Battle it out at Brookstock XVI

Published 9:18 pm Saturday, July 2, 2016

File photos/The year’s Brookstock weekend will  be held July 14-16  at various locations in Brookhaven.

File photos/The year’s Brookstock weekend will be held July 14-16 at various locations in Brookhaven.

Step back in time to the days of high school band practice in the neighbor’s garage, rock ‘n’ roll music and battle of the bands with the upcoming Brookstock weekend.

“Brookstock started out basically as a party and an excuse to get up and perform again,” Brookstock coordinator Don Jacobs said. “That was my original motive. Fun entertainment.”

Look for that fun entertainment to unfold July 14-16 throughout Brookhaven.

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The idea of Brookstock formed when Jacobs got his high school band, The Brutes, together for a class reunion party in 1998.

“It was the first time we’d played together in 30 years and we’d never sounded better,” Jacobs said. “We were all pleasantly surprised and had a blast and decided we should get together more often.”

The group gathered for a second year in 1999, and then again in 2000. The third year proved to be different though.Brookstock Cover 1web

“In the summer of 2000, as I was planning a 4th of July party, I got wind that Ed Safley Tree was going to be in town, so I invited him to come join us,” Jacobs said. “Ed, who’d played guitar in a rival high school band, The Laughter of Ruin, had gone out to Los Angles years earlier and played with people like Rita Coolidge and Spencer Davis among others, who were big names in their time. Ed hadn’t played in Brookhaven since high school, so the fact that he was to be back in town, and playing live, garnered lots of attention.”

Jacobs first invited Tree to sit in with The Brutes, but after much deliberation decided it would be more fun if Tree got his old band together and the two recreated a battle of the bands, like they had done in high school.

“For the first time in 30 years, The Brutes and the Laughter of Ruin were back on one stage,” Jacobs said. “For our old high school crowd, that was a big event. Ed was Brookhaven’s rock ‘n’ roll success story and local musicians came out of the woodwork to hear him play. They came and then wanted to sit in with us, too.”

The one-band get-together turned into a multiple band and musician event, which formed under the name of Brookstock.

“Gradually, people began coming and seeing old friends, and agreeing to come back and get together again next year,” Jacobs said. “At some point I realized that out-of-town people were even planning their vacations around Brookstock. People, myself included, were making connections with old friends with whom we might otherwise have never renewed contact. In my own way, I’ve inadvertently managed to help bring a section of the community a lot closer together. That in itself is pretty special.”

Two years ago, local musician Shaw Furlow approached Jacobs about expanding Brookstock into a weekend event.

“He suggested putting on an event the night before Brookstock at the Haven Theatre, which would highlight teenage musicians,” Jacobs said. “I’d long thought that making Brookstock a full weekend event would be nice with so many people coming from out of town. This idea suddenly offered a means of expanding Brookstock. Shaw also came up with a Thursday night singer/songwriter event, turning my original one-nighter into a three-night live music festival. So with the help of friends, my original event has turned into, or helped expose, quite an active local music scene. We have people writing and recording their own original music. And it’s good music. That’s pretty special for a town the size of Brookhaven. Of course, with people coming in from out of town for a weekend event, it’s good for the local economy.”

Each year, the Brookstock line up is a little different, featuring local talent and a variety of outside influences.

“Throughout the year I keep my eyes and ears open for local talent,” Jacobs said. “I try to keep it local, but sometimes I pick up on things in Jackson and try to bring in interesting influences.”

In the past, Jacobs recruited a musician friend from Germany to play during Brookstock and hopes to invite a friend from Scotland next year.

“I’ve managed to pull in a wide array of some really talented musicians, both locally and from my contacts in Jackson,” Jacobs said. “This year we’ll be starting out with an acoustic set by Andy Tanas, formerly with Black Oak Arkansas and Krokus. And of course, Ed Tree will be here. I like to be able to bring in some outsiders here and there, but we also have plenty of outstanding local talent.”

The Brutes have played every year since Brookstock formed, and this year will be no different.

“The original Brutes are myself (Jacobs) on lead vocals, with Virgil Brawley and Ricky Brown on guitars,” Jacobs said. “We’d lost touch with our original drummer and bass player back then, so in the meantime we’ve gradually pulled in Tyler and Nick Bridge for those two jobs and recruited Chalmers Davis from Jackson — formerly with the Little Richard band — on keyboards. And since Ed Tree couldn’t make it back home each year to recreate the Laughter of Ruin, we gradually brought in Bryan Batson — the lead singer for the Laughter of Ruin — to share vocals and backup vocals. This year Ed Tree is coming back, so we’ll be doing another battle of the bands.”

In addition to Tree’s performance, this year will feature the new Brookstock Breakfast Club and a one-hour video documentary called “Brookstock: The Documentary,” produced by Furlow and Kelli Leach, to be shown on July 15.

“Hopefully, as more people learn about it, we’ll draw a larger crowd for the new events,” Jacobs said. “Otherwise it’s pretty much the same format, but with some new musicians we haven’t had at Brookstock before.”

“Something new this year is the Brookstock Breakfast Club,” he said. “This started two years ago when Virgil Brawley and Greg Whittier — who didn’t know each other — happened to be in the Cracker Barrel on Brookstock morning for breakfast and engaged in a conversation. They developed a mutual admiration and agreed to meet again for breakfast last year. Having started their own small tradition, they decided to open it up and invite anyone else who might want to join them, so starting this year as another small sideshow, The Brookstock Breakfast Club — open to anyone interested — will be meeting at Cracker Barrel at 8 a.m. Brookstock morning (July 16).”

The beauty of Brookstock is that it’s a volunteer effort, Jacobs said.

“Basically, it’s old and new friends getting together to play music,” he said. “I get it organized each year, because somebody has to do it, but I couldn’t do it without the musicians who volunteer their time. Or the people who just come to hear the music and have a good time with old friends. It’s very much a group effort.”

“For me, each year is a thrill,” Jacobs said. “At times I get so busy with the preparations that I sometimes wonder why I’m doing this, but when Brookstock weekend is suddenly upon me and I see old friends coming in, it’s suddenly all worthwhile. It’s great to see all these familiar faces, but it’s also indescribable what a feeling of elation it is to have the opportunity to get up and perform with these people I’ve known since childhood. I consider myself very fortunate in that respect.”

Brookstock XVI is sponsored by the Brookhaven Tourism Council and will be dedicated in memory of Jimmy Henderson, a world-class guitar player who died of a heart attack in March, Jacobs said.