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Tom Toles Drums Up Support

Prize-winning political cartoonist to play benefit for Investigative Post

Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist Tom Toles got his start working on UB’s student newspaper The Spectrum. For years his work appeared first in the Courier-Express and then the Buffalo News. In 2002, he accepted an offer to join the Washington Post, stepping into the big shoes of legendary political cartoonist Herblock. In addition to the incisive and humorous commentary he provides on the page, he is also a board member of Investigative Post—the not-for-profit news outlet that produced the previous story on Scajaquada Creek in this issue of Artvoice.

Investigative Post is a non-profit investigative reporting center founded by Jim Heaney, a 25 year veteran of the Buffalo News. It has a two-fold mission: produce investigative and analytical reporting on issues of importance to Buffalo and Western New York, and train young reporters in the craft of investigative journalism.

Toles is also the drummer in a couple of bands in the Washington DC area, and he’s bringing that skill to the Sportsmen’s Tavern on Monday, July 21, for a 7pm show where he will be sitting in with local favorites the Outlyers, joined by Mary Ramsey and Pauline Digati. It’s all in an effort to raise money for the good work that Investigative Post does for our community.

Back in Hamburg where Toles still likes to spend his summers, he took the time to speak with Artvoice about the event.

AV: You’re going to be playing with the Outlyers, correct? Have you gotten together to rehearse?

Toles: Yeah, we were in touch while I was still in DC, and we were trying to see if the covers they knew corresponded with the covers I knew—which, needless to say, they did not. So we sort of split it half and half. I learned some of theirs, they learned some of mine and we have imperfectly assembled it into a riotously wonderful conglomeration of collaboration. Mary (Ramsey) and I might do a song or two together. Time is of the essence and two practices is already kind of a lot.

AV: How did you get involved with Investigative Post?

Toles: I’ve known Jim for years at the News. We didn’t work together because I was on the editorial side and he was on the news side, but I’ve always had the highest admiration for him as a reporter. So I’m on the board at Investigative Post, and I don’t do a lot but be supportive in any way I can. I’ve done a little bit of artwork for them and I go to as many meetings as I can go to. Because I don’t really have any business experience I can’t help on that end. And I’m not a reporter. So Jim asked if I would help with a fundraiser, musically, because he knows I’ve been doing that down in DC. I thought ‘that’s going to be kind of tricky’ but at the same time it could be fun. So that’s how I got into it.

AV: Tell us about your bands in DC.

Toles: I got together with some friends—journalists and government people—and we put together a cover band called Suspicious Package. We played out quite a bit. None of us are professional musicians, so the emphasis is on having a good time. Jim had asked if we could get the whole band up here, and we almost pulled that off—but one of the guys just had twins and the schedule wouldn’t work for this year. I’m also in another band in DC called Lethal Bark—don’t ask me to explain it because it does mean something but it’s hard to explain. That band does all original music, and I’m currently working on turning that music into a musical comedy for the stage. But on Monday I’ll just be doing covers.

AV: Shall we expect a lot of ballads?

Toles: The covers I’m gonna do are uniformly up-tempo songs, so it’s not gonna be a difficult evening to listen to—and we hope to get people moving around a little bit, also.

AV: Sounds like fun.

Toles: Yeah, that’s the idea. They say if you have an interview, you should just keep hammering on one thought, and don’t give them anything else. Fun. Fun. It will be fun.

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