By: Matthew Seaver, Web Editor
Two years ago, a group of friends decided to help their friend, Jake Gregg, who was going through treatment for a rare form of Leukemia.
Gregg was a Music Business and Industry (MBI) major who played in the band Suncooked. Due to the progression of his cancer, he was no longer able to play the music he loved with his band.
The event, GreggFest, was created to help raise money for Gregg’s family and cancer treatments.
The first festival was held in May of 2014. Gregg was brought from his hotel room to the festival through a Skype connection.
By the end of the first GreggFest the organizers raised $2,000 to help Gregg and his family.
On April 15, 2015, the organisers in the late stages of planning for the second GreggFest, Gregg died from cancer. The coordinators of the event made the decision to push forward and create the Jake Gregg Memorial MBI Endowment. The endowment would be funded by all future GreggFest events and would be used to fund a scholarship for an MBI student.
Last year’s event, the first festival after Gregg’s death, raised $4,000 for the endowment fund.
Jordan Racine, one of the original founders of the GreggFest and a friend of Gregg, is the chapter president of M.E.I.S.A. He has also been the manager and producer of GreggFest since the first event.
Putting together GreggFest is a year-long process. The first step, Racine says, is to figure out the direction of the year’s festival.
“I think the most important place to begin, especially for GreggFest, is asking the question, ‘What can we do to improve this year’s show & how do we best continue communicating Jake’s legacy?’” Racine said.
Because there is so much that goes into the event there will always be a hiccup here and there. Racine said that this year’s biggest obstacle was the talent.
“We spent a very long time figuring out who exactly we wanted to play at this year’s event, and what they would bring to the table in terms of progressing the event, and bringing it to a higher level of credibility.” Racine said. “The key of talent buying for a growing festival is to identify regional acts who are on the verge of achieving a regional level of popularity.”
Even though finding bands for the show was difficult, Racine says he is very happy with the lineup for this year’s GreggFest.
“This year we managed to lock down two of the hottest acts in Vermont – Gang Of Thieves and Madaila.” Racine said. “It took a long time to negotiate those deals this year and get things locked in, but we accomplished it, and I think that having such great talent like them on the bill is a huge step towards gaining more exposure for the cause, Jake’s story, and the festival in general.”
The GreggFest planners booked a total of 12 bands to span the two-day festival.
One of the pieces that Racine says is happy about is the GreggFest budget.
“Our budget is growing, and higher budgets allow us to do more and bring more exposure to the festival.” Racine said. “We are being smarter about our marketing plan and how we are advertising the event so we can continue to increase ticket sales.”
He continued by saying, “More importantly, however, we are always working towards continuing the long term success of GreggFest. Jake Gregg is such a hugely important figure in this community, and the festival continues his legacy as well as his love of everything involved with music. Last year, Jake’s passing had a huge impact on the MBI program and on the broader community here in Lyndonville.” Racine said. “I think that since then, we have all focused on ways to continue spreading his music and his story because of how infectious of a person he was and how much of an impact he had on the music scene here. At the end of the day, this year has been all about celebrating his life, his work, and how we continue to honor him.”
Jordan Racine’s close relationship to Gregg and the festival make the event extremely meaningful for him he says.
“GreggFest means community, celebration, and unity. It is a way to bring the entire campus and community together in the celebration of life. And not only for the life of Jake Gregg, but for the life of every student here, for the promising futures of our graduating seniors, and for the amazing four years of life that LSC has provided many of us with.” Racine said. “I think there is no better way to join together at the end of the year to celebrate our time at LSC, and to celebrate a successful year, than through live music & good, healthy fun.”
GreggFest, being a celebration of the love of music, is a way for attendees to discover new bands from the region.
One of those bands is Harsh Armadillo. Harsh Armadillo began about 3 years ago with a bunch of UNH students who began by playing house parties.
Thomas Forbes, the bass player for Harsh Armadillo, attributes the band’s success to how they approach their shows, “We try to make every show we play better than the last, and that’s the only way you can progress forward in this game… We’ve been lucky enough to have some amazing opportunities thanks to the music that we play, so we are all thankful for every show we have.”
GreggFest also includes various campus bands, one of them being The Bonnets.
The Bonnets formed last year when the three members, Devin VanDervoort, Albin Defreittas and Sawyer Sellingham met through the MBI program.
The Bonnets are one of the many examples of the quality of the MBI program and how it incentivizes bands, music and the music experience.
The Bonnets mindset for music making and their band’s future highlights the theme of GreggFest: The love for music.
VanDervoort says that he hopes the band’s music takes them, “As far it will possibly take us. Not on a fame level because that’s not why we make music. We just make music to make music… I’d say as many people as want to listen to our music, I hope it gets to them.”
GreggFest is an event for the people. “I think a lot of times it is easy to get caught up in life, and I totally understand that. Jake Gregg lived every single day as if it was an adventure, and his passing has totally taught me the importance of living life that way.” Racine said. “GreggFest allows us to spend two days before finals, not completely inundated with work, surrounded by our friends, in an environment that is fun and positive. And I think taking a break, especially at this time of the year, is important.”
This year’s GreggFest festival takes place in the amphitheater below the LSC skate park.
The doors will open on Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7 at 4 p.m. and GreggFest will officially begin. The music will start at 5 p.m.
There will be food, beer and merchandise from the various bands playing inside the festival gates.
“I’d just like to encourage everybody to come to the show!” Racine said. “It’s a great time, and there’s going to be a lot of fun activities going on in addition to all the fantastic music. It’s a community wide event, and everybody is welcome to come join in on the fun.”