Cherry Blossom Festival

Tribute bands bring many flavors to free Central City Park concert series in Macon

8 free shows to see at Central City Park this year (including a human cannonball)

Central City Park will be open March 16-25, 2018, as part of the International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, Georgia. Shows include: a human cannonball, motorcycle stunts, and stilt walkers. Shows are free with park admission.
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Central City Park will be open March 16-25, 2018, as part of the International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, Georgia. Shows include: a human cannonball, motorcycle stunts, and stilt walkers. Shows are free with park admission.

If you think you see Elvis at the Cherry Blossom Festival, you may want to call the tabloids — or see your shrink.

But if you think you see Jon Bon Jovi or Bruce Springsteen or James Brown you should follow them to a free concert at Central City Park.

Same for the likes of Michael Jackson, Otis Redding, Zac Brown, Jimmy Buffett and other musical icons. It’s not them, but members of one of the many tribute bands appearing at the Cherry Blossom Festival’s free nightly concerts at the park’s entertainment stage.

So if you’re a fan or just like the fun of it, be there.

“We felt providing different tribute bands honoring great musical talent would be a fun way to treat the most people to the music they love and maybe relive some special memories,” said Hannah Moore, a festival spokesperson. “These are premier tribute acts so everyone can relive the glory days of their favorites from soul to 80s and 90s bands to country to Southern rock and the Allman Brothers. We wanted something for everybody.”

Moore said concerts are 8 to 10 p.m, which is perfect timing for getting to the park early, taking in the activities and having fun with the family, enjoying some food then getting over to the concerts, which are free with paid admission to the park.

There are also a variety of other Cherry Blossom musical events throughout the festival. Dates and times are on the festival website and the free park concerts are at www.cherryblossom.com/central-city-park/central-city-park-nightly-concerts.

While all the bands have the appropriate sound, some may or may not have the look.

For instance, March 20’s Bon Jovi tribute band, Slippery When Wet, was born out of lead singer Jason Morey’s resemblance to Jon Bon Jovi. Morey became convinced he looked like Bon Jovi after Dave Chappelle invited him backstage following a comedy show because he thought it really was Jon Bon Jovi in the audience.

Growing up on the group’s classic albums, Morey figured it was a good idea to put together a tribute band.

On the other hand, leading Allman Brothers Band tribute group the Midnight Riders goes more for capturing the music and spirit of their Macon musical heroes.

The band has appeared in Macon and at the Cherry Blossom Festival more than a dozen times and will perform March 23.

“We’re well aware how big the shoes are we’re trying to fill,” said J.D. Williamson, who plays bass for the Midnight Riders as Berry Oakley did for the Allman Brothers. “Macon was the place the Allman Brothers worked up all these great songs, jamming at the Big House on Vineville and playing free concerts at Central City Park. They’d come home off the road and try new stuff for fans here. Berry came up with the idea of free concerts in the park and I guess the city didn’t have a problem. It’s how they honed their music and, as Berry put it, ‘hit the note.’ We go after that same thing and try to go to that same place musically. We’re not as great, of course, but it’s cool to do a free concert in the park. It’s like playing in the mother church.”

Williamson said hearing Oakley made him want to play bass. Playing along with Oakley for hours and hours while listening to Allman Brothers records taught him how.

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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