Most weeks for the past year, Rachel Taft has headed to the Canton Safeway or Middle River Costco to pick up several pounds of steak or tofu for dinner.
Last year, Taft founded Feed the Scene, a "band and breakfast" which provides room and board to artists with small (or no) budgets. Since then, she's cooked for ska punks Less Than Jake, punk-rocker Joey Cape from Lagwagon and more than 170 other groups. She doesn't charge, but she does accept donations in the form of Safeway gift cards, and a Kickstarter fundraiser is under way. Saturday, she's is hosting a one-year anniversary show and fundraiser for Feed the Scene at the Sidebar Tavern.
Similar to many DIY punk shows, Feed the Scene came together informally.
"The first people we ever actually made any food for were Less Than Jake because we knew a couple of the guys in the band and had hung out with them before," said Taft, a 31-year-old Annapolis native. "So we made them desserts when they were coming through."
As Taft fed more and more bands, she realized the need for her services was greater than she'd imagined. Vegan musicians like Kelly Odgen, the singer and bassist of the L.A. duo the Dollyrots, have few options on the road.
"Kelly was the only vegetarian and vegan on a [package] tour out of like 13 people," Taft said. "They never had any food for her. So I made her a sauteed mushroom-and-artichoke heart tart, and it just started going from there."
Soon, musicians from other bands came calling. One of them was Jon Hernandez, a singer/guitarist in the New York-based pop punk band Timeshares, who said he's found Taft's services "unbelievably helpful" to him and his bandmates.
"It's not so much the difficulty in finding something that's affordable, it's finding something that's affordable and isn't gonna make you sick," Hernandez said. "You're eating fast food every day on the road. … Rachel is like a godsend to them because they can get an actual meal that's prepared and not fried. It's actual food."
Some of Taft's after-gig dinners didn't start until as late as 2 a.m., so it made sense to start putting musicians up for the night, she said.
"A lot of times when people play shows, they just travel around and hope someone will take them [in] at the end of the night," Taft said. "People get up on stage at the end of the night and say, 'Who can take us home?' If you don't find anyone, you sleep in your van."
To that end, Taft recently began a Kickstarter drive to raise $5,000 by Sept. 13 to finance several sets of bunk beds, mattresses, comforters and pillows. It'll be a much-needed infusion of funds, because Taft is now applying for nonprofit status.
She started Feed the Scene with money left to her after her mother died in April 2009 but says her self-funding "is going to have to end very shortly because I'm gonna begin to run out of money."
Taft said she doesn't foresee Feed the Scene as a money-making venture but believes there could be the potential for revenue in the catering side of the business.
"I have a caterer's license," she said. "We've catered the Reason Rally in D.C. earlier in the year that had headlining bands like Bad Religion. So with our catering business, any profit we make all goes back into Feed the Scene."
For now, Taft is concentrating on making dishes that keep musicians happy and healthy.
"My spicy citrus asparagus and black-bottom cupcakes are pretty much everyone's favorite," she said.
If you go
The Feed the Scene: One Year Anniversary Show runs 3 p.m.-1 a.m Saturday at the Sidebar Tavern, 218 E. Lexington St. Tickets are $12. Carrie & the Dirty Pillows, This Is Your Life, Tonight We Strike and several other bands will perform. Call 410-659-4130 or go to sidebartavern.com.