitement in his voice.
Now, Morrissey Blvd — with a classic benefit concert-vibe cast of friends and musicians — will play an Immigrants Assistance Center Fundraiser Concert at Greasy Luck Brewpub in New Bedford Feb. 24 from 5 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 or $10 for a family.
"Even $5 can have an actual impact," Zoelle said.
“The idea that a few kids from New Bedford could in any way make a difference is a special idea for me,” added Zan.
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In a Facebook video, 11-year-old Wilson, tears it up on drums during a cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.”
Ditto in a cover of The Band’s “The Weight.”
But Wilson says his life doesn’t revolve around the sticks.
“As much as I like music, I like variety in my life, so I also like to play football at recess,” he told me.
Henri, also an avid sports fan, has taken piano lessons for more than half his lifetime. He taught himself bass last year simply because, well, the band needed a bassist.
"I love bass because it’s so much part of the soul of music. It’s really, really fun,” said the 13-year-old.
Zoelle, a sophomore at Bishop Stang and the band’s keyboardist, said she wants to be an English teacher or journalist when she grows up.
The longtime piano player is also passionate about her generation getting involved in the world’s social problems.
“With a lot of news these days, the issues feel so [overwhelming], kids might feel like ‘Oh, I couldn’t do anything to help.’ But I want people to know that even small amount can help make positive change.”
Zan, a senior at Stang, has been passionate about guitar for as long as he can remember. With John Mayer-esque vocals, and a clear gift for electric guitar, Morrissey Blvd’s lead singer and guitarist will soon be applying to Berklee College of Music.
Zan said he was “2 or 3” when he first saw The Toe Jam Puppet Band at Buttonwood Park Zoo.
“That’s my first real memory of being inspired by music,” he said.
At 7, he started taking guitar lessons with local musician John Fernandes.
At Friends Academy, he met music teacher Putnam Murdock, who will also play at the benefit concert.
“He’s been a mentor,” Zan said of the Murdock, a Berklee alum. “I was terrified of singing in front of others until he came along and said, ‘You can do it.’”
One day at a school assembly in 7th grade, Zan and Murdock duetted on Neil Young’s “Old Man.”
“That moment changed my life,” said Zan.
And that’s another great part of this story.
Three of the musicians Zan mentioned — Tom Poitras of the Toe Jam Puppet Band, Murdock and Fernandes — along with a cast of others, many of whom have taught the kids personally over the years, will join them on stage at the benefit concert.
Talk about taking a village.
“I don’t know about other cities, but in this city, the musicians are loving and kind and generous, and without them, I don’t know if I’d be here now” musically, said Zan.
His mom said the family used to host parties for musicians during the old New Bedford Summerfest, now the New Bedford Folk Fest.
“We filled up this house with musicians, different pockets of musicians playing different types of music all over the house…,” Kristin Morrissey said. “The kids drank it up. Zan would say the Summerfest parties were better than Christmas.”
The tentative set list includes purposefully chosen message songs, such as The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends,” and Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
I asked the kids what they liked about playing as a family.
“It’s about communication with my siblings in another language; that in itself has allowed for a deeper conversation,” Zan said.
“It sounds cheesy, but it’s made us closer,” Zoelle added. "We don’t know how long this will last, but not many people can say they’ve been in a band with their siblings. We’ll always have these memories.”
Henri chimed in, “I love what Zoe said. It’s very poetic and real.”
For a band whose handful of gigs include their grandparents 50th anniversary, and small a Salvation Army fundraiser, Morrissey Blvd is clearly not out for fortune or fame.
And that’s what I love about this story.
In an age of Kardashians and American Idol and autotune, these kids are teaching themselves Johnny Cash songs for the love of it.
They’re playing for the pure love of music, the love of family — and they genuinely want to spread that love around.
“This concert is not about us in any way and that’s the point,” Zan said. “I hope in some way, we foster an authentic reaction between human beings. We’re all human, and we all experience life together. That’s one thing I love about music — it’s a universal tool. There’s something about it that undeniably human by nature.”
Lauren Daley is a freelance writer and music columnist. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow her at https://www.facebook.com/daley.writer She tweets @laurendaley1.