Come Together – John Lennon’s Political Impact, Creative Legacy Still Rings True Today

John Lennon continues to be an advocate for peace nearly 40 years after his death. Illustration by Nick Fewings

By Nicole Bouwkamp

John Lennon is often remembered for his time as an enigmatic member of The Beatles, the smart and witty frontman who could charm crowds and gain their animosity alike. He is also remembered for his strong political stances, namely for causes of justice and the promotion of peace.

Ann Arbor recently saw one of these promotions for peace in memory of John Lennon. On Oct. 10, the Veterans for Peace John Lennon Birthday Concert at The Ark saw local musicians come together, performing both Lennon’s own songs and other peace and protest songs. Proceeds went to the local chapter of Veterans for Peace to fund their Peace Scholarship Program.

Lennon was always leery about the politicians whose influences steeped into the lives of everyday citizens. In 1968 at The National Theatre, believing that “…our society is run by insane people for insane objectives, and I think that’s what I sussed when I was 16 and 12, way down the line.”

He also stated that “If anybody can put on paper what our government, and the American government and the Russian, Chinese, what they are actually trying to do and what they think they’re doing… I’d be very pleased to know what they think they’re doing, I think they’re all insane!”

These sentiments can be heard through his song, “Gimme Some Truth,” a song where Lennon sings that he is tired of hearing the things spread by “neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians.” As Lennon’s political voice demanded to be heard, so did his music grow to become the tool to spread it to the world.

His voice was also spread by the support and influence of Yoko Ono. As a contemporary multimedia artist and peace activist herself, Ono helped Lennon find ways to voice his own thoughts about the world around them, from government corruption to the Vietnam War and everything in-between.

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Tom Birchler, Bobby G Launch ‘Friday Night Live’ Fall Season at Farmington Civic Theater

Tom Birchler will headline Friday Night Live at the Farmington Civic Theater this Friday.

This Friday, Tom Birchler will take center stage at the Farmington Civic Theater.

The metro Detroit singer-songwriter will headline his first show for “Friday Night Live,” a fall and winter concert series he’s curated, produced and emceed for nearly three years.

“I get to play some of my own stuff and go through my catalog to see what might connect with the audience. I’ll also do some covers, so you might hear The Beatles, Carole King or an Eagles tune,” Birchler said. “The trick is to weave the covers and originals in such a way that the show has a flow and make it entertaining from front to back.”

Birchler will perform an acoustic set with his brother David Birchler and include special guest Bobby G, a Livonia blues rock singer-songwriter and guitarist.

“I have some stuff in the set that has to do with family, I’m going to do a song called ‘That’s My Mom,’” he said. “I’ve also got some songs about love, and I’m going to do a tribute to my fallen ‘brother’ Tommy Anderson.”

A Farmington music mainstay, Birchler launched the “Friday Night Live” concert series in January 2017 after discovering the theater’s potential as a live music venue. He approached theater general manager Scott Freeman about hosting the concert series in the upstairs 130-seat theater, which now doubles as one of southeast Michigan’s premier listening rooms.

Together, Birchler and Freeman, who met each other while working at Farmington’s Rhythms in Riley Park summer concert series in 2014, wanted to offer a live music experience on Friday nights and expand the theater’s offering beyond movies in downtown Farmington.

For the “Friday Night Live” series, they opted for three shows in the fall and four in the winter. To prepare for each show, Birchler books performances and handles sound while Freeman oversees promotion and venue needs.

“I knew it was a good room, and the size was right,” said Birchler, who also books and produces several Michigan-based shows through Go2Guy Productions and performs regularly for seniors. “I thought this would be an awesome venue for live music. I’m really lucky to be able to do stuff in that venue. Going forward, I hope that it’s something we can do more often.”

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Jam Session – Desmond Jones Promises Unique Set for Thursday’s Headlining Show at The Blind Pig

Grand Rapids funk-rock-jazz fusion quintet Desmond Jones will perform at The Blind Pig Thursday night with Pajamas.

For Desmond Jones, no two setlists or shows are alike.

The Grand Rapids funk-rock-jazz fusion quintet relies on skillful improvisation, sophisticated musicianship and scintillating compositions to capture a crowd’s attention. Each show brings a unique vibe and sonic quality depending the band, audience and venue.

“The more cut and dry structured songs we don’t take out at all in terms of improvisation and jams,” Even if we write a setlist out before a show, which we don’t always do, a lot of times on stage we’ll pick what songs feel right or naturally transition into them,” said John Nowak, Desmond Jones’ drummer, vocalist and guitarist.

“Lately, we’ve been mixing in a sense of humor in terms of making weird or spacey noises. We’re deliberately trying to shock the audience, be as weird as we possibly can and see how they react.”

That ingenious live approach has connected Desmond Jones to thousands of fans at more than 500 shows over five years nationwide. The band also has a sprawling online archive of 300-plus shows available for streaming on their website.

Luckily, Ann Arbor fans will be able to visit the Desmond Jones online live archive after Thursday’s show at The Blind Pig, 208 S. First St., with Pajamas, a Tree Town rock-funk fusion trio.

“When you get a good opening act, I think that vibe is strong with the crowd because it gets people moving and ready to go. Then, we’ll come on, and we’ll rock out,” Nowak said. “We love playing The Blind Pig. I think that venue offers a certain one-of-a-kind dirty, grungy, fun atmosphere, which is where we’re also at with our music.”

Nowak and his Desmond Jones bandmates – Isaac Berkowitz (guitar, vocals, drums), Chris Bota (guitar, vocals), George Falk (saxophone, vocals) and John Loria (bass, vocals) – will play new material and older improvisational jams from their extensive catalog of 50-plus tunes.

“We’ll be playing a wider range of things, some new songs that aren’t on any of the albums. It’s always fun because unless you’re listening to the archives or have gone to a lot of shows, then a lot of the songs will be new to your ears,” Nowak said. “Expect a lot of different feels, but definitely some improvisational jams and opportunities for dancing.”

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A Shore Thing – Greg Hurley Makes Tidal Impact with Blues-drenched Debut Album ‘Seafoam’

Greg Hurley

For Greg Hurley, a little “Seafoam” can make big waves in established musical waters.

The Jackson singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer has turned the blues rock tide with his debut album, “Seafoam,” a beautiful, introspective sonic journey filled with hope, gratitude and self-reflection. Think Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne, Steely Dan and The Beatles crashing together into a clean, organic sound wave of oceanic proportions.

“This is my debut, and it’s late in life, but I wanted the first one to be good. The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ was so clean and pristine, while Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of Steely Dan were very careful and meticulous in their work,” Hurley said. “That’s kind of what I’ve done here with ‘Seafoam.’ I intentionally keep things simple because I want my music to have a good groove.”

Behind Hurley’s simple musical approach is complex creative vision filled with eight years of writing, recording, producing, mixing and mastering 10 insightful tracks for “Seafoam” in his home studio. On his debut, Hurley played most of the instruments himself, but partnered with musicians Derek Cornett, David Friend and Chris Yochens for exquisite guitar leads on “Be With You,” “Wiggle Room,” “Where You’re At” and “You’re You.”

“I could have played all the lead parts, but I wanted a little bit of a different flavor,” Hurley said. “I wanted the songs to have all the same consistency and quality similar to the way Jeff Lynne collaborates with other musicians.”

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Thanks, Mom and Dad – My Parents’ Early Appreciation of The Beatles Finally Rubs Off

I used to think The Beatles were overrated.

While growing up, their name popped every time I read about my favorite artists’ musical influences, listened to “best of” musical countdowns on the radio or watched a documentary about the history of rock and roll on TV.

My parents raved about The Beatles during their early college days at Ohio University in 1964-1965. The songs “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Eight Days a Week” served as the soundtrack of their transition from youth to adulthood.

Anytime The Beatles were mentioned, my parents fondly recalled dancing to their songs at college mixers, watching them play on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and getting excited about the British Invasion.

Over the years, my dad and I would have this recurring conversation:

“Dad, Were The Beatles really that big of a deal?”  I asked.

 “L, They were a big deal. Everything changed overnight here when they played ‘The Ed Sullivan Show.’ Before The Beatles came here, all that boring folk music was popular. That stuff put me to sleep,” he said.

 “I still don’t get it,” I said while shaking my head in disbelief. “I guess I had to be there.”

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