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It’s been nearly three years since 16-year-old Garrett McCoy was killed in a car accident on Virginia 8 just north of the Montgomery-Floyd county line. This Friday, Auburn High School will host the third annual benefit concert for its former student, and the concert’s founder Jimmy Street will once again perform with his band, The Greatest, the former Blacksburg band that moved on to Nashville. Street was a close friend of Garrett McCoy and his family, and he took a moment to talk about McCoy, The Greatest and the underground music show he put together in his friend’s memory.
How did you meet Garrett McCoy and how did this benefit come about?
I knew Garrett through working at Crossroads [a Blacksburg record store, that Street managed] … He was a customer and we liked similar music. I got to know him through there and I got to know his family. His dad actually shot my wedding video for my wife and I for a wedding gift for us, and they kind of became a family away from our families while she and I were living in Blacksburg. And my wife and I were on a second honeymoon kind of a thing … We got back from this trip and got a message that Garrett had died. It was just the craziest thing. It just blew my mind to think of when I was that age, a 16-year-old kid, the things I did and how close I could have come to death, just things like that that any normal teenager goes through. And I felt like sort of a mentor to him through music. It weighed really heavy on me, and I wanted to do this benefit show because it was the only way I felt that I could get out there how awesome this guy was, and at the same time help other people … He loved music, it was his big thing and his focus as far as what he wanted to have happen with his life. He was in a band, and one of the bands that is playing at the concert was the band that he was in. Joe Lawson took over on bass in that band and is now the local concert representative who took over for me when we left Blacksburg .
Can you tell me about your band, The Greatest?
We formed in Blacksburg in late 2001. I was tired of playing with the same old band that I’d been playing with, and we decided to go our separate ways. The Greatest came together … and we kept playing and kept playing. Our first show ever was Top of the Stairs. We weren’t very tight. We were really horrible. And we opened up for this Dave Matthews cover band. And first of all, we’re not like Dave Matthews. So that was the funny part. And there was this crowd of people looking really confused. But that was it and that’s how it had to start. It’s fun rock ’n‘ roll, we have a lot of fun with it … We brag about having played everywhere in Blacksburg that had a space.
How’s the Nashville scene?
It’s really cool. It’s Music City . It’s funny how it seems like it’s all centralized on country music, but around it there’s this explosion of all this scene. We’ve got famous artists … David Byrne from the Talking Heads has a house right down the street.
Yeah, you don’t find that too much in Blacksburg .
Yeah, you can’t walk outside and David Byrne is picking out his newspaper. It’s a really cool town. It’s very serious, it’s very professional, it’s very serious about music. I wanted us to come here for a challenge … I realize that Nashville and Blacksburg aren’t the same place, there’s not even the same focus. But at the same time it’s kind of hard for bands to find places to play [in Blacksburg ], whereas here I could line up a show any night of the week and not overlap for a month. There’s that many stages. Not that I would ever want to do that, because that would destroy the crowd: "Hey, we saw those guys last night." But we came here for the competition, because we thrive on that. Other bands impress up and make us better … Basically New York; Los Angeles ; Austin , Texas ; and Nashville were on our radar. And we felt like Los Angeles and New York would laugh at our country accents, and we felt like Austin , Texas , was just too far away, so Nashville just felt like the right place.
Can you tell me more about the styles of these bands who will be playing at the concert?
This Machine is from Bluefield , Va. , and they have a new album coming out this summer called "Inventing Demise." They’re a hard rock/heavy metal band. The Misled is from Blacksburg , and they’re the best punk band in Virginia . And The Cell is from Christiansburg. They’re a hard rock band.
Why these bands specifically?
The main focus is because this is the kind of music that Garrett was into. But my focus is to always bring underground bands. We’re playing in front of more and more people. Our underground is bubbling up. I see Modest Mouse and Queens of the Stone Age all over the place. You know, if soccer moms know about Modest Mouse, then the underground is kind of bubbling up a little bit … Garrett enjoyed underground, and that can be brought out here.
The benefit concert will be at Auburn High School Auditorium this Friday night.