RiverJam bands rock on; early attendance low

Photo by Joe Bellacomo

Photo by Joe Bellacomo

ALBANY, Ga. -- The bands provided a variety of fine music for the first Southwest Georgia RiverJam, but early attendance was light.

"We thought we would provide a venue to showcase some of the wonderful talent we have here in Southwest Georgia and Northern Florida," said Suzanne Davis, Albany Recreation and Parks Department director.

"We thought we would offer something to do in the area, a distraction from the economy and everyday life."

The crowd could have been diverted from the event by the afternoon's college football games including Albany State University at home through the always popular showdown between the University of Georgia and the University of Florida in Jacksonville on television.

Those attending River Jam's 10 a.m. session were there for the final round of Albany Star, the culmination of a summer-long singing competition. About 400 people voted Saturday for the best of the best from the summer's elimination rounds.

They waited for the results and then left by 1 p.m. They missed out on some real fine music.

Phil Phillips, who just happened to win the 19 and older competition as a solo artist brought his whole band, not so oddly named the Phillip Phillips Band, out to entertain at about 4 p.m.

He sang a version of "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder that resonated with the jazz-rock backing of his highly competent band. There are times when music is played just for the sake of making good music. The Phillips band did just that Saturday.

Then there are times when musicians make good music, have fun and also bare some soul. Mike "Salty" Lanigan brought out his Swinging Harpoon Blues Band and ripped through some mighty fine tunes just before the Phillips band.

When the Harpoon Blues female lead singer, Allie McKay, sang the Johnny Lang tune, "Lie to me" a woman avoiding the inevitable wrong her man would do her put the song into overdrive. She owned the blues.

Not one to sing the blues about the sparse crowd, Davis' energy never waned during the afternoon. The event could pick up attendance during the evening, she said.

"People could come out tonight. This is the first year we learned from this and there will be another next year. It will grow," Davis said. "I really expect that Sunday (today) we will have a big turnout for some of the best praise and worship groups in the area."

The River Jam continues today with those groups at 1 p.m. at the Veterans Park Amphitheater on Front Street downtown.