When she was conducting business in her "other" home — Los Angeles — Ellee Ven began searching for a way for her favorite music to ignite a fun night of artistic philanthropy.
And so Give Into the Groove was born. The idea was, in essence, a benefit without strings. No admission was to be charged. Instead, selected organizations would send representatives, distribute information about their community work, gain a few friends and volunteers, and perhaps raise some money. The backbone of the event, though, was music — an entire evening's worth.
"Producing something like this is a lot easier than it seems," said Ven, a Los Angeles native who works most of the year on the West Coast, developing her recording and performance career while maintaining a home in Lexington. "After all, people want to do good for their community. That's always the promise. People enjoy being purposeful."
Ven's first three Give Into the Groove projects were staged in Los Angeles and benefited organizations including the local chapter of the American Red Cross and the Los Angeles Free Clinic.
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The inaugural Lexington Groove-fest was staged last fall at The Red Mile's Round Barn. The event moves downtown Friday to the Atomic Cafe
"We had a few hundred people, a respectable turnout, last year," Ven said. "But the Round Barn is a destination venue. You have to know that something is happening out there, whereas with the Atomic Café, people are already going to be there. Some people may even happen upon the event that haven't even heard about it."
That's highly likely given that downtown will be hosting a Gallery Hop at the same time.
If people stumble in, they will have performances to take in by Lexington favorites Big Fresh and Otto Helmuth, plus an appearance by Isabella Begley, winner of the Little Miss Bluegrass Area pageant. Ven also will showcase some of the pop electronica from her new album, Dangerous Diversion, with help from West Coast rapper Prodeje.
Among the local and regional organizations that Give Into the Groove is designed to help this year: Local First Lexington, Hope Center, Actors Guild of Lexington, Lexington Humane Society, Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden, and Louisville's Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft.
"The thing that's crazy is that people are more apt to be generous to organizations at events like this than when you say, 'Admission is $50.' That's when you have people going, 'Oh, I didn't get enough crumpets' or 'It was too crowded to get to the champagne line.'
"What's fun about this event is that the vibrations are always so great. That just seems to be a catalyst for other fun things where people get inspired to help their community."
For Ven, though, Give Into the Groove isn't just an opportunity to help the community. It's a chance to get to know it better. Aside from last year's Groove event and shows at venues like Al's Bar, Ven hasn't performed much locally. So how is it that an artist versed in the fast-lane music frenzy of Los Angeles found her way to Lexington?
The connection goes back to Ven's college days at Pepperdine University. She made friends with several students from Central Kentucky and began making regular visits here in the mid-'90s.
"I'm from Los Angeles, my family is from Los Angeles and there is an endless access to musicians and production resources in Los Angeles," Ven said. "But there is also so much competition there. Even if there are a million things you're doing well, there are always people around to tell you everything that you're doing wrong. It's just a different sort of climate there.
"Since I had some flexibility in my life and met people in Lexington from college, I began going back and forth between the two cities. I always said if a house came up that I could get my hands on, I would grab it. And one did. And I love it here.
"So now I'm just happy to be able to share my fun times with the community that I'm totally growing to love."