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Bluegrass & BBQ Pignic In The Park

Only a few weeks before their big Rock The Cure Benefit Concert at Grayson Stadium, The American Diabetes Association’s local Kiss-A-Pig campaign is hosting a two-day fundraising event in Johnson Square.

Local caterer Gerald’s Chuckwagon is offering whole smoked BBQ Butts for sale on both Thursday and Friday, and boxed BBQ lunches on Friday, with all proceeds going to the Association.

Best of all, Friday’s lunchtime entertainment comes courtesy of The Jimmy Wolling Band. This local bluegrass quartet features noted banjo ace Wolling, a former member of The Double Diamond Band and The Flying Sheepheads who spent years touring the country as a member of The Lonesome Whistle Band.

Other members include mandolinist Spec Hosti, bassist Tim Burke and guitarist Dennis Goldbaugh. They’ve recently released their debut CD of traditional bluegrass and rock oriented “hellgrass.”

During the warmer months, Johnson Square hosts a number of jazz and roots music groups for free lunchtime concerts, but with the money going to such a worthy cause, there’s no reason for this event to only draw businesspeople from the surrounding squares. If you don’t mind taking a few minutes to snag a good parking space, come on down and show your support for medical research and local music at the same time. Better yet, catch a CAT and leave your car at home.

To pre-order butts or boxed lunches, send a fax to (912) 236-9468 or e-mail

Fri., 11 am - 2 pm, Johnson Square.

Swarm of the Lotus

Maryland’s At A Loss Recordings ups the ante on the bludgeoning metal scene, with their release of this Baltimore quartet’s debut full-length CD.

Pushing the noise/scream/bombast envelope is what this group is all about. With connections to cult faves Keelhaul and Meatjack (SOTL’s frontman toured as a roadie for those band’s 2001 tour) and shared bills with such well-known Über-heavy acts as Mastodon, Jucifer, Foetus and Lamb of God on their resumé, Swarm of the Lotus is one hell of a band.

When White Becomes Black held my attention much more so than the overwhelming majority of similar records that come across my desk. While the familiar elements of this style are firmly in place (90 MPH double-kick drumming, relentless, throat-decimating “vocals,” unsettling chord progressions and overly technical, off-time breakdowns), the hilariously pretentious song titles (like “Serpent Within” and “Cherry Chocolate Salamander”), John Bonham-esque distorted drum sound and tangible level of commitment dares me to dismiss these guys as pretenders, while refusing to give me the option. It’s great groups like this that only serve to remind me how many disposable lockstep followers get in their way.

Fri., The Jinx.

The Jeff & Vida Band

Well, it was only a few months ago that this New Orleans-based Americana band packed the house at this stately American Legion Post, and considering the overwhelmingly positive response they received, it’s little wonder they’re back again so soon.

The very definition of a word-of-mouth act that’s handily developed a loyal local following, this upbeat trio has made downtown a regular stop on their seemingly neverending tour (they play hundreds of dates a year), and local lovers of heartfelt acoustic music are all the better for it.

Much like the work of the celebrated Gillian Welch, the group culls from bluegrass, Appalachian ballad and traditional country traditions to create their own originals that feel like they’ve been around for generations. Their drumless lineup is about as authentic as you can get without hauling out a washboard or mountain dulcimer, and their bittersweet vocal harmonies are to die for. Other trademarks are Jeff Burke’s fast and loose mandolin and banjo, and the aw-shucks vocals of the fetching guitarist Vida Wakeman.

Bassist Mike Kerwin also adds an air of detached cool to their sets that serves as a solid foundation for his two more animated bandmates to fall back on in case their over-the-top solos and rave-ups get the best of them.

It’s the highest form of compliment that whenever they play our town, the audience is peppered with all manner of local musicians, from metalheads and alternative rockers to singer/songwriters and ex-symphony members. The fact that they all come to kick back and soak up the vibes speaks volumes about not only the quality of Jeff & Vida’s music but also it’s entertainment value.

If you’ve yet to catch these guys in concert, now would be a fine time. Best of all, while the show is limited to those 21 and older, it’s free to get in. Just make sure you give generously when they pass the hat, so these troubadours can make it on to the next town...

Wed., April 7th, 8:00 pm, American Legion Post #135 (1108 Bull Street).