Home Featured Events Start Believin’ – Departure Returns for Last Summer Concert Prelude to Villa...

Start Believin’ – Departure Returns for Last Summer Concert Prelude to Villa Rica’s 45th Annual Gold Rush Festival

Photo by Phil Thach Photography

One of Villa Rica’s favorite bands will be welcomed with open arms on Sept. 8, when Journey cover band Departure takes the midnight train going to the city’s final concert of the summer season.

The concert also will take place on the eve of the city’s 45th Gold Rush Festival, when the city will celebrate its founding with a road race, a parade, and a day of street entertainment.

While previous summer concerts during the season have been performed on a Saturday, the Departure concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8, with opening act Leah Belle Faser.  The free concert will take place, rain or shine, at The MILL amphitheater, 106 Temple St.

The Gold Rush Festival, celebrating Villa Rica’s historic ties to the 1826 gold rush that led to the founding of the city, will follow the next day. Those events kick off at 8 a.m. with the Gold Rush 5K run, followed by the Gold Rush Parade at 10 a.m. Both events will take place downtown, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. food, crafts, and merchandise vendors will line Temple Street as live entertainment is performed on The Mill stage.

Departure is considered the nation’s most respected tribute group for Journey, a band that ruled the radio during the 1970s into the 1980s with rock ballads that have become part of the American soundtrack.  Departure is also one of Villa Rica’s favorite and popular bands, having performed at a variety of city events.

During their career, Journey generated 25 gold and platinum albums, including their 15-time Platinum certified Greatest Hits album of 1988.  Only their fellow arena rock band, Electric Light Orchestra, has had more top 40 singles.  Journey’s song “Don’t Stop Believin,’ ” (from the 1981 album “Escape”) has become a well-known anthem for sports teams, political campaigns, movies, and car commercials.

Formed in San Francisco in 1973, Journey had their biggest commercial successes between 1978 and 1987, when Steve Perry was lead vocalist.  Perry is rated by Rolling Stone as one of the 100 greatest singers of all time. 

The RIAA certifies that Journey has sold 48 million albums in the U.S. and with 100 million albums globally, the group is one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017.

Departure is now in its 15th year and, according to its website, replicates the look, sound, and feel of Journey at the height of its fame. Their lead vocalist, Brian Williams, has a singing voice said to flawlessly match that of Perry’s.   The Atlanta-based group plays over 100 shows each year across the nation.

Opening for Departure on Sept. 8 will be Leah Belle Faser, another performer who is familiar to Villa Rica, having opened last month during the July 3 Fireworks Extravaganza.

Faser, a Georgia native who is now based in Nashville, breaks down the walls of many music genres, but remains grounded in a unique sound seasoned with country, pop, rock, and folk influences. In 2020, Leah worked with Grammy-Award winning producer, Casey Wood, to release her debut album, Crossing Hermi’s Bridge.

Her music has been featured on Spotify’s New Music Nashville and Tidal’s Rising Country playlists and has been added to radio stations nationwide.  Leah’s music videos have been on rotation on country cable outlets like The Country Network and featured on VEVO’s Incoming Country playlist and on CMT.com. 

The concert will be performed the evening before the 45th anniversary Gold Rush Festival, which honors Villa Rica’s unique history as the site of the first major discovery of gold in the mid-1820s; a discovery that triggered a rush of would-be prospectors who eventually founded a village called Villa Rica.

The Gold Rush Festival events kick off at 8 a.m. on Sept. 9 with the Gold Rush 5K through the streets of downtown. The annual Gold Rush Parade starts at 10 a.m., and from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. vendors of food, arts, crafts and merchandise will have their booths open near The MILL, where entertainment will perform throughout the afternoon until 4 p.m.

Sponsors of this year’s Gold Rush Festival include Jones-Wynn Funeral Homes & Crematory, the Law Office of Julie Moore, Verida, Don-Rich Ford, J. Collins Funeral Home and Cremation Service, Morgan Oil, and Villa Rica Main Street.