Meet Everett Verner, President of Bragg Jam
Everett Verner is fun to talk about music with. He’s well-versed across a variety of genres, he’s opinionated without being overbearing, he’s been to a ton of shows and festivals and has good stories to tell, and he has an articulate, intelligent way of expressing his aesthetic. During our lunch conversation, he discussed his youthful obsession with (and subsequent post-lousy-live-reunion-show disillusionment with) Weezer, his “almost cliché” but no less sincere love of Neutral Milk Hotel, his favorite artists of the moment (the Australian band Swimwear; the Michigan solo artist Absofacto) and his belief that The Roots are a thoroughly amazing band who could cover any song impeccably. Shirod Cooley, better known as Shawty Slim, B.o.B.’s tour DJ, came over to say hi as we were talking, and the two of them launched into a conversation about running into one another in front of a Public Enemy show they couldn’t finagle their way into at a SXSW festival some years back, which led to discussion of seeing the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z, and ScHoolboy Q live. Everett’s not a musician himself – “I can count to four, but not in rhythm,” he says; he’s happier in the audience, or in a role that puts his organizational talents to use, which is why he’s done such a stellar job as president of the board of Bragg Jam, Macon’s much-beloved summer music festival, for the past three years.
“I liked Macon from the beginning,” Everett says; he was born in Savannah, and moved around a bit before landing here as a Mercer student in 2002. “Macon’s very charming and historic, and being from Savannah originally, I’ve always been drawn to history and architecture and a strong sense of place.” At Mercer, he earned a degree in Philosophy – “I found the idea of questioning everything around me to be necessary,” he says, “and reading about brilliant minds of the past and present who have also been asking those same questions – that was a fascinating area to study.” After college, he worked with the AmeriCorps Vista Volunteer Program at Macon Area Habitat for Humanity, where he mostly wrote grants, negotiated land acquisition, and organized volunteers; after that, he moved on to the job he’s held for almost a decade, working for Macon-Bibb County Land Bank Authority as a Property Acquisition and Disposition Manager. He met his fiancée Maggie Rogers here, too; the couple were introduced by a mutual friend, and they plan to get married at a friend’s house in October of this year.
Everett’s work with local festivals started back in 2010, when he ran into our own Brad Evans, then-president of the Bragg Jam board, at a bar; Brad invited him to a meeting for Fly South Festival [the now-defunct fall music fest put on by Bragg Jam], where Everett volunteered to run a BBQ contest, and he’s been involved ever since. Bragg Jam has grown from a roomful of friends using music as a way to mourn, celebrate, and memorialize the gone-too-soon Bragg brothers into a name synonymous with philanthropy and quality events in Macon – not just the one exuberant, sweaty July night full of an eclectic roster of bands, but also the Second Sunday concerts on Coleman Hill, the Moonlight Miles 5k, and the community arts festival. Bragg Jam’s Concert Crawl has gone from 2500 attendees to around 7000, an epic leap. “Music festivals in general have exploded in popularity across the country,” Everett says, “and that’s definitely been helpful for us, but also the festival has become its own iconic Macon thing, downtown has been growing like crazy which obviously makes a difference, and the origin story is still compelling.”
This year, on the Friday night before the Bragg Jam Concert Crawl, Cox Capitol Theater will host a concert featuring performances by Hank Vegas and Cedric Burnside (grandson of legendary bluesman R.L. Burnside), alongside other yet-to-be-named acts. According to Everett, that Friday night concert is the place to be if you want help planning your Saturday schedule from, as he puts it, the “severe music delinquents” who will be posted up with their copies of the schedule, circling must-see bands and crafting their itineraries. “The people to ask are at that party,” Everett says. “Ask them who to go see! Make plans to go see something you’ve never seen, something you don’t have any idea what it is, and take no expectations with you – you’ll be more than pleasantly surprised,”
Other tips from Everett for Bragg Jam first-timers: make a plan that you can change on the go, don’t drink too much too early, include water in your drinking regimen, wear comfortable shoes (“I see girls wearing, like, stilettos and a romper, which seems like a nightmare situation if you end up needing to use a Port-a-potty”), and step out of your comfort zone by going to a venue you’ve never been inside before. Of the artists that have been announced for this year’s Concert Crawl (more announcements are coming soon), Everett’s most excited to see Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Becca Mancari, Cedric Burnside, and Gringo Star, although he knows that the best Bragg Jam experiences are rarely preplanned and are, like many Macon moments, often just surreal enough to be thrilling.
Speaking of Macon moments, here’s one of Everett’s favorites: several years back, at an 11th Hour Awards Ceremony, beloved local weirdo King Henry was set to receive an award for ‘Best Personality.’ Everett remembers it like this: “He came in with his cape on, his tie-dyed t-shirt, and a crown. He was carrying this giant palm frond and walking down front from his spot way in the back – this was back when people gave acceptance speeches – and everybody started cheering. This organic chant of LONG LIVE THE KING broke out – it was borderline deafening – as King Henry walked all the way around and down the side steps and up to the front, where he recited a poem or sang a little song about friendship, and the crowd just erupted with joy when he was done. Chaotic joy. That was one of those moments when I was just sitting there in awe of everything going on around me. There are lots of little Macon stories like that, but this is one I come back to again and again; it always makes me think “Wow, this place is pretty great sometimes.”
Bragg Jam will be held on July 28 & 29 this year. Visit www.braggjam.org to purchase advance tickets – hurry, because Early Bird specials end May 15. Opening Concert and Concert Crawl tickets are available separately or together; a VIP package is also available, as is the “Festie Bestie” pass that combines a VIP Bragg Jam experience with tickets to all showings of the Macon Film Festival. Also, be sure to check out the Second Sunday Concerts, which run through October up on Coleman Hill; they’re a great spot to bring a picnic and a blanket and hear some fine free live music. The next one, on May 14, will feature the band Waker. You can also listen out for Everett on the Bragg Jam Radio Hour on The Creek 100.9 FM on Saturday mornings at 9 am.