In what has quickly become one of Calhoun’s most joyous Christmas traditions, nationally-acclaimed recording group The Van Lears will share their genre-bending blend of modern rock and soulful country music on the GEM Theatre stage when they present the 5th annual Dana Patterson Merry Christmas Show on Saturday, Dec. 16.
The Van Lears are composed of local brothers Trey and Andrew Bentley, whose music has been previously labeled as “what you get when two rock and roll brothers are raised by two talented parents who are steeped in classic country music.”
The upcoming show at the GEM Theatre caps off a successful 2017 for The Van Lears, who have spent the year working many hours in the studio on a new project, playing live shows across the country and preparing for the release of a new music video. The brothers have also spent time as active advocates for musician’s and songwriter’s rights with the Recording Academy Atlanta Chapter and various U.S. Senators and Representatives, and helped craft a bill that was recently passed in D.C.
“After being on the road and so busy for so long, this is still our most rewarding night and the highlight of the year for us,” Andrew said. “We have had a lot of people tell us that this is the night that gets them in the Christmas spirit and brings in their Christmas season, so it’s always a really special event for those involved.”
Joining The Van Lears on stage at the GEM will be James Otto, who co-wrote the Grammy-winning song “In Color” by Jamey Johnson and had a chart-topping hit of his own with “Just Got Started Lovin’ You” in 2008. Thom Bresh, talented musician and son of the infamous finger-picker Merle Travis, is also slated to perform.
The loaded lineup for the concert also includes performances by local artists Jule Medders, White Water Junction and Faye Bentley. Bentley is the mother of Trey and Andrew, and she has opened for the Kentucky Headhunters, Merle Haggard and Brad Paisley while also participating in Johnny Cash and George Strait tributes in the past. Travis Stephens will also play an integral role as bandleader for the entire show.
The concert was created to honor the memory of Dana Patterson, who was tragically slain in her Williamsburg-James City, Va. home in July 2013. Patterson was a close friend and fan of the band, and a longtime member of Meadowdale Baptist Church. Her stepfather, Steven Pearson, will share the Christmas Story and a song with the audience during the show.
“Dana was a very dear friend to us, and she was definitely one of our original fans who supported us when we were just starting out,” Andrew said. “We think about her every day, and her family is basically part of our family.”
“It’s not about just coming to see us perform, it is really a display of love and support for Steven and the rest of Dana’s family, who have given so much to this community,” Trey said. “It’s not a night of worship by any means, but it feels like church. It’s a spiritual night of healing for everyone that attends.”
Each year, The Van Lears help carry on the legacy of Patterson by donating all the proceeds of the concert to a worthy cause. In the past, the show raised over 7,500 toys, as well as large amounts of canned foods and other monetary donations that were distributed to various organizations.
“The show represents such an outpouring of love from the community,” Trey said. “Christmas was Dana’s favorite time of the year, so this is all about the joy of giving in the Christmas spirit.”
This year, all proceeds from ticket and merchandise sales are being donated to the Cooper Brazell Foundation, which is a local, not-for-profit organization that assists with the medical expenses of Calhoun Primary School student Cooper Brazell. Brazell was diagnosed with a rare form of Mitochondrial Disease at 21 months old, and has been battling complications stemming from the debilitating disease ever since.
Concertgoers are also welcome to bring toys, canned goods or donate more than the cost of the ticket to the organization. The band shared that they will make sure all donations will be distributed to the proper places.
“It’s great to see how many people are helped and how many great things have happened because of Dana and in Dana’s name,” Faye said.
After the concert, The Van Lears invite the community, including those that are not able to attend the show, to join them to fellowship, desserts and coffee at the Velo Vineyard, where they will be joined by Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus for pictures. There will also be wings from Duke’s Wings and Seafood available at the post-concert get-together, which will be generously donated by owner Derrick Williams.
The group also wanted to express their appreciation for Dalton Wholesale Floors, who sponsored the hotel rooms for the performers.
Tickets for the show are $15, and can be purchased on the GEM Theatre website, at the box office or by calling 706-625-3132.
The Van Lears encourage those interested in attending to buy their tickets as soon as possible and not wait to buy them on the night of the show because the last four shows have sold out well in advance. As of press time, over 150 tickets have already been spoken for. The doors open at 6 p.m., with the first performer set to take the stage at 7 p.m.