Over the years, Savannah's tight-knit music community has continually supported itself from within, providing moral support, lending equipment, going to each other's shows, and when needed, raising funds.
In 2008, Jason Statts was headed home after his band's first show. He and his friend, David Williams, were shot during an attempted robbery. The gunshot wound to Statts' neck left him paralyzed. In the subsequent years, his friends in the music community have rallied to support him financially.
The Friends of Statts committee formed several years ago, and has taken on the duties of the annual Statts Fest fundraiser. Each year, the event has grown. In 2017, the festival took its most ambitious step, teaming up with the Savannah Bananas baseball team to take over Grayson Stadium for a daylong, family-friendly affair. Hundreds of people showed up.
"We decided to make a brand and do these events to help Jason," Jennifer Young, a former co-worker and friend of Statts said. "Throughout the years, it just gets harder and harder because he needs more help. He doesn't have his roommates, so he's more reliant on assistant care now."
"Last year, as much money went out to put it on, way, way more came back," board member and organizer Gilbert Cruz said. "That ballpark was packed."
For the 2017 event, they have once again teamed up with the Bananas for the second edition of Statts Fest Goes Bananas, set for Sept. 23 at Grayson Stadium.
To cover some of the overhead for the main event, Cruz and the committee hosted an all-day pre-game concert at The Jinx last year. They are repeating that this year, but with an additional Punk Rock Garage Sale during the day.
"We did the pre-game last year, because Grayson Stadium was such a big deal," Cruz said. "I felt that it was an awesome choice, but scared of the amount of money it took to get it started. We decided to do the pre-game, and we made enough money to cover a lot of things."
"This is to raise funds to cover the overhead of what it costs to do it at the stadium," said Black Tusk frontman and former Friends of Statts board member Andrew Fidler. "Gil throws this bash at The Jinx to generate the overhead we need for the actual fest. So all the proceeds from the actual fest can go to Jason. It's a fundraiser for the fundraiser."
This year's Statts pre-game party will include the garage sale from noon to 6 p.m. featuring about a dozen local vendors selling their own goods with a portion of the proceeds going to fund Statts Fest. A suggested donation of $10 taken at the door will go directly to Statts Fest.
But that is only the beginning to this "tailgate" style party. At 7 p.m., an onslaught of killer bands will take over The Jinx. Beginning with a solo acoustic set from Nate Hall of U.S. Christmas, local bands The Gumps, Jeff Two-Names and the Born Agains and Sins of Godless Men will play. Traveling in for the show will be Resident One, Reconciler, Shroud Eater and Royal Thunder.
The night will be topped off by a rare performance from Savannah metal titans Black Tusk. Their last hometown show was over a year ago. Due to family illness, the band hasn't played out much in the last year, but rather have been focused on taking care of family and writing new material, some of which they will debut at Saturday's show.
"Statts is our homey," Fidler said."Initially, when Friends of Statts started out, we did it in bars. His friends were musicians. It's cool that it's evolved into a family event and to help raise awareness. So you can bring your kids out and do a bunch of activities and now we have food trucks.
"Savannah musicians have always been a tight-knit community. When one of our own needs help, we all step up to the plate. We do what we can."
Cruz will also be selling his legendary tamales during the Punk Rock Garage Sale.
"The last time I made them, James May [Black Tusk drummer] ate six," Cruz said.
"They're so good, I'd put them in my pocket," Young added.
Planning for the main event is well underway, and coming together nicely, according to Young and Cruz.
"It's going to be good," Young said. "We're going to have a ton of stuff for kids. We got an awesome stage from Hollingsworth [a Savannah auto repair shop.] They donated it.
"Jason couldn't make it last year. Every few weeks, I am like, 'Dude, how are you feeling?' I want to make sure he can make it, and he does too.
"I told him, 'I will always raise money and hustle money for you.' Because he does need it. He's a solid dude and one of my dearest friends. We really hope he can make it. He thanks us all the time."
In a text message to Young, Statts said, "Things have been a little up-and-down. Pain has been a huge issue. I am still trying to figure out something to do for that outside of pills and acupuncture. As far as everything else, I am OK. Just trying to get as strong as possible. I want to be at the next Statts Fest if at all possible.
"And thank you for everything. As usual. I don't know what I would do without you guys. I appreciate and love you very much."
IF YOU GO
What: Statts Fest Pre-Game and Punk Rock Garage Sale
When: Sept. 2; noon-6 p.m. garage sale; live music starts at 7 p.m.
Where: The Jinx, 127 W. Congress St.
Cost: $10 suggested donation