UPDATE (March 1, 2012): A fourth venue has been added to this show. Tift Merritt, Bombadil, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, The Small Ponds and Brice Randall Bickford will play The Lincoln Theatre on Friday, March 23. As with all venues, doors open at 7:30 p.m., and wristband pickup will be available at all four venues. Tickets go on sale today at noon via etix.com. These tickets permit access to Kings, Tir Na Nog, The Pour House and The Lincoln Theatre—space, as always, permitting.

Little more than a year ago, Jed Gant, downtown editor for local news blog New Raleigh, gave a ride to a friend. It was a pretty typical weekday afternoon in downtown Raleigh, and his buddy needed a lift home. During the drive, Gant’s then 1-year-old son Oliver sat in the back seat screaming, apparently in tremendous pain. His father attempted to adjust the harness on his car seat, but the child continued to cry. A few days later, Oliver was diagnosed with cancer.

The friend, as it happens, was Grayson Currin, music editor for the Independent and co-director of the paper’s annual Hopscotch Music Festival. Currin was tapped by Chris Tamplin, who booked a benefit for Oliver at Raleigh’s Tir na nOg last month, to help out with his event. With this as a spark, Currin started to envision something bigger. Racing the Cure—a one-night, three-venue mini-fest in downtown Raleigh benefiting an ailing 2-year-old and his deserving family— is the result.

“I barely think about the fact that my friends have kids,” Currin explains. “I don’t really think about the fact that my friends have kids with cancer.”

As you can see in the schedule above, Racing the Cure, set for March 23, is among the biggest local music benefits in Triangle history. Nationally recognized folk superstars (and old friends of Gant) The Avett Brothers will take a break from playing amphitheaters and arenas to throw down in the 250-capacity rock club Kings. The fest will also inhabit The Pour House and Tir na nOg and includes 15 other bands, some of the biggest names in Triangle music. Rag-tag pop-rockers The Love Language, energetic pop outfit Annuals and stately rock band The Old Ceremony highlight a line-up rich with local heavyweights. The $25 tickets, good for admission to all three venues, go on sale at noon today, Feb. 8.

“For us, I think it means a lot that we’ve been able to … not stand on the shoulders of other people, but have other people help us out,” Jed Gant says of the assistance the community has offered his family, which has already included two benefits in Raleigh.

The past year has been rough for Oliver, his mother, Stacy, and Jed. Oliver was diagnosed last February with a sacrococcygeal teratoma, a type of germ-cell tumor. It was malignant, but luckily hadn’t yet metastasized. His doctors gave him the standard treatment for his condition, which started with chemotherapy before a June surgery to remove the tumor. Two months after his surgery, doctors discovered the cancer was beginning to grow anew. Oliver was given a new formula of chemotherapy and had another major surgery in December.

If all goes according to plan, the festival may well serve as a celebration of Oliver’s health. He recently completed what his doctors hope will be his last round of chemotherapy and is recouping now at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. Cautiously optimistic, Jed says that the support of their friends, family and community has been invaluable in helping them through this crisis.

“We feel there are a lot of things that we would have struggled to do without help from other people,” Gant says. “We see other families at the hospital who don’t have this support, and it’s very sad. We feel very supported in a way that we’re able to focus on Oliver. I think that’s very crucial for pediatric cancer care, that the parents are able to focus their energies on their child and on the treatment and are able to be there as much as possible to monitor the needs of their child.”

Any proceeds from the festival that don’t go to Oliver’s family will go to CaringBridge, a free online service that allows families dealing with pediatric cancer to tell their story and communicate with other families in similar situations.