When: Sun., May 28, 12:15 p.m.
Celebrated North Carolina drummer Eddie Watkins dazzled a lot of people in a variety of endeavors during his forty-seven years.
"He was fucking brilliant," says his former wife, Amy Overman, about the self-taught musician. "Anything he put his mind to, he dived hard into it."
That included working his way up from prep cook to sous chef at Chapel Hill's 411 West, getting a degree in information science at N.C. Central University, which eventually resulted in a job at LexisNexis, and, of course, helping forge the sound of Chapel Hill's Polvo as the band's original drummer. Local musicians called him "The Chef" because he looked like he was making a salad when he played drums.
"If you watched him from the side or the back, you would swear he was just swiveling those sticks across the top of the head. It was a very interesting style," says fellow drummer Chuck Garrison, whose band Pipe played numerous shows with Polvo in the early nineties and headlines the first-ever EddieFest.
The all-day show is named in honor of Watkins, celebrating his life while helping HopeLine N.C., an organization dedicated to reaching out to people at risk of suicide. Watkins took his own life in Durham in April of last year. Overman says that in the months since, she's been thankful for overwhelming support from the local music community throughout an extraordinarily difficult year, something the extensive bill reflects well.
"At the very least, we'll have a day of music and people that love Eddie," says Overman. "The kids will get to know them," she adds, referring to her and Eddie's children, Ned and Lucie, now in their teens. (At the show, Ned will play drums in his dad's place with Stranger in the Valley of the Kings and perform trap music as Yung Polvo.)
In addition to the music, HopeLine volunteers will be at the show throughout the day to talk, answer questions, and hand out information.The organization recently text-enabled both of its crisis lines at (919) 231-4525 or 1-877-235-4525. With that effort, the organization hopes to connect with more young people.
Overman says she hopes to see people talk more openly about mental health issues.
"We're losing people to suicide," she says. "People are hurting, and not getting the help they need. And they're afraid to say anything, because there's such shame and stigma about it."
She also hopes EddieFest becomes an annual tradition, a prospect that looks bright—she's already got artists asking about a plan for next year. —Danny Hooley