Let’s face it: America’s anthems are dull. Sure, we all love our country, but let’s be frank — the great songs celebrating our united history of sacrifices and struggles for freedom just don’t make you want to boogie, do they?
All that will change, however, if Fisher Mehan (better known by his first name in the local music scene) has his way — for one night, anyway.
A day after the “official” Memorial Day celebration, Fisher, along with a highly diverse group of local musicians, will attempt to make patriotism rock.
“I think there will be a sense of pride, definitely,” says Fisher. “I don’t think that’s a weird thing. Maybe we are bandwagoning it a little bit, but it’s all just for a fun time. No one is taking it real serious. It’ll be a lot of poking fun at America.”
This isn’t the first time Fisher has tried to reinvigorate America’s traditional songs. His first theme show, “Fisher’s Holiday Extravaganza on Ice,” was intended to be little more than a Christmas party for the downtown set. In all, 17 local music acts — including The Unholy Trio, The Ether Bunnies, Gavra Lynn and The Crop Dusters, Tyler Ramsey, and Fisher’s band, Drug Money — took the stage at Vincent’s Ear, each putting its own spin on a holiday classic.
Not surprisingly, the show drew quite a crowd.
“I had no idea it would be that big,” admits Bill Glasscock, who manned the bar for the show. “I mean, it was insane.” The event was so successful that Fisher and his friends put on another show a couple of months later. This time, the theme centered around Valentine’s Day; more than a dozen bands, including Piedmont Charisma, took the stage to perform songs about love: It was another roaring success.
The shows’ great strength thus far has been Fisher’s ability to coax local musicians from disparate cliques to come on board.
“I think it says a lot for Fisher, his respect in the community,” offers Ami Worthen of Mad Tea Party, a decidedly acoustic group that received a tremendous response from the hard-rocking Vincent’s Ear crowd at the holiday show.
“Sometimes, when you get stuck in the same scene, it gets tiring,” she continues. “We all get in our patterns, in our little boxes. I think it says a lot that [these events bring together] such an eclectic group of people.”
The impact of these shows, in beer sales at least, has even resounded in corporate America — the show now has an official sponsor. Starting with “Songs for America on Ice,” Pabst Blue Ribbon beer is lending its support to Fisher’s efforts, supplying banners and giveaway items at the show.
Not bad for an event that, if successful, will manage to do nothing more than pay the musicians’ bar tab.
“Everyone knows up front that there is no money involved,” says Fisher. “I make no money. None of the performers make money; just the bar. And that’s cool. They’re letting us put this party on.”
Now, three months after their last big event, Fisher and his Vincent’s Ear associates are ready to do it again. This time, they want to bring some of that same innovative spirit to Memorial Day.
But patriotism is a tricky theme. While most folks involved professed a deep love for their country, some are slightly conflicted about the role of patriotism and, in particular, what the word itself has come to mean.
“I’ve traveled a lot, and I love this country,” says Worthen, who was one of the first to get involved in the Memorial Day show.
“But I don’t like patriotism as it’s kind of popularly defined,” she continues. Many local musicians mirror Worthen’s concerns — but there is a growing sense that this show, and others like it, are making it easier to reclaim the word.
“I think that it’s taking responsibility for patriotism,” says local playwright Andrew Hauet, the upcoming show’s sole nonmusical act. “There are going to be cynical points of the evening, where people say that fighting against the United States government is not unpatriotic. There’s going to be those points of view, and we want people to bring that up.
“This country,” he points out, “is founded on telling people who tell you how to live your lives to go to hell. … In that sense, it is very patriotic.”