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Jamming into the Groove

When you think of raising money for charity and supporting the local community, there’s a myriad of ways to get involved. You can find many outreach programs through the number of churches in the Triad that stand to be the central point within the circle of charity contributions. But, what about a music festival?

For Richard Lerner, a local musician (Richard Lerner and the Groove) and founder of Groove Jam, his epiphany came to light from sheer motivation and will, and, of course, the support of the Triad community. Celebrating the upcoming 4th annual festival, Richard continues to focus on the mission, while not forgetting the fun.

“I wanted to have a local music festival that supported a local cause,” Lerner shared. “[The idea] started when I went to a Habitat for Humanity house dedication in Asheville.” It was there that Lerner met fellow musician Warren Haynes (Government Mule, The Almond Brothers).

“Warren is from Asheville, and there he does what’s called the Christmas Jam that he started 25 or 26 years ago, and it was in talking with him that the seed was planted to do something similar that was on a smaller scale in my community.”

Soon after, Lerner had teamed up with Greensboro Urban Ministries. “What attracted me to them was that I wanted to do something to benefit the neediest in our community, and I didn’t think what I could generate would be significant enough for Habitat for Humanity.”

Lerner added, “And I couldn’t build a house necessarily, and a house is for one family. I wanted to do something for a larger group of people, so Urban Ministries has a long reputation of doing a lot of good in the community, and I just thought they were someone worthy of supporting.”

But what’s a good festival without its ideal location to host? “Someone had told me about Doodad Farms,” Lerner explained. “And I went out to scope the place, and meet the owner, told them what I was thinking, and at the time [the owner] was just getting his operation up and running, and he was down with what I was wanting to do.” The location has added an ambiance that is suitable for Groove Jam. “It’s a key location and it’s in [Greensboro], so it benefits the town, and its local artists. It’s a private residence and the family that lives there has had it for a while. It used to be a tobacco farm long ago, and they converted the field into an area for camping and parking, and converted one of the old barns structures into a funky stage, so it’s a real cool environment.” The venue, much like the festival itself, continues to transform for the better. “Every year they continue to add new things to it, including a smaller satellite stage, and everybody that comes agrees that it’s just a great place to host [Groove Jam].”

But with most large scale plans, there are always some setbacks that are out of anyone’s control.

“Weather’s the one thing you have no control over and you can try to prepare for it, but it’s going to largely affect the turnout. The first two years we had horrible weather,” Lerner continued. “We were pulling people out of the mud. It was a good turnout, but it was really hampered by the bad weather.” But the sun eventually broke free. “Last year, I got up for Groove Jam III, and it was raining, and I thought to myself, ‘Ok, here we go again.’ So we head out there, and set up all of our preparations, because this is going to happen rain or shine, and we’ve always had tents so no one has to stand out in the rain if they don’t want to. But by noon the weather cleared up, we had a beautiful day and a real good turnout. It was awesome.” As awareness of the Groove Jam festival continues to grow in popularity in the Triad, so does the crowd, with more than 500 people in attendance last year. “With more sponsors this year, and more publicity we’re projecting to surpass that number,” Lerner acknowledged.

In addition to the artists and musicians, there will also be local vendors and food trucks on the premises. “This year we’ve got food trucks, like Chief’s Grill, that be there and we’ve got a raffle going on through our sponsors, and other different aspects now that we just didn’t have when we started,” Lerner said.

And what would a festival be camping? “Camping is encouraged. We’ve got music that goes late, so people setup tents, or even bring their RVs.”

Whereas the first Groove Jam played host to six bands, this year will see more than 12 local Triad musicians donate their talent and time on two stages, including Gooseberry Jam, Grateful Groove, House of Dues, Midnight Sun, and others. “As soon as I posted on social media that Groove Jam IV had been set, a lot of bands responded and said ‘count us in,’” Lerner added. “These are local bands in the Triad supporting a local cause.”

And the amount of donations from attendees continues to grow each festival. “The first year we collected just over $1,200 in donations, and over 500 pounds in food donations,” Lerner said. “The third year, we had collected over $5,600 in donations, and over 1,000 pounds in food donations.”

“Our mission statement’s kind of been just to have a local music festival that’s enjoyable for everybody who attends, and that also supports the neediest in our community. There’s a homeless and hunger problem in everywhere in almost any city, but in this area it’s kind of severe. There’s a big need out there for assisting people in improving their conditions, and ultimately, getting those in need to the point where they no longer need assistance,” Lerner said.

For your fix of a soulful mix of roots rock, blues funk blended with R&B, and old-time southern swing, all the while helping out those in need in the Triad community, come out to Groove Jam IV. !

WANNA go?

Groove Jam IV starts at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Doodad Farm, 4701 Land Road, Greensboro 27406. Tickets are a suggested donation of $10 and all attendees are asked to bring nonperishable food items for donation to the local foodbank. There is plenty of room for camping. Call (336)314-3336 w/ questions.

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