Staff Photo: Karen Rohr
Lemon Bee Music Festival organizer Matthew Wilcox invites the community to enjoy the sounds of local bands on Aug. 27 at the Olde Town Pavilion in Conyers.
Matthew Wilcox remembers that the inaugural Lemon Bee Festival -- which took place five years ago in the Olde Town Pavilion -- was a rather modest event that included no bands and maybe 100 partygoers.
"It was kind of an extension of my 21st or 22nd birthday party," Wilcox said. "It's become such a big event that now my friends won't not let me have it. By the third year, I had money troubles but my friends backed me and we were able to get it going. Volunteers help a lot. And each year, we've gotten a little bigger."
The fifth edition of the Lemon Bee (the name of which is based on phrases Wilcox picked up from his great-grandmother) is set for 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27, again at the Pavilion. Last year's affair attracted some 500 people, so Wilcox is expecting a good turnout for the seven acts on the bill.
Besides a daylong musical excursion, the Lemon Bee features local artists, concessions and specialty booths, including a Thai massage table. There are also activities for the younger set, and the festival is an all-ages event.
"I grew up in Rockdale County going to the Cherry Blossom Festival, and I have to admit that my generation isn't exactly into that festival," said Wilcox, who graduated from Rockdale County High School in 2002. "So the Lemon Bee is kind of a Rockdale County festival for my generation."
Wilcox, who turned 27 in May, leads the band Pumpkin City, which will be featured at the festival, along with Swirly Temple, Projector, Psychedubasaurus REX, the Brotherland, Connor Pledger and Last Sundown.
Wilcox said the music begins at 2 p.m. and each band will play a set lasting 45 to 60 minutes. He added that Pumpkin City has played the closing set at several Lemon Bees, but this year he's handing the headliner's spot to Swirly Temple, which includes Wilcox's longtime friend (and Pumpkin City co-founder), drummer Kace Brannon.
"We've headlined a couple of times, but after the music is over I've still got to clean up the Pavilion, so this way, we get to play and then I can get back to work while the final band is playing," he said.
Wilcox said he began singing at the age of 2 at the (now departed) Eastwood Baptist Church in Conyers and he continued a musical path with stints in the Rockdale High marching band and Conyers Kids.
"I've been in music all my life, but I started the band four years ago," he said.
Pumpkin City, which features Wilcox (vocals, bass, trumpet), Brett Reagan (guitar) and Anthony Davidson (drums), has encountered extensive road work, performing in Washington D.C., Virginia, Ohio, Mississippi, Alabama, Arizona and Colorado, as well as local venues like Smith's Olde Bar, the Masquerade, Sweetwater Live and the North River Tavern.
The band has released two previous recordings, 2008's "Transcendental State" and 2009's "Elephant EP" and expects to release a new full-length album (that is not yet titled) this fall. Pumpkin City and Projector hold the distinction of performing at the most Lemon Bee events, four apiece.
Tickets (which includes a raffle ticket for door prizes) for the Lemon Bee are $10 and $2 from each sale will be donated to the Kimberly Chance Atkins Foundation, honoring Kimberly Chance Atkins, who died in 1999 at the age of 32 after a battle with breast cancer.
Wilcox knows the Lemon Bee has a long way to go to match the iconic status of the Cherry Blossom Festival, but he'd still like to see a cross-section of the community at the party.
"I'd love to get the whole community involved," he said. "It started as a party with friends and then word of mouth took over and here we are."