Keithmas cofounder John Hewer calls Keith Richards "the baddest cat in rock"

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      You don’t have to drink Jack Daniel’s to be a true Keith Richards fan. But it helps. Just ask John Hewer, cofounder of the annual Keithmas concerts, which have raised more than $85,000 for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank during the past 10 years

      When asked which Keithmas moments have been most memorable over that decade, he lays a bit of the blame for his spotty recollection on the fabled Tennessee whiskey.

      “That’s really hard to say,” Hewer ponders on the phone from his Mount Pleasant home. “There was a couple of years when nothing much stood out. But I’ve learned to manage my Jack Daniel’s consumption, so I’m a little more cognizant of what’s going on.”

      This year, eight rock acts have signed up for Keithmas: Big Sugar, Odds, Joe Keithley from D.O.A., Bend Sinister, Phono Pony, Rock N’ Roll Circus, the Wild North, and Rempel and the Rousers. Of course, thanks to COVID-19, this time the sour-mash bash will be streamed directly into viewers’ homes, with most of the bands performing live from the Rickshaw Theatre. It'll be hosted by CBC Radio's Lisa Christiansen.

      “Just to be clear, so nobody freaks out, none of the bands will be in the Rickshaw at the same time,” Hewer points out. “We’re following all the protocols and not trying to ignore anything. We just want to make sure the event happens so that we can raise some money for the food bank.”

      Back in 2010, when Hewer and cofounder James Hayden put on the first Keithmas gig, he had no inkling that the event might still be a thing in 2020.

      “Oh, god, no,” he says. “The first year was just sort of a lark, but we had such a good time, and everybody around the event was so positive, that we knew we had to do another. And after we did the second one, we just haven’t stopped.

      “In 11 years, everybody’s done it for free,” he adds. “We’ve never had a band ask for money or for anything to perform. We’ve had people volunteer and never question giving their time.”

      Besides Hewer and Hayden, the main motivators of the Keithmas cause have been co-organizer Rob Wright (bassist of local punk-rock band Vicious Cycles) and Chris Young, who provides the backline gear so all that the bands have to do is plug in and play.

      For the uninitiated, the Keithmas moniker derives from the understanding that there are two very important dates worth celebrating during the last month of the year.

      “The reason we came up with Keithmas in the first place,” Hewer explains, “was that we were looking to hold a party for the bands we were booking way back when at the Fairview [Pub]. We wanted to combine it with something, and we realized that Keith Richards’s birthday was on December 18. So it started out as a celebration of Christmas and Keith Richards, and before the event was over it was ‘Keithmas’. And it’s been Keithmas ever since.

      “But he’s the baddest cat in rock,” Hewer stresses, “so it’s a no-brainer.”

      Keithmas livestreams December 18 at 7 p.m. (Pacific). Tickets are available at