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Modesto band Southern Bend will open for Phil Vassar at Gallo Center

Southern Bend, a Modesto band that blends modern country with rock and blues, will open for Nashville singer-songwriter Phil Vassar when he plays the Gallo Center for the Arts on April 21.

Southern Bend was the top vote-getter among 21 acts that entered a contest sponsored by The Bee and the Gallo Center to find a warm-up act for Vassar. A panel of Gallo Center judges made the final selection this morning and offered the gig to Southern Bend.

"We are thrilled there was so much excitement around the opening act for Phil Vassar," said Lynn Dickerson, chief executive officer of the Gallo Center. "Over 4,700 votes were cast and Southern Bend was the clear winner.

"The Phil Vassar concert is going to be a fun night – made even better by an opening performance of a local up and coming country band," Dickerson said.

The contest to choose the band ended Friday.

Southern Bend will play a roughly 15-minute set before Vassar performs. He is touring the country, promoting his sixth album, "Traveling Circus."

Vassar has written chart-topping songs for himself and for country artists Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, Jo Dee Messina and Collin Raye.

Southern Bend consists of Japheth 'Jay' Simpson on lead vocals and guitar, Jerry Greer on lead guitar, Ron Wright on steel guitar, Jason MacDavid on bass and vocals, and Don Glor on drums and vocals.

“We’re thrilled with the number of acts that entered the contest, and with the number of people who participated,” said Eric Johnston, publisher and president of The Modesto Bee. “We can’t wait for the next contest to start.”

The Bee expects to launch “The Ugliest Dog in Town” contest in a few days. Details will be announced in the newspaper and at www.modbee.com.

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