Philip Palmer’s father Ken was one of Savannah’s best-known jazz musicians and orchestra leaders, and his wife Betty Rose - Philip’s mom – was his band’s vocalist. Understandably, the parents wanted their musically-inclined son to follow them into the family business.
Philip Palmer, however, dug rock ‘n’ roll.
“I guess it’s like a jock who wants his son to play ball, and the boy doesn’t want to,” he shrugs. “They kept trying to push lessons on me, and I just didn’t want to deal with it. I wanted to play outside in the mud.”
Palmer fronts Port City Music, a guitar-based Savannah band that plays only his original compositions. The group is at the Wormhole Friday night, and will perform there again Saturday as part of the 12-hour, multi-artist benefit and Adopt-a-Thon for Hinesville’s New Beginnings Pet Rescue, Inc.
Palmer has known Wormhole owner Amy Stafford for years. She was Port City Music’s first keyboard player; Palmer and his twin brother Ken worked carpentry and helped her paint the converted furniture store on Bull Street.
“I didn’t really want to open a bar,” Stafford says, “I wanted to open a music club. I couldn’t get an investor for a coffeehouse – everybody wanted to invest in a bar.”
She ended up starting the club in January, using mostly her own money.
“I’ve been involved with the music scene as a promoter and as a band member, and I realized there’s just not enough places for original bands to play at, to gain exposure and gain a fan base,” she says.
“You really need the alcohol sales as a concession to be able to pay the rent and all. And the City of Savannah won’t even allow a coffeehouse to sell beer and wine without being 21 and up, which is kind of silly, because I see this business format in many other cities, and it’s not a big deal.”
New Beginnings isn’t a shelter – its volunteers adopt animals from the county pound, and foster them until homes can be found.
“I’ve always been involved with pet rescue myself, as a volunteer,” says Stafford. “And this organization just got started with their non-profit status – so they’re not funded like many of the others. This fundraiser will help them out tremendously, as far as being able to get shots and everything for the pets.
“I don’t think people are aware of what a lot of the policies are by county Animal Control. The other day this lady said ‘I thought they kept them for at least a month, to try and get them a home,’ and I’m like ‘No, they keep them 72 hours and then they euthanize them.”
From 3-6 p.m., there’ll be pups and kitties galore on the sidewalk outside the Wormhole – you don’t have to be 21 to check ‘em out – with acoustic musicians performing.
Gradually, the event will move inside – the 21 and up rule then goes into effect – where some of the best local bands will be playing until the wee hours, with the Nocturnelle belly dance troupe entertaining between acts.
Along with Port City Music, the lineup includes the Trainwrecks, Pets and Animals and other area favorites.
For Philip Palmer, it’s a welcome opportunity to play original music in a town that – in his opinion – doesn’t always support it.
“Lately,” he says, “I’ve been writing a lot of what I would categorize as very dark minor blues. Jazzy, bluesy chords, kind of film noir-ish. And I’m still finding the people who want to put that together. I think these new musicians I’m working with might be the ones.”
Port City Music evolved out of an earlier Palmer-led outfit, Vermillion X. His guitar playing shows some clear inspiration from the likes of Morphine’s Mark Sandman, and during the ‘80s he played bass in a goth band, but despite his penchant for darker melodies and themes, Palmer insists he’s not a “minor-key” kind of guy.
“Well yeah, I am, but I’m also a goofball,” he laughs. “That’s why I got out of the goth thing; it was just too pretentious for me. What comes out of me just comes out of me. You never know how those things go; whatever you went through in life.”
An accomplished guitar player, Palmer is sticking to bass for the Port City Music live shows. “It just turned out that I got a couple of guys on guitar who can definitely outplay me,” he says. “But they’re also playing to what I’m doing.”
He confesses to having a restless creative spirit. “I don’t think in terms of what’s hip or not hip when it comes to my music. I just want to write what I want to write, and I want to be able to find somebody to support it.”
Pet Rescue Benefit and Adopt-a-Thon
Where: The Wormhole, 2307 Bull St.
When: 3 p.m. Saturday, July 25 (until 3 a.m.)
Adopt-a-Thon: 3-6 p.m.
Port City Music also plays Friday night.