Billy Bragg, center, gave his blessing to St. Dominic's Trio in April at the Driftwood Char Bar. / Photos by Jim Walsh

Billy Bragg, center, gave his blessing to St. Dominic's Trio in April at the Driftwood Char Bar. / Photos by Jim Walsh

Raising $300-$500 off a charity gig is an admirable target for any local band, but there’s one saintly rock group in town that garners that amount for needy families almost every week -- and they’re celebrating with an all-star year-end party Tuesday that will raise even more.

St. Dominic’s Trio, the rocky and rawer offshoot of the Van Morrison tribute band Belfast Cowboys, passes a donation bucket around every Tuesday night in lieu of a cover charge at its marathon-like gigs at the family-room-like south Minneapolis hangout the Driftwood Char Bar (4415 Nicollet Av. S.). The final tally for their efforts in 2019 is nearing an ultra-impressive $25,000.

All the money from those neighbordhood bar gigs goes to Foothold Twin Cities, a nonprofit founded by the five-man “trio’s” frontman Terry Walsh and his longtime partner Amber Lampron, who works in education. Lampron alerted the band to a family that needed $600 to fix a furnace four years ago, and that sparked the first donation night.

“We thought, ‘There’ll always be another family in need, so let’s just keep doing this,'” Walsh recalled.

Since then, the band (which also gets paid a standard gig fee from the bar) has found no shortage of beneficiaries with assistance from other charities and social services; mainly a lot of single moms who are facing eviction notices or overdue utility bills. Donations also come in via Paypal and private donors who randomly offer to match one night’s bucket.

Terry Walsh counted up donations after a recent gig.

Terry Walsh counted up donations after a recent gig.

“People have put a lot of trust in us donating so much, and we don’t take it lightly,” said Walsh, whose crew also played a decade of Tuesday gigs at Nye’s prior to the Driftwood. “We don’t need it, but this [charity side] certainly adds incentive to keep doing it."

You're likely to hear them play less obvious rock classics than they did at Nye's -- "It's less a tourist's place, so we aren't expected to play 'Brown Eyed Girl' every week," Walsh said -- but the right amount of "tip" in the bucket will get them to try to cover just about anything. Regular players in the Trio include Joe Baumgart, Joe Loskota, Dan Kowalke, Dave Haugen and/or Dave Kirby.

Their final Driftwood gig of the year this upcoming Tuesday, Dec. 17 (7-11 p.m.), has been dubbed Karahohohoke and will feature a sleigh full of guests including Curtiss A, Molly Maher, Robert Wilkinson, Laurie Lindeen, Gini Dodds, Paul Metsa, Becky Kapell, Dan Israel, Katy Vernon and many more. 

The full Belfast Cowboys big band will be busy with a series of holiday parties, including one this Saturday, Dec. 21, at the Hook & Ladder, but the regular Driftwood gigs will resume Jan. 7. Walsh's brother Jim is also leading a Mad Ripple Hootenanny songwriter's pull at the Parkway Theater on Jan. 10 to benefit the same cause. Sounds like they're getting a jump on raising even more next year.

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