Jam session:

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 3, 2013

SALISBURY — When a planning team gathers around a meeting table with laptops at almost every seat, roasted peanuts, bottled water, a few beers and a bottle opener, you know it means business.
So it is with the core group behind the upcoming Natty Greene’s Brewing Co. Earth Day Jam.
A couple of things hit you right away.
These people are refreshingly young, especially if you put Joe Morris and Andrew Waters, both of the LandTrust for Central North Carolina, a little bit to the side.
They’re serious — about the music and the message.
And they might just have something big brewing with their Earth Day Jam.
“I can’t think of another event in Rowan County that has been quite like this,” Morris says.
This year’s all-day jam has lined up 16 bands, including headliner Larry Keel and the Natural Bridge. In musical circles, Keel, a flatpicking guitarist out of southwest Virginia, is one of the current stars of bluegrass, having released 14 of his own albums and being featured on 10 others.
The jam also has landed a major sponsor in Natty Greene’s Brewing out of Greensboro. It means the Earth Day gathering, to be held at Saving Grace Farm, will offer brewskies — unusual for an outdoor festival in Rowan County.
But that’s not meant to deter families. The jam plans fun activities and educational booths for children and adults, food from Wild Turkey Farm, other vendors, wine and local artists.
Fitting for Earth Day, April 20, the main emphasis will be to raise awareness in land preservation, conservation, recycling, energy efficiency, nutrition, local farming and sustainability — things near to the land trust’s heart and why it has signed on as an organizer.
Net profits from Earth Day Jam will go to the land trust and Saving Grace Farm. With Natty Greene’s and the numerous other sponsors already on board, it looks as though Earth Day Jam will more than break even.
Keel also has “deeply discounted” his normal price, Morris says, while other bands are donating their talents.
Ashley Honbarrier, a member of the Big Break band, and Stacey Carter of Saving Grace Farm deserve a lot of the credit for Earth Day Jam. Call them the founders.
Carter says last year’s first Earth Day Jam, which had eight local bands and about 300 spectators, was Honbarrier’s idea and remains her baby.
“I’m kind of like the cheerleader,” Carter adds.
The 2012 jam was like a big picnic, with people bringing what they could and the bands again donating their time. The women acknowledge they probably put it together by the seat of their pants, with the ultimate goal of doing a fundraiser related to the environment.
They wound up with some money to donate to the land trust.
“We handed you a small wad of cash at the end of the day,” Carter reminds Waters and Morris.
Morris, who still headed the city of Salisbury’s planning department last year, attended the 2012 Earth Day Jam and saw how it might have the potential for becoming a signature event for the land trust.
“It was abundantly clear it was so aligned with the mission of our organization, we needed to support it,” he adds. “Clearly, they were doing a great thing, and we needed to participate.”
As the land trust’s new development director, Morris says one of his marching orders was to increase the number of fund-raising events. He saw the Earth Day Jam as a good opportunity to engage younger people in the land trust’s work.
Morris met with Honbarrier and Carter, and they put together what Carter calls “a pretty amazing team.”
It includes Morris and Waters of the land trust, Shelley Smith of Team Chevrolet, Jerod Jacobs of Six Foot Kitten and Kristen Trexler of the Tourism Development Authority.
“Another benchmark for us was to get Justin Dionne involved,” Morris says. Dionne, managing artistic director for the Lee Street Theatre Performing Arts Center, gave the core team strong financial advice and had good insights into the staging of things, Morris says.
Honbarrier has served as the team’s booking agent for all the acts, which will include Big Break.
“Ashley has worked extremely hard on putting this event together, and that is the reason for so many of us getting involved,” says Jacobs of Six Foot Kitten, creative consultants and media architects.
When you plan an event such as Earth Jam, you have to consider booking, ticket sales, accounting, marketing, sponsorships, insurance, permits, stages, sound, lighting, portable toilets, vendor locations, a performance schedule, security officers, parking, T-shirts and lining up volunteers to work the jam.
All those things for the Earth Day Jam will cost close to $11,000, so the sponsorships try to cover the up-front items.
Natty Greene’s paid, for example, to have the naming rights for the festival. Morris says Natty Greene’s also has offered to donate 50 percent of the price to each cup of beer it sells at the jam. He adds that the well-respected North Carolina company brought instant notoriety to the festival.
When Keel, whom the organizers consider “a musician’s musician,” signed on for the event, at least five or six other bands immediately wanted to play. The music isn’t limited to bluegrass. Other artists are bringing blues, rock, reggae, folk and dance jam to the mix.
There will be a main stage and a second stage, with music playing somewhere all the time. The jam will run from 11:30 a.m. April 20 to 1:30 a.m. April 21.
Trexler notes the Earth Day Jam April 20 also will follow downtown Salisbury’s Earth Night Out on April 19.
Overall, the core team thinks a lot of positive things come together for making Earth Day Jam a good, fun event — the music, location, message and the time of year.
If the weather cooperates, April 20 will be one of those weekend days perfect for shedding off the shackles of winter and getting out in the sunshine.
“Last year was good, but …” Carter says.
Honbarrier finishes the thought:
“Yeah, this year we stepped it up a notch,” she says.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263,or mwineka@salisburypost.com.