Whew! This year’s Masters was another winner in every sense of the word.
Fine tournament weather and a very popular champion in Bubba Watson made for a heartwarming storyline that could not have been scripted any better.
Entertainment options in Augusta during Masters featured a new player this year as The Major Rager, led by Augustan George Claussens’ Friends With Benefits organization, gave folks a fresh alternative to the highly successful Rock Fore! Dough concerts.
On Monday Night of Masters Week, Umphrey’s McGee and Moon Taxi were scheduled for the Jessye Norman Amphitheater on the Savannah River. More than 1,100 tickets for the fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House had been sold, but the weather forecast called for a 90 percent chance of thunderstorms.
Three days before the concert, Claussen and company wisely moved the show right next door to the Augusta Convention Center.
“Greg DeSandy and Haley Miller, of the Augusta Marriott and Augusta Convention Center, went out of their way to accommodate us on such short notice,” Claussen said. “Without their willingness to help us save the show we would have had to cancel the event.”
Happily, the concert wound up drawing almost 1,800 fans, and no, they weren’t all from Augusta.
“We had a busload of fans from Columbia as well as people that came from Athens, Atlanta, and all over the Southeast just to see the show,” said Peter Menk, of Friends With Benefits.
DEATH BY STEREO DEPT. Umphrey’s McGee wowed the crowd with two fine sets after a terrific opening set from Moon Taxi. Umphrey’s, from South Bend, Ind., played selections from most of their eight albums including material from Similar Skin, which will be released in June.
The band even streamed the Augusta show on their Web site, and the response from the musicians over the great audience has already attracted inquiries from promoters and other bands about staging shows in Augusta sooner than later.
“It’s crazy,” said Claussen. “We’ve received calls and e-mails from all over about not just next year but later on this year, too. We’ve proven that you don’t necessarily have to travel out of town to see a great show.”
Claussen went out of his way to give credit to Nick Cason, Lisa Taylor and Menk for assisting Friends with Benefits with their first Masters Week event. “It was magical to see so many good people behind the scenes that worked so hard and passionately in getting the show moved at the very last minute.”
STORMIN’ NORMAN DEPT. This was the third time Claussen and Friends With Benefits have attempted an outdoor concert at the amphitheater. All three times it rained. Will he try the Norman again?
“Oh, absolutely,” laughed Claussen. “As we proved with this year’s Major Rager, we can always just move our show next door if the weather’s bad. It’s the best possible setup!”