Saturday March 10th
Spring is officially almost upon us (though it actually feels like it already started this month), and coming soon are three really good reasons to get out in the sunshine.
It’ll all be happening at the 6th Annual ETCP Springfest, hitting Evans Towne Center Park from noon to 6 p.m. March 10.
The festival started back in 2012, as the creation of Metro Spirit Publisher Joe White. Admission to the festival is absolutely free for the whole family — and dogs, too.
“It was the first big festival that they had at the Lady A,” White said, noting the many other festivals in the area, including Arts in the Heart and the Greek Festival. “When they were building the Lady A, the idea hit me that, well, we could have our own festival. … The second Saturday in March has historically been the nicest weekend that we have leading into spring, and so far, each one of these Springfests has been beautiful weather.
“Everyone is out in the sun just soaking it in, happy as they can be. It’s just a gorgeous day, and I wanted it to be a place for people to have conversations and hang out with each other, as opposed to screaming at each other (at a noisy bar) and saying, ‘I can’t hear you! What?’ So that’s the main thing that I wanted, was to create a day where people got together and just hung out.
“For a city the size of Augusta, one that isn’t historically known as a college town, we have a tradition of very, very talented musicians. I obviously don’t need to run down the list, but we have them in spades. This year we have three examples of local bands; each has members that have been performing out and about for decades. And I think each one of these bands could hold their own anywhere in the country.”
White said the event is designed so that people can catch up with each other throughout the day without many distractions. Along with the beer flowing, the grooves grooving and the food filling bellies, there also are vendors that fit in well with the day. Those vendors represent massage therapy, dermatology, hair salons, jewelers and more. Studio 285 will have a free hair-braiding bar there.
The gates open at noon, and the crowd typically picks up from 1 to 3 p.m., with people satisfying their appetites at the food vendors. Then as the day goes on, the live music picks up. The musical acts at ETCP Springfest don’t tend to fit into any one genre.
This year, the headliners are the Scarlet Begonias, with the Mason Jars and the Robbie Ducey Band putting on a show before them.
THE SCARLET BEGONIAS
If you’re not into the Grateful Dead, maybe you just haven’t given them enough listens. The Scarlet Begonias are a tribute band, and founding member/drummer Brian Brittingham says not getting into the Grateful Dead right away is absolutely normal. But once you do “get” the band, he says, you won’t tire of them easily. Brittingham said he and the other band members are drawn to the Grateful Dead’s “timelessness and depth.”
The Scarlet Begonias have a catalog of about 60 or 70 Grateful Dead songs that they know how to play. They also play other songs that the legendary band covered at some point; though the Augusta band’s members have been in other bands with original music, that’s not the point of this one, which is to pay homage to the Grateful Dead.
The Scarlet Begonias started about five years ago, with Brittingham and his brother, Michael Garrett, who plays keyboards.
“I think he and I were kind of just talking about the idea of getting together and playing some Grateful Dead music (about five years ago), and then we kind of just started looking for some other people that were interested in the same thing,” Brittingham said. “And we kind of went through a couple of — not necessarily auditions, but through some kind of jam sessions with some other people right at first until we kind of found our members. … It’s been fun, and we’ve played a lot of shows around and no one show is like any other show. They’re all different and unique and have learned a lot of new songs along the way. We started out with probably just enough to get through our first gig, and now we can probably play a bunch of shows without ever repeating a song at this point, probably.”
Other members of the band include Jason Shepard on guitar, John Kolbeck on guitar and George Dale on bass — and part-time member Jeff Johnston, who plays a second drum set when there’s enough room. They are looking forward to their Springfest set.
“We’ll probably stick to more of the high-energy, recognizable songs, to keep it a little bit more listenable for the masses,” he said. “If the weather’s anything like it is today, which is about 78 or 80 degrees and beautiful, then it’ll just be great to get outside and be a wonderful, professionally run event like Joe knows how to do and it’ll be a lot of fun… family-friendly fun.”
THE MASON JARS
Local band the Mason Jars consists of only two people — Andy Colbert on vocals and rhythm guitar and Trey Pitts on lead guitar. Though the two went to the same school (Augusta Christian Schools), they never knew each other until they met at a house party and started jamming together around 2005.
“I’ve always done my own thing as far as like poetry and songwriting,” Colbert said. “We never were really into doing a cover band. So we just kind of did our own thing and gained a small following, and wrote more songs and just kept growing and growing to the point where right now, which we’ve got three albums. One
of the album’s actually out on iTunes and all that; the others are just some home recording stuff. But we built up a pretty decent catalog. And I am the singer/songwriter for the band and play rhythm, and Trey is more the lead guitarist, ripping and shredding the whole time. But as far as a genre of music goes, it’s kind of like a rambunctious, backyard picking kind of thing.”
Colbert said the duo’s music is hard to define.
“People hire us for all kinds of stuff, different reasons — bluegrass this, or blues that,” he said. “We kind of dance around all of that, I guess, but we definitely have more of our own style going. And I find that even the fans that we have are not something you can just box into one kind of genre, either. So it seems to work out pretty well.”
Now in their 30s with families, Colbert said it’s been a while since he’s had the peace and quiet needed to sit down and write songs.
“I’ll just take an emotion and run with it,” he said. “I’ll tell you, the majority of those songs have some way or another to do with a girl. And just kind of a partying lifestyle that we had going on at that time. I think the songs have kind of veered away from that, more maybe the repercussions of all of that lifestyle. I definitely have noticed the beginning, middle and not really an end to all of that. We both have families and stuff now. So that lifestyle has definitely changed drastically. I haven’t written any songs in probably a couple of years now, but definitely started to tone down that aspect of those particular styles of songs, I guess.”
Pitts said he appreciates getting together with Colbert and playing around town.
“I’m an attorney now, so all day I’m in an office or in a courtroom reading and writing, so this gives me kind of an avenue to pursue a different set of interests that I have,” he said. “So music and getting out into the local scene and all of that is great.”
Pitts described their music as “up-tempo, folk rock — maybe.” They don’t tour like they did in years past, but they play upwards of 100 shows a year now.
Colbert said people can expect from their ETCP Springfest set a “nice, barefoot, stomping and energetic good time. Just expect to hopefully do a little dancing under your toes.”
Though their music is hardly definable, Colbert shared what people have said to them after they’ve played a set.
“I’ve had people walk up to me afterwards and say, ‘I don’t know what that was, but I like it. I can’t put my finger on it. I’d like to classify you as this or that, but I don’t get it,’ he said. “Some people try to classify us as like a country song, which I definitely don’t put myself in that category. And then we’ve got a bluesy thing, we’ve got a rock thing, and I’ve got even a rap song out there.”
THE ROBBIE DUCEY BAND
The Robbie Ducey Band has been around in Augusta for the longest of the three acts, having gotten together in the early ’90s. Robbie Ducey himself, though, has been traveling and playing music professionally for a living since the ’70s. The band members’ ages range from the 60s to 70s.
He said the band is working on a new album now. The band focuses on original music but does covers now and then.
“(It’s) guys that were influences on me coming up, so we do a few covers by Jimi Hendrix and a couple of Stevie Ray songs, but other than that, it’s all original stuff, based on that style of music,” Ducey said
“We’re starting to book dates out and wanting to go out and play some more again, to the point where I guess everybody gets so old that they’re like, ‘I don’t want to do anything anymore except stay home and be old,’” he said with a laugh. “So we’re trying to get all of that in because we’re really aware of it; it’s like, ‘Wow, that’s right around the corner, isn’t it? It’s sneaking up on us.’ So we’ve all got kind of a renewed vigor about it.”
Ducey is the guitarist and singer; the other band members include Burt Rayburn on drums, Steve Brantley on bass and Buzz Clifford on keyboard. Ducey and Rayburn have been playing music together since they were in high school, and Clifford is the newest member of the band.
They have had some time to see how the world of music has changed.
“Augusta was home. Back in the early, early days, back in the ’70s, the Whippin’ Post used to be the big thing downtown on Broad Street,” he said. “All the circuit bands, that’s where you’d play down there and got your teeth into the action there, running the road and playing professionally, you know. … And I tell you what, we were fortunate to come up when we did, because I’ve said this to my wife and my friends, too — I don’t know how guys who are trying to give it a go in the music business these days as far as a band situation. Because the situation is so different now than the way it was when I was younger and starting out in the ’70s. The whole climate, the economy, the scene, everything was different. There was lots of work to go around. Back then in the ‘70s, we would play five or six nights a week, no problem, and we got on a circuit like I was lucky enough to do, you were liable to go out for five or six weeks at a time before you come back home and take a break. … But that way of life, as far as live music and guys making it in the music business, that’s long since been gone.”
Ducey said he thinks the Internet plays a part in that, but that it has a dual role in how things are for musicians now.
“The Internet’s helped a lot of musicians, especially musicians who are a little smaller, private label like I am,” he said. “And marketing yourself, that’s really helped do that, but at the same time, it’s kind of helped hurt it, too, because people are kind of jaded to live music when they can go on the Internet and get instant gratification for a quick 99 cent download or they’ll pirate a song and do whatever. … Good and bad, yin and yang. I guess if you get something good, there’s always a price to be paid.”
The Robbie Ducey Band is looking forward to playing ETCP Springfest.
“What we’ve always done is, a lot of my music is predicated on grooves, and I always talk (to my band) about taking that groove and hammering it into the audience’s heads so they can’t forget it,” Ducey said. “You never stop moving your foot or doing whatever, so most of my music is based around the stuff that I grew up listening to and playing. And that was blues, rock, soul music — there’s a lot of soul element in my music, because in my younger days growing up, that’s what I was listening to and learned how to play was soul music. Sam & Dave and that kind of thing back in the ’70s or whatever, but I’ll get a good dose of a lot of good groove and some good soul music, same day.”
Evans Towne Center Park
Saturday, March 10
Noon – 6 p.m.