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Frank's Wild Year 

Local bands come together to aid injured guitarist.

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When local guitarist Frank Jackson heard surgeons compare his left arm to Humpty Dumpty, it was not a funny ha-ha moment.

This was in November, and Jackson had been working on a cedar roof when he slipped and fell 15 feet onto a concrete sidewalk, shattering his elbow and suffering two compound fractures. Unfortunately, he'd allowed his insurance to lapse and was working on a tiny crew without worker's comp. Now, after three surgeries at VCU Health System, he owes close to $100,000.

Looking ahead, he faces not only financial hardship but also intensive physical therapy on his severely damaged arm, which allows no range of motion — all this while unable to work his day job or play guitar for his night gigs.

But at least the man still has friends.

Having played with several local bands, including jam/funk groups Modern Groove Syndicate and The Big Payback, Jackson is a well-known veteran of the local scene. Fellow musician and friend Todd Herrington helped bring together local bands to stage a benefit concert, Frankfest, at the Canal Club Jan. 5.

We missed first band, Moosa, and arrived during a high-energy set from the DJ Williams Projekt. For those who don't know, Williams is not a DJ, but rather a smooth-jazz-style electric guitarist fronting a jam band similar in feel to the Greyboy Allstars. Looking like a star from the LeBron James commercials, Williams had the hippie twirlers in front shimmying zombielike to funkified, cosmopolitan numbers featuring bright trumpet and sax solos tussling with Williams' own bag of polished licks.

Next up, Brown Sabbath (another group that counted Jackson as a member) offered a dead-on tribute to heavy-metal legends Black Sabbath. The group trudged through a penultimate set of stoned-out Sabbath nuggets with a singer who sounded eerily like Ozzy Osbourne in his prime, although too physically fit for the part. He played the role about four quarts of gin, 10 Zanax and two joints shy of completely embodying the ludicrously tragic Osbourne. Nonetheless, any self-respecting metalhead would love the show, and the classic "War Pigs" rings truer today than ever.

Some of the best moments of the night came in spurts between stage performers when the No B.S. Brass Band marched into the audience, turning the room into a cozy New Orleans street party. Their festive brass and drum numbers kept the large crowd at a warm, friendly pitch all evening. At one point, they even transformed Yes' hit "Owner of a Lonely Heart" into a college band pep song.

Modern Groove Syndicate dropped an inspired set of tricky funk jams fueled by the exceptional drumming of local hotshot Brian Jones. Then it was time for the final group, The Big Payback, to end the long night with a fittingly celebratory tribute to the late James Brown, delivered at a furious rock pace. Vocalist Kelli Strawbridge didn't have the vocal range of the Godfather of Soul, but he made up for it with high-pitched screams and sheer energy accompanied by the full-frontal funkiness of an accomplished band (check out The Big Payback's MySpace page for the lineup and to hear live versions of songs from the Canal Club). The group dutifully performed Brown's classic '60s and '70s material with crowd-pleasing abandon.

"Before this incident happened, I would have said it was my worst nightmare," Jackson said after the show, "but family and friends have come through for me, and it's really not that bad … no nerve damage, so hopefully I'll be able to play again." S

To contribute to this cause call 874-6041.

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