Felt up for a good cause 

Concert2Cure sets ambitious sights on kicking cancer

David Baumgarten, local percussionist and founding organizer of the two-day, 22-band Concert2Cure festival, won't be happy until you feel yourself up.

"I seriously want to get people to feel themselves up, feel a friend up, right there," said Baumgarten, 33 years old and a testicular cancer survivor. Since last summer, he's been coordinating the Concert2Cure benefit for the American Cancer Society so that you'll feel comfortable enough to do just that. "The body is beautiful and you have to know what your body feels like. And that means that if you don't touch your breasts and if you don't feel your nuts, then you're going to die. If we can get people to do this, we're going to save 50 lives then and there."

Baumgarten isn't overstating. According to the American Cancer Society, this year more than half a million Americans will die of cancer. Odds are, Baumgarten says, "If you have four people in your family you're going to have someone who's going to have this."

Those stats hold true among many of the bands playing this weekend's benefit. In fact, the mothers of three of Athens' all-female Jackpot City's four members have had cancer. Bassist Kathy Kirbo dealt with her own experience creatively; she ended up writing several songs about her own family's ordeal.

Because of their experiences, Jackpot City was tapped by event sponsor AT&T Broadband to make a commercial about the Concert2Cure to air on 40 cable channels. And keyboardist Mamie Fike is glad for the chance to get the message out. "It used to be that when you heard the C word, you were pretty much dead," she says. "But now, today, there are so many survivors -- and it's all early detection, it's all information."

When it came to Concert2Cure, Baum-garten didn't let the fact that he knew little about staging a concert stop him. "People are losing people," he says. "I was looking around at all these people in my own family [who battled cancer]: two uncles, my sister, myself. So I said, 'Hey, I think I'll throw a concert.' I just came up with the name ... and then everything seemed to follow. If I couldn't find someone who knew how to do what had to be done next, I would learn how to do it myself -- find a way."

Baumgarten didn't know much about the Atlanta music scene starting out, so he enlisted the help of his friend Joel Rives, a local drummer with lots of contacts in Atlanta's music community. Rives spread the word, and says he found many groups who wanted to play.

Rives and Baumgarten recruited so many bands they decided to expand their planned concert into a two-day festival. March 3's show at the Tabernacle features 12 acts, including Speech, Michelle Malone, DoubleDrive, Gurufish, Cool for August, Eddie Bush and Janah. The line-up for the following day's show at CJ's Landing in Buckhead includes Caroline Aiken, the Breeze Kings, the Francisco Vidal Band and STB.

The bands were selected in part based on their ability to draw. But at the same time, they didn't want an act that would overshadow the message of the fundraiser, so no superstars like Elton John.

To keep that at the forefront, informational centers will be set up to teach concertgoers more about cancer, with emphasis on early detection. And between music performances, a comedy duo will present several cancer-related skits by Hollywood writer Devorah Cutler Rubenstein.

Event organizers hope Concert2Cure will become the first in a series. "If it's successful, the ACS wants to cookie-cutter it across the country," said Rives, "take our ideas and implement them in other cities."

Because music has such a broad, cross-demographic appeal, Baumgarten considers a concert a perfect way to get the information to the people who need it most. "Most of the people they need to talk to are young," he says. "They're just now starting to pick up their first pack of cigarettes."

So while feeling-up will be allowed at the Concert2Cure, smoking will not.

Concert2Cure is held Sat., March 3, 4:30 p.m.-2 a.m., at the Tabernacle and Sun., March 4, 3:30 p.m.-midnight, at CJ's Landing. Tickets are $20, available through Ticketmaster, at www.concert2cure.org or at the door day of the show.

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