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For a musician with heart, pals support is priceless

Weekend!Music
by: KATIE HARTLEY, Jeremy Wilson, formerly of the Dharma Bums, thought his fainting spells were stress-related; they weren’t. He had a heart defect.

'I am a community person,' beams Jeremy Wilson.

The ebullient former frontman of regional favorites Dharma Bums and Pilot is the force behind MastanMusic, an umbrella organization that boasts a record company, audio and visual studios, and a bimonthly musical podcast with close to 40,000 subscribers.

Wilson's efforts to foster and promote the local music community now are helping him: Several musicians are joining together at the Doug Fir Lounge on Saturday night for a Cure cover night to help pay for thousands of dollars of Wilson's medical bills.

Like most people who struggle to eke out a living, Wilson has dealt with a lot of stress. For years, he attributed his periodic fainting spells to anxiety and exhaustion.

When the episodes started to occur more frequently over the past year, he started looking into health insurance but was thwarted by high costs and unresponsive insurance companies.

At the end of September, while grabbing a quick bite before a show, he fainted again, this time in public.

'It's really scary,' he says, describing the attacks. 'I'll start sweating and then everything starts closing down. When it starts to get bad it's like having the worst bed spins ever. I passed out just sitting there talking to this stranger.'

This time, paramedics were called.

It turned out that Wilson's fainting spells were caused by a congenital heart condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. Usually diagnosed in childhood, the condition produces a rapid heartbeat that can lead to palpitations, lightheadedness, blackouts and, occasionally, death.

The good news is that the condition can be remedied through surgery. The bad news is that it will cost between $15,000 and $20,000 - on top of the $9,000 Wilson owes for his recent hospital stay, not to mention the expensive prescriptions that are treating it in the meantime.

While Saturday's show is likely to raise a fraction of that, the energy and effort Wilson's friends are putting in have been a tremendous boost.

'It's a really humbling place to be, to be closing in on the big 4-0 and have this happen,' he sighs. 'I think of how fortunate I am. I know I have friends who have struggled through medical situations and didn't have nearly the karmic resources that I'm having. People keep saying, 'Just deal with it and accept (our help).' '

In the meantime, Wilson continues to extend his support to others. He recently played two benefit shows himself - one for Stephanie Schneiderman's 'Voices for Silent Disasters' series and the other for the Ethos Music Center. He also has worked as a producer and musician on the Deep Roots Music Project, a collaboration between Roosevelt High School students and area musicians.

He continues to work on the MastanMusic community. The podcast is co-hosted and co-produced by Silverhawk's Sam Densmore, who also works as an engineer at Wilson's studio. Video and audio equipment are road-tested and crews trained around podcast episodes.

The label just released albums from Tony Smiley and Silverhawk and is gearing up to release a new record from the Dry County Crooks, as well as Wilson's long-time-coming solo album, 'Honey/Moon/Life.'

'I didn't want to release my record without having the ability to have some follow-through, and now things are in place and I have a mechanism to do this for real,' he says. 'This long, eight-year period has been planned.'

On Feb. 9 at Biddy McGraw's, Wilson will play his first real show in more than two and a half years. Unsurprisingly, it's an evening packed full of his friends - he's sharing the bill with Casey Neill and backed by longtime cohorts Ezra Holbrook and Aaron Masonek, with Sam Densmore joining on guitar.

Basking in the glow of community, Wilson exudes optimism. 'I'm looking forward to 2008 like crazy,' he grins.


All-Star PDX Tribute to the Cure and Benefit for Jeremy Wilson

When: 9 p.m. SATURDAY, Dec. 29

Where: Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E. Burnside St., 503-231-9663

Cost: $10