This year, Tonic Ball, like most other fundraisers and other big events, is going virtual. Bummer.

Yeah, I’ll cop to it right upfront: Tonic Ball 19 (this Friday, November 20, starting at 7 p.m.), presented by our heroes at Eskenazi Health, is not going to be as much fun this year. Because the craziness of the event—all those stages, all those bands, all those musicians lugging gear through crowded barrooms, the decisions you have to make about what you’re going to see and what you’re going to have to miss, even the lines you have to stand in, in uncertain weather, outside the venues—those aren’t bugs. They’re features. They’re what make Tonic Ball unlike any other event in town. Strange to say, but we’ll miss them.

Ultimately, though, Tonic Ball is about two things. One is raising money for Second Helpings, still one of the best causes we know.

The other is the music, performed by an astonishingly excellent community of local artists who donate their time and talents. As per usual, this year’s lineup is a doozy. It includes:

And, closing the show, that ever-unstable supergroup Bomb Dylan, featuring Yours Truly and a stageful of Real Musicians. All hosted by the inimitable Leisure Kings, who will also be performing.

This year’s theme is a winner, too. Instead of choosing specific artists to cover, we’re doing one-hit wonders—for what we hope will be a one-time virtual event.

On that note: This year, parts of the show will be prerecorded. Other parts will be played live on two stages we’re setting up at the Fountain Square Theatre. And you don’t have to worry about missing anything, since it’s all going to be streaming via Mandolin, created by the big brains at High Alpha.

And you can watch it all—free—by following this link. But don’t be a cheapskate. Make a donation to Second Helpings so they can continue to fight food waste, economic insecurity, and hunger in Central Indiana. In fact, if you donate $100, you’re first in line for tickets to next year’s Tonic Ball.

You’ll want to be there. It’ll be Tonic Ball’s 20th anniversary, and it’s going to be mega. The prospect of that show alone will be worth kicking COVID-19’s ass.