When you get a bunch of alt-country fans together and name yourself after a Steve Earle record, you've got to expect some trouble. Guitartown founder Alison Williams decided she needed some damage control after hosting the second annual Christmas party for the Web site and news group at her house in 2000: "That's when I knew it had gotten too big--for my house at least. I've still got some damage from that party." Afterward, Williams and good friend Kenny Roby started talking about doing something more charitable, a party where something was given back. Roby's recently deceased father was a big supporter of charities in Roby's South Carolina hometown. The Salvation Army was chosen as the charity, and in 2002, the Internet group raised donations to get 72 new coats for kids. Last year, the group provided money for homeless families in Raleigh "to have hotel rooms for Christmas night, so they wouldn't be on the street."
Williams, who came to the Triangle from Hickory, started the group as a way to meet people interested in Americana and alt-country. The Yahoo group now boasts a membership of over 1,500.
"Go to guitartown.org, it will walk you right through it. There's no money involved," Williams says. "You just join and jump in."
This year, the party's at The Pour House, and the only damage may be to unprotected ears braving the seven-band powerhouse lineup. "We never have a problem finding bands to play," Williams says. "We have the most generous musical community here. Bands all donate their time."
Roby, Terry Anderson's Olympic Ass-Kickin Team and Patty Hurst Shifter are returning G-town vets. "One thing we're gonna miss this year that we've had every year is Chip Robinson," Williams says. "He's moved to New York. We gave him the Guitartown lifetime achievement award last year."
Even though it's a Guitartown function, the public is welcome--with a $6 suggested donation. "After one of our parties, our membership rises," Williams says, "because people feel so welcome."
The Guitartown Holiday Benefit, with Patty Hurst Shifter, OAK Team, Kenny Roby, The Houston Brothers, Joe Swank & The Zen Pirates, Austin Freeman & South of Town, and Brothers Grim, takes over The Pour House on Saturday, Dec. 18 at 5 p.m.