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PAYING TRIBUTE: How brothers David, John and Joe White and their venue, 37 Main, are reshaping the local music scene
37 main
The brainchild of brothers, from left, David, John and Joe White, 37 Main has become a household name in the north Georgia music scene since opening the original Buford location in 2008. Now they are bringing music to Forsyth County. - photo by Ben Hendren

This article appears in the July issue of  400 Life.

Downtown Buford has an idyllic charm of a small southern town, complete with restaurants, small business es and a scenic railroad.

One location in the quaint downtown is a little noisier than the others, but they like it that way.

The brainchild of brothers Joe, David and John White, 37 Main has become a household name in the north Georgia music scene since opening the original Buford location in 2008, particularly known for hosting some of the premier tribute acts in the country.

“The idea just came from all three of us wanting to provide an experience for the customer of live entertainment and just taking them out of reality, that’s where all the tribute bands kind of spawned from,” Joe said. “You can’t see a lot of these artists anymore. If you do see them, you’re going to pay $400 a ticket, so we just wanted to create an atmosphere where people can have a good time, enjoy some great entertainment and, for me, that’s kind of where it all spawned from.”

Hosting acts performing a variety of genres — In July, the venue will host Back in Black, an AC/DC tribute band, Bruno Mars tribute Uptown Funk and Jeremy’s Ten, a Pearl Jam tribute — means there is no set crowd at 37 Main, and each night can bring something a little bit different.

“It never gets old, that’s for sure,” Joe said. “The clientele is really different every weekend, from a Bon Jovi tribute to a Bruno Mars tribute, it definitely doesn’t get stale. Our staff loves that. They come to work, they love rocking out with us, and 37 Main is such a wide variety of ages: it’s 25 to 65 and everything else in between, and that’s a credit to so many different artists that come through.”

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Even with those diverse acts, there are still a core of regulars that make weekly stops at the venue.

“There’s lots of regulars every weekend, then new faces,” John said. “Every Friday and Saturday night you’ll see people coming from downtown to eat … and they’ll say, ‘We saw your band on Facebook, we want to check it out.’”

While having an emphasis on tribute bands, 37 Main is no stranger to original bands and has hosted bands and performers including Candlebox, Fuel, Aaron Lewis, Eddie Money, Queens Riot, Saliva and Buckcherry.

The interior of the Buford location also shows a reverence for rock with autographs, pictures and instruments of famous rock stars hanging on the walls, such as an axe bass of Kiss’ Gene Simmons, a guitar from Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach and a cymbal from Steven Adler of Guns N’ Roses. 

With the success of the Buford location, it didn’t take long for the brothers to think about expanding, and a second location opened in Johns Creek in 2014 but closed after two years amid noise complaints from neighbors and issues with the city’s noise ordinance.

“That was a real big turning point for us,” Joe said. “We had to kind of dig out of the grave on that one with how much was put into that place and lost.”

It didn’t take long for 37 Main to bounce back with a new venue in Gainesville, which opened its doors in 2017, and a new location is planned to open later this year in Avondale Estates in DeKalb County.

But the brothers have also expanded to other ventures outside their venues: a series of summer concerts held at the Cumming Fairgrounds.

“We’re from Cumming, and there was just, entertainment value wise, [it] didn’t seem like there was anything to offer the community, which is one thing we wanted to do, being from [here],” Joe said. “Another would be size. We’re not as limited to capacity at the Cumming Fairgrounds, so those two things made us want to do some of these festivals.”

The first two concerts, held in 2018, were the inaugural City of Cumming Music Festival and the Classic Rock Tribute Fest. While the first two focused more on tributes to classic rock mainstays, the Icon Music Fest in June instead hosted tributes to more pop-centered acts, such as Michael Jackson, Prince and Lady Gaga.

The brothers said the crowds have had a great response to all three shows, even if the weather hasn’t always agreed. 

“Well, it’s rained on all three,” David said, with a laugh. “I mean, 100 percent chance of rain at all three of them, but the turnout’s been really well for all of them.”

“The first two were around 5,000 people,” Joe added. “With this rain [June 8], we were just over 2,000.”

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“Even with the nasty weather, everybody was still enjoying themselves and trying to make the best of it,” John concluded.

The fairgrounds concerts will continue this summer with the Red, White and Rock Music Festival held as part of the city of Cumming’s Fourth of July festivities and the second Cumming Music Fest on Saturday, July 27. On Saturday, Sept. 14, they will host Grammy winner Joe Nichols, also at the Cumming Fairgrounds.

“We try to keep it fresh,” Joe said. “The Icon Fest was more of a pop-driven show. The city of Cumming Music Fest is always going to be just over-the-top, 12 bands, tons of food, tons of vendors, kids’ zone, that’s the home run kind of thing. Then, we’re branching out to more.”

Whether at the fairgrounds or one of their locations, the White brothers and 37 Main plan to keep bringing live music to the area for years to come. 

“We built something that we would want to go to, and that we would feel like we would have a good time, that we have a safe environment,” Joe said. “You almost have to experience 37 Main. It’s one of those where you walk in, leave and realize you had an amazing time and sometimes you’re not able to pinpoint why you had such a good time. When it all comes together — the lights and sound and the staff, everything that we do — it’s really an illustration of hard work.”

ICON Music Festival
Councilmembers voted to waive the permit fees for Rosati’s Pizza and Sports Pub and 37 Main from sales of alcoholic beverages at the two companies’ summer events at the Cumming Fairgrounds.