Years of practice, patience and playing small gigs were finally paying off as the local band 3 South Benson took to the Hard Rock Cafe stage in Hollywood, Fla., where the young trio was to play for Southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Lead singer and guitarist Mike Gordon was still a student at Belhaven Avenue Middle School in Linwood.
“It’s a different energy that you can’t get anywhere else,” Gordon, now 16, says, recalling the 2011 gig. “It’s a different kind of adrenaline. At that time, I don’t think we ever played as well as that night. We knew then that we had potential.”
The trio, which also includes bass player Jake Blumberg and drummer Tom Robbins, has developed a local following for their covers of classic rock hits, funk, grunge and blues. On Saturday, Sept. 7, 3 South Benson will take the stage at the 36th annual Somers Point Good Old Days Festival, a free, daylong family celebration designed to celebrate the end of the summer season in Somers Point.
The band will share a bill with Jersey guitar great Billy Walton and the Hawkins Road Country All-Stars.
The Good Old Days Festival runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at John F. Kennedy Memorial Park in Somers Point and includes live music on three stages. In addition to more than 50 vendors and plenty of antique cars on display, children’s entertainment will include carnival games, a dunk tank, inflatables, pony rides, karate and cheerleading demonstrations. Food will include dollar hot dogs and hamburgers.
All proceeds from the festival will benefit the Lawrence “Bud” Kern Scholarship Foundation, a fund established in 1979 for outstanding Somers Point high school students. Scholarships range from $1,000 to $3,000.
The co-headliners this year — who will each play two sets — will offer twists on their usual performances this weekend. The Hawkins Road All Stars will be joined by two special guests: guitarist Danny Eyer (the former musical director of Danny and the Juniors); and three-time Pennsylvania state fiddle champion Randy Cramer. Walton will be backed by a brass band, recalling the “Jersey sound” of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.
“We’re actually bringing full horn section this time,” says Walton, an Egg Harbor Township resident. “So we’re going to be doing a lot of our own stuff, songs we usually play in England. We’re going to be bringing some Jersey shore rock ’n’ roll.”
For Walton, the Good Old Days Festival is a personal trip down memory lane. Walton’s parents, uncles and aunts all frequented the now-closed Tony Mart Nightclub for the live music scene, he says, and appreciates the chance to create more memories on stage.
Today, Carmen Marotta of Tony Mart Presents, an organizer behind the Good Old Days Festival, works hard to keep the music tradition going.
“I always loved the Somers Point scene,” Walton says. “Even before the band played there … my aunt used to go see Bill Haley and the Comets. Somers Point has a good rock ’n’ roll scene. Carmen Marotta really keeps that alive, otherwise there wouldn’t be much. They know how to party.”
Hawkins Road plays a little bit of everything, frontman Brian Conover says, though they will mostly focus on country covers this Saturday.
“We bridge everything from classic rock and the Eagles to (Jimmy) Buffett and Springsteen,” says Conover, a Galloway Township resident and middle-school teacher. “I joke that we’re a band with an identity crisis.”
For Conover, who has also performed with local theater groups over the years, being on stage is where he is happiest.
“For any performer, you kind of feel like you’re at home,” Conover says. “For me, anything that has to do with performing and music is a place where I feel comfortable. It’s the place where you don’t have to worry about anything.”