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A heavy burden
Rives to host benefit concert for local man
Members of the band Left Hip Pocket (from left) include Wenn Harold, Camry Harris, Griffin Haley, Austin Janey and Riggs Roberson (not pictured). The band will perform at Rives Theatre on Sept. 6. Proceeds will benefit Harris, who faces medical bills following the death of his mother June 14. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
An upcoming concert at the Rives Theatre will benefit a local 19-year-old musician who has borne a heavy burden since the recent death of his mother.
The Sept. 6 concert will help raise funds for Camry Harris, 19, of Martinsville, the drummer for Left Hip Pocket. Harris’ mother, Trina Harris, died June 14.
The last few years have been a tumultuous time for Camry Harris.
His father, Bernard Phillips, died in a car accident when Harris was about 5 years old, Harris said. Growing up without a father or grandparents, Harris said, his mother was his “last lifeline.”
“She had been suffering with heart problems and kidney problems pretty much ever since I was born,” he said. “She had to get a kidney transplant in 1999. ... Things were going along good for a while, and then problems started to occur with that kidney. Little minor things would pop up and then kind of fade away like they were never there.”
When Harris was a pre-teen and a younger teenager, he said, his mother’s health problems began to worsen, often putting her on the brink of kidney or heart failure.
“She would be in and out of the hospital,” Harris said. “It would just be me there (at home). I never really had a father figure. It was always just me and her. I would be the main person taking care of her. I would cook and wash clothes ... because there would be these days when she had no energy, she couldn’t even get up out of bed.”
In the last year, Harris said, his mother’s health began to seriously decline.
“She was going in and out of the hospital constantly,” he said. “I was having to keep up with the house and the bills on my own. It would be maybe one or two times out of the week that I would get to actually see her face because I was working.”
Because of his mother’s delicate health, he was reluctant to leave the house for too long.
“It got to the point where I would just be sitting at home because I wouldn’t want to go anywhere,” he said. “I would be scared that something would happen to her.”
In June, Harris said, his mother went into the hospital because of leg pain. While she was there, it was discovered that her kidneys were failing and her heart was functioning at only 15 percent capacity. She was sent to see her heart and kidney specialist in Charlottesville.
“I got a call one day from a doctor saying, ‘We need you to come up here. You’ve got to make some very important life decisions. We need to figure out if we need to put your mom on life support,’” Harris said.
As a child, Harris said, his mother had told him that if she ever reached a point where she couldn’t take care of herself and would not be able to return to a normal life, she did not want to be kept on life support.
“When I got (to the hospital), I saw how she was,” Harris said. “There’s nothing like looking at your own mom and talking to her and not seeing any response, not noticing you’re there or anything. I went up there and made the decision.”
Trina Harris died June 14.
Since then, Harris said, he has inherited a number of medical bills. He does not know the total amount he has to pay, he said, because it keeps changing with each new letter he receives in the mail.
A bright spot in Harris’ life, he said, has been his five-piece band, Left Hip Pocket, which formed in December. Harris is the band’s drummer.
“We came together at an open jam night one night, and everybody that was there at the bar we played at fell in love with it,” he said. “(They were saying), ‘You guys should start something up. You guys are amazing. You’re the best we’ve heard in a long time.’ So all of us kind of took that idea and ran with it and formed a band together.”
The other members of the band include Riggs Roberson, Griffin Haley, Wenn Harold and Austin Janey. Together, they play blues, rock and a little jazz, Harris said. Though they mostly perform covers, lately they have been working on original material as well.
They have proven popular, playing at such events as Rooster Walk 6 and TGIF. On Thursday, they were the closing act at Front Porch Fest’s VIP night.
Left Hip Pocket is more than a band, however; it’s a family.
“(Harris) is more than a band member; he’s a brother,” Harold said. “We can all tell you that. Camry is there for you. When he went through this, we made sure that we made every attempt to be there for him.”
During his mother’s illness and since her death, Harris said, he has been living with different members of the band.
“I still have my house; I just don’t like to stay there alone,” he said. “I can sometimes, but sometimes memories overfill my mind too much and I just have to get out.”
Rives Theatre band contact Johnny Buck said he had heard about Harris’ difficult situation through other Rives board members who had known Harris from various after-school programs he attended.
“Later, I got to know him as a musician because he’s a very, very talented drummer,” Buck said. “He’s volunteered here at the Rives before with some different shows.”
When Left Hip Pocket played Rooster Walk 6 in late May, Buck got to know Harris better and also got to see the full range of his drumming talent. Buck is co-founder of Rooster Walk.
When the Rives Theatre was approached to join Culture Crawl, Buck said, he thought it would be a good opportunity to have some local bands play at the Rives to showcase Martinsville talent.
Culture Crawl is a Sept. 6 event in uptown Martinsville in which participating museums, art studios, shops and restaurants will be open from at least 4 to 8 p.m. to showcase their unique offerings.
“One of the first bands I thought of was Left Hip Pocket, and then I remembered that Camry had been going through that tough situation,” Buck said.
Buck asked the Rives sound technician, Dr. Tom Berry, and Dr. Will Zimmer, leader of Dr. Z and Riff-Raff, if they would be willing to waive their usual fees for a benefit show for Harris. Both immediately said yes.
All ticket sales from the Culture Crawl show will go to Harris to help cover his debts, Buck said.
Though his mother very much wanted to see Left Hip Pocket play, Harris said her health prevented that.
On Sept. 6, Harold said, he knows Trina Harris will be watching.
“She’s going to have a front row seat,” Harold said. “We’re going to try to play our best, and we’re going to give 110 percent for Mrs. Trina Harris up there. Hopefully people will come out to support what this show is about. We’re treating this like a celebration.”
Harris said that in his immediate future, he wants to go back to Patrick Henry Community College and complete a culinary degree that he had been working on. He is one credit shy of his certificate.
After that, he said, he wants to complete an associate degree, though he has not yet decided what his focus will be.
“I kind of want to do a major in music, also,” Harris added.