Pat Hamilton knows a thing or two about working hard just to tread water. As a member of the metal-fusion band Gravy, this local college student and keyboardist has spent the better part of the past several years rehearsing, recording and performing non-commercial music in a town not known for embracing oddball acts.
But, for the past few years, he's been fighting another seemingly uphill battle: dealing with a debilitating sickness.
"It's called End Stage Renal Disease," explains Hamilton, "which basically means kidney failure. I have to have dialysis three times a week for four hours to take the place of my kidneys."
Hamilton says the condition itself does not cause him too much discomfort. That is, if you don't count the tribulations he dealt with during the early stages of treatment. "I had a graft
in my arm," he confides, "and inserting those two really large needles was extremely painful."
What the Renal Failure has caused, however, is an undue amount of hardship in his life. The dialysis treatments themselves leave him feeling exhausted, and their immutable schedule make it virtually impossible for him to hold down a full-time job or travel with Gravy.
"Well, we never practice on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays. Those days I'm so weak I pretty much just have to sit on the couch and read or watch TV."
Luckily, though, Hamilton is preparing himself for an upcoming kidney transplant, which he says will hopefully take place by the end of this summer in Augusta. It's been in the works for over a year now, and his two sisters and one brother are undergoing tests to check their compatibility as donors.
The only thing left is raising money.
Now, that's not as bad as it sounds, since his insurance will cover the majority of the costs associated with the operation itself. However, it's the ancillary costs for aftercare that are not only a concern, but a mandatory prerequisite for having the transplant done.
"They don't want to do the surgery unless they know you have enough funds to act as backup. You have to be able to pay for the medications you'll need afterwards. If you don't have that, they might as well just be giving you the kidney with no guarantee it can be made to work. The bare minimum we need to raise is $4,000. Plus, the Georgia transplant Foundation will match the funds up to $10,000."
While that sort of goal may seem unreachable to most on short notice, Hamilton's girlfriend Kelly Larrimore and Gravy fan (and Portman's music store employee) Nina Bradley figured the most logical way to raise the funds would be to throw a benefit concert and call upon Hamilton's fellow musicians to come to the aid of one of their own.
It appears they were correct.
Next Thursday, may 13th at 8 pm, five regional rock bands (including Gravy) will play Deja Groove on Bay Street, with virtually all the proceeds going directly to Hamilton. Additionally, many area businesses are donating gift certificates and products to be raffled off, and those proceeds will go toward his backup fund.
"Nina's been the driving force behind this," says the keyboardist. "She and (local promoter) Steve Andrews were responsible for securing the location and coming up with lots of the sponsors."
Bradley says the response was overwhelming, and that far more bands offered to play than time would permit.
"We would have been happy with just the door proceeds," she adds, "but Tommy, the owner of Deja Groove, said we could have the beer profits as well!"
Drummer Stephen Riddle of Argyle, one of the participating bands says his group is proud to be a part of this show.
"All of us in Argyle respect Pat and the rest of Gravy so much for sticking to their guns and refusing to compromise at all with their musical vision, so we're going to play almost all new, original material that most of our fans have never heard."
David J. Williams of the instrumental trio i am not a little bus, concurs.
"Pat is one of the most talented and respected members of our local scene. It makes me proud to be a part of this. I hope the place will be packed."
While there's no way to predict what the turnout will be like, Bradley says things look positive.
"I've been so encouraged by the response to this," she says. "We haven't even put up flyers yet, and people are already talking about this."
Hamilton says he's looking very forward to surgery, for many reasons.
"Well, number one, I won't need dialysis anymore. I'll be able to work again, then and make my own money. I can't wait for that. For now, the band can't really go out on the road and play more than two nights in a row because of my treatments. Soon, we'll be able to tour."
He says he's flattered by the very notion of this benefit show.
"It's really cool all these bands are willing to do this just to help me out. It transcends genre boundaries, and gives you a sense of unity in the local scene." w
8 pm, Thurs., May 13th, at Deja Groove. Bands include: Armadildo, Head Check, i am not a little bus, Argyle, and Gravy. Admission is $3 for 21+ and $5 for 18+. For more info" www.sofro.com.