When people think of music festivals, the obvious come to mind: Bonaroo, Wakarusa, Wanee, Coachella, Hangout. Even the venues and locations where these festivals are held are famous, like Spirit of Suwanee and Mulberry Mountain.
Most would never think to include little ol’ Statesboro in that list — but a few people are working hard to change that. Statesboro is a place where old southern charm and the college way of life meet to create a unique atmosphere that serves as an ideal breeding ground to its budding, yet thriving, music scene.
Home to “Blind Willie” McTell and his “Statesboro Blues,” the town is beginning to be known for its music festivals, too. Many of them are still in infancy: The Statesboro Music Festival just celebrated its second year; Dixie Jam just held its inaugural event. But there’s one music festival that has been going strong for the last five years. Held every July, Summer Jam is the brainchild of Greg Kearney.
Kearney, a Statesboro native and talented musician, first hosted Summer Jam five years ago at the French Quarter Cafe, a downtown restaurant that has since closed, located in the building that soon will house Eagle Creek Brewing Company.
“I wanted a way to find a way to incorporate music, friends and my birthday into one big party,” he said.
Over the past five years, it’s become just that. The first Summer Jam in 2009 brought in 100 people, and by its fourth year, that number increased to 575 avid music lovers of all ages from around the area.
“I can’t stress [enough] how awesome it is when music lovers from all over the state come together in Statesboro, Georgia, of all places, for one night,” said Kearney.
In addition to the rapidly growing number of attendees, the lineup has become more diverse and entertaining. Kearney said this year’s is the best and includes some well-known musical acts, many of them hailing from the Classic City of Athens, Ga.
Take, for example, Lazy Locomotive, a five-piece group known for their extended jams and intricately woven sounds. They have created and perfected a unique style, which they’ve dubbed “Jungle Ruckus,” a blend of genres that serves as a unique calling card — a call to dance, if you will.
“When the band first started, we were trying to describe the feelings that our music evokes,” said Andrew Varela, keys player for Lazy Locomotive. “We came up with ‘Jungle Ruckus’ because it gives us the feeling of a sweaty, hollering, festive samba line tearing through the Congo jungle. We created a unique sound of humid, afro-Cuban/Latin and funk/hip-hop jungle jams that we have embraced wholeheartedly as our very own musical style.”
The band’s music speaks for itself, and people have taken notice. The group recently was nominated as Jam Band of the Year by Flagpole Athens and also had the privilege of playing at this year’s Wakarusa.
“[We got to play at Wakarusa] after winning the Waka Winter Classic, which is a battle of the bands type event held every February at New Earth Music Hall in Athens, as well as many other venues all over the country. We pulled the biggest crowd and the most votes, which secured us the invite to play at the music festival in Arkansas,” said Varela.
In addition to Lazy Locomotive, other bands in this year’s lineup include Tent City, a self-described “blend of new age funk, jazz and soulful blues,” and Mama’s Love, a progressive band with a solid musical foundation in classic rock and funk. Mama’s Love, who have shared the stage with acts including Archnemesis, Keller Williams and MoonTaxi, hails from Athens, too. It will also host performances by Those Cats, Brock Butler of Perpetual Groove and The Other Brothers Band: An Allman Brothers Tribute in their first appearance at Summer Jam.
Summer Jam 5 will be held at GATA’s next Saturday, July 20, beginning at 6 p.m. Performances from the six bands will span across two stages, one inside and one outside. Admission to the event is $7.
“We want to continue to bring this one very affordable ‘mini’ music festival to folks who love music for a cheap ticket, while not wavering on the quality of acts we have playing,” Kearney said. “Good music at an affordable cost — you can’t beat that anywhere else.”