Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Ray Routhier firstname.lastname@example.org
A guy who throws his own 50th birthday party -- spread out over several days and with entertainment provided by nationally known rock bands -- is probably not shy.
Greg Martens, right, celebrates his birthday at this weekend’s F.O.G. Festival.
F.O.G. (FRIENDS OF GREG) FESTIVAL
• THURSDAY – 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., The Big Easy, 55 Market St., Portland: Chris Barron (of Spin Doctors) with Lazy Lightning and A Band Beyond Description. $5 at the door. bigeasyportland.com
• FRIDAY – 7 to 8:30 p.m., The Big Easy: Chris Barron and John Popper (Blues Traveler) and The Shakes. $10 in advance at Bull Moose Music stores; $12 at the show. bigeasyportland.com
• FRIDAY – 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland: John Popper with Chris Barron backed by The Fogcutters, plus Los Lotharios. $20 in advance at Port City box office or portcitymusichall.com; $25 day of show; $75 VIP. Ages 18-plus.
• SATURDAY – 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., Port City Music Hall: John Popper with The John Clavette Band, DIRIGO, Anna and The Diggs and The Blues Brothers Tribute Band, plus a special comedy set by Birdie Googins, “The Mardens Lady.” $10 in advance at Port City box office or portcitymusichall.com; $15 day of show. Ages 18-plus.
WHAT ELSE: John Popper will sing the National Anthem before the Red Claws basketball game at 7 p.m. Friday (nba.com/dleague/maine). A “Bowling Party with F.O.G.” will be held at Bayside Bowl at 3 p.m. Saturday (baysidebowl.com).
Not only is Greg Martens of Durham not shy, he's got a lot of friends and is never afraid to ask for a favor.
Martens' lack of shyness helped him become a successful dealer of concert merchandise in the 1990s, which in turn helped him become friendly with famous musicians. That is how Martens is able to throw himself one doozy of a 50th birthday party in Portland this weekend, with John Popper of Blues Traveler and Chris Barron of Spin Doctors playing live as part of the entertainment.
Martens is calling the event the F.O.G. (Friends of Greg) Festival, with shows at The Big Easy on Thursday and Friday, and at Port City Music Hall on Friday and Saturday.
It's not a private party, either -- anyone can buy a ticket to the shows and join the fun.
Not only are Popper or Barron -- or both -- playing at each show, the concerts feature a ton of local musicians as well, including The Fogcutters big band, The John Clavette Band, DIRIGO, Anna and The Diggs, The Blues Brothers Tribute Band featuring Martens, and even some comedy by Birdie Googins, aka "The Marden's Lady" of local TV commercials.
But the F.O.G. Festival is not just about Martens getting all his friends together to help him blow out his candles. Martens is a self-styled entrepreneur who can't sit still, and since he turned 40, he's been periodically throwing himself birthday party/rock concerts that also serve as fundraisers for local charities.
The beneficiary this year and for the past several years has been Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn, which receives a percentage of the ticket sales. Money will be raised by donations and raffles as well.
"I need to keep busy, and I want to do something that might have a positive effect," said Martens, who will turn 50 on Sunday. "But the big reason I do this is to get all my friends together, old friends and new friends. When I was on the road (selling concert merchandise), I met a lot of people, but they're scattered all over the place."
To be clear, Martens is paying to have Popper and Barron play. They're not working for free just because they know and like him.
But if Martens didn't know them personally, it's hard to see them doing four shows with dozens of local musicians. Both Popper and Barron say they truly wanted to be part of F.O.G. Fest after hearing so much about the events over the years.
Popper is performing "because I am a F.O.G. -- friend of Greg's -- and I think what he is doing is really important, giving back to the community," he said via email. "Over the years, we have tried to make this happen, but I was always booked with Blues Traveler, so I was happy that it worked out this time."
Popper, who will also sing the National Anthem before the Portland Red Claws game on Friday, said Martens was the first T-shirt and merchandise seller Blues Traveler had at its concerts, and that he "did it better than anyone, I must say."
Martens even lived with Blues Traveler members in the band's Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment for a while. And because the Spin Doctors were close buddies with Blues Traveler, it made sense that Martens would get to know that band as well, said Barron.
"He's a big, beautiful guy with a big, beautiful personality," Barron said.
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Guest performers at F.O.G. Fest include Chris Barron of Spin Doctors ...
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... and John Popper of Blues Traveler.