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3 bands to perform 6th year of Rockin’ for Veterans at Rockingham VFW

Closeup of Jonathan Robinson laying down a slide lick at Rockin' for Veterans in 2019. Photos by William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — The sound of electric guitars will be reverberating off the walls of VFW Post 4203 Saturday evening as three local bands turn it up to 11 for the annual Rockin’ for Veterans concert.

The event, now in its sixth year, was started by the post’s auxiliary chapter in 2016 and has been held every year but 2020 — during the COVID pandemic — and serves as a fundraiser to provide care packages to selected units and local service members stationed overseas.

Robin Roberts, president of the auxiliary, said they will be setting up a table for Heroes Tree ornaments and ‘Thank You’ cards for deployed troops. They will also be collecting school supplies.

Hamlet songwriter and guitarslinger Jonathan Robinson will kick off the show with his band, featuring Joe Felice on bass and Robert Dufresne on drums — and harmonica.

Dufresne served in the U.S. Army Special Forces as a Green Beret.

Robinson has performed at Rockin’ for Veterans in 2017, 2018 and 2019 with various members of his backing band, including Chuck Smith one year on bass and fellow Hamlet native John Martin on drums. His sister, Ashely Robinson, also stepped up to the mic for a few songs the first year.

His blues-rock set list includes several original tunes in addition to covers of songs by Jimi Hendrix and the Allman Brothers Band.

“It’s always an honor to play Rockin for Veterans and I can’t wait to hear this year’s line up,” Robinson said Wednesday evening. “I can’t think of any better reason to come together and play music.”

Hardwired performs at Rockin’ for Veterans in 2019: Mark McRae, drums; Phillip Neal, guitar; Bub Barrett, bass.

Another somewhat-local band, Hardwired, is returning to the event for the fifth year. The only year the band hasn’t played was 2018.

Although they now live closer to Charlotte, guitarist Phillip Neal and bassist Bub Barrett were raised in Richmond County and drummer Mark McRae is from neighboring Anson County.

Neal told the RO in 2019 that all the band members’ fathers and many of their friends have served in the military. Neal’s father, the late Dr. John William Neal, served in the Army Air Corps during World War II.

Their hard rock set list ranges from The Beatles to Stevie Ray Vaughn to AC/DC — and they typically close out with Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper.”

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“I thank God everyday for the men and women of our military who protect our freedoms and if we can make a small difference by providing some good old rock ‘n’ roll, we are in,” he said at the time.

Headlining this year is the band Aftermath, making their second appearance at Rockin’ for Veterans.

The band features both Jeremy Wright and Matthew Davis trading off guitar licks, Jerry Davis on drums, Brian Carter on bass and Franklin Branch on vocals, with Adam McInnis as their sound man.

Another hard rocking act, Aftermath’s repertoire spans several decades including Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” The Knack’s “My Sharona,” A Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran,” and several songs from Stone Temple Pilots.

“Such an honor to be invited to jam at this special event,” Branch said. “The veterans are the headliners. We are just part of the amazing lineup set to honor them.”

Aftermath performs at Rockin’ for Veterans in 2021. From left: Jeremy Wright, Franklin Branch, Jerry Davis, Matthew Davis and Brian Carter.

Other previous acts have included Ponder (later The Ponder Project), The Safety Committee, Jeremy Robinson (with August Burning, the Moonlight Shiners and Avenue 133, The Way She Goes, Mother Reign and Marina Sol. Local drummer Virgil Bowler also played with Hardwired in 2016 and Jonathan Robinson in 2017.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m., with barbecue plates for sale. The music is scheduled to begin at 6. The cover charge is a $10 donation and other donations will be accepted.

The VFW Post 4203 Auxiliary is also planning the annual Veteran’s Day Parade, scheduled for Nov. 5 in downtown Rockingham following the service at Richmond County Veterans Memorial Park. The All Veterans Jump Team will provide a parachute demonstration, weather permitting, and the parade will feature an entry by the 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg.

The deadline to enter the parade is Oct. 22.

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Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.