What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July with a patriotic show from one of Savannah’s most versatile and entertaining groups? Jeremy Davis and Clay Johnson are set to bring their Fabulous Equinox Orchestra to the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, where they’re planning a big show full of patriotic songs and something for everyone.
Davis and Johnson’s brass-centric group has been together for over a decade, after both men—who’ve known each other since childhood—moved to town from Maurice, Louisiana to spread their musical wings. They’ve been doing Fourth of July shows in town ever since, and have become an integral part of the music community.
Ahead of this year’s show, we spoke to Davis about what the band is up to and what to expect from this year’s party.
I saw that y’all are playing over in Israel later this month. Playing there was certainly one of the highlights of my life; tell me how that opportunity came about?
Davis: We have an [offshoot] of what we do called Equinox Global Mission. We use the music to be a blessing to people. Sometimes that looks like going to nursing homes and facilities to uplift them. As you know, music has the ability to connect people unlike anything out there.
It all started in India for us. We went over there on a big trip, and that’s where we really realized the power of the music we play and how it can speak to people. And since then, we’ve toured all the way up to Halifax, Nova Scotia with that project. We did Poland, too. Poland was great; the Polish friends kind of have a big sports, art, and music camp they do in Israel too. That’s where it all started, and it ultimately didn’t work out to partner but we ended up being able to do it ourselves.
We’re doing 10 days in Israel. We’re doing the full Holy Land tour, going to all the spots, and we have a film crew going with us. We have six shows over the course of those 10 days. One of them is a show for Holocaust survivors, which should be an amazing experience. And we’re doing several public shows as well.
Tell me about the history of this group. You and Clay sort of moved here together, didn’t you?
Davis: Yeah, close enough [laughs]. It's a crazy story that begins in the sixth grade. We went to school in West Monroe, Louisiana, so we always carry a spicy dash of that Louisiana vibe. That whole New Orleans street parade thing is a big signature part of our show. So, in the seventh grade, our mothers discovered that we had every class together. It was a weird glitch in the system, where two identical schedules printed out. And the rest is history!
We ended up learning music together, we went through college together, we were roommates, we ended up meeting our wives around the same time and getting married two weeks apart. Then we ended up moving to Savannah with our families. So it’s a pretty unique and special deal to be able to do life and music with your best friend. That whole crazy dynamic is a big part of our show. We’ve been here for 14 years now, and Savannah has really welcomed us.
In fact, the very first big show we did was July fourth, I guess 13 years ago now. The whole show was sold out, and it ended with a grand New Orleans-style parade. We led all 1,200 people out the front door, through Reynolds Square, across Bay Street, down to River Street. It was the biggest hit. We did it for a few years but logistically it became a nightmare. We ended up going different places for the fourth of July show, and now we’re settling back into a new tradition here in Savannah, whichis the coolest one yet in part because all of the logistical challenges have been removed.
You’ve led me quite naturally to my next question! What’s the deal with this year’s performance?
Davis: The whole show happens at the Westin on the beautiful harbor lawn. When you walk out the back door of the hotel, you walk out onto this beautiful manicured green that is facing the river.There’s really two types of seating for the concert—there’s a whole bunch of VIP tables gathered close to the stage, and then behind those are concert-style seating. The seats are there, so there’s no crazy shuffle to find a seat or fight the massive River Street crowd. We just found that our audience didn’t really want to deal with that, so this is perfect.
The VIP tickets come with a really cool pre-show party, a bar, and then you go straight from there to the show. And there’s food for purchase for the general admission folks. So we’ve just made it as easy as we can. And of course, the fourth of July show is different than our normal show because we’re doing patriotic music.
There are a couple of staples in the show because people expect to see them, but it’s mostly patriotic. We’ve got Ray Charles’ “America the Beautiful,” which is always special. Having done this for the last 13 years or so, it’s become really special to us. We honor our veterans and honor our country. This year we’re raising awareness and funds for a group called Companions for Heroes. They partner rescue animals with soldiers and first responders who are struggling with PTSD. They’ve saved thousands of lives, and they do a lot of good. So a portion of the proceeds will go to them.