Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jon Dee Graham at the Zoo Bar and the Sunday Roadhouse
by B.J. Huchtemann

Well, as most of you know I'd been really looking forward to Jon Dee Graham's appearances in Lincoln and Omaha this past weekend.
The shows did not disappoint.

In Lincoln, Graham shared the bill with Zoo Bar favorites Sons of 76. Josh Hoyer and his band played an opening set, followed by a few tunes from Graham's manager and touring partner, Mike June (more on Mike in a bit) and then Graham played some solo songs...His music is breathtaking and inspiring to those who get it...and I guess you either get it or you don't. But for those of us who do....the music and the spirit behind it are life-changing, life-affirming and uplifting.

Graham invited first Josh, then Sons of 76 to join him onstage. Josh Hoyer on keys augmented Graham's rendition of "When a Woman Cries" from his debut disc, ESCAPE FROM MONSTER ISLAND.
Jon Dee Graham is joined on stage at the Zoo Bar on Saturday, Sept. 24, by Sons of 76 including Joshua Hoyer and Werner Althaus (pictured).

It was a delight to see a local favorite and a hero from the national scene sharing the historic Zoo Bar stage. I was too busy soaking up the music to keep  a solid set list, but the night ended with Graham's "Something Very Wonderful" and Graham's son Willie's tune "Rock 'n' Roll in the Streets" (written when Willie was 5 years old). Graham returned to the stage to play Dan Stuart's song "The Greatest" with the chorus "Dreamin' of Muhammad Ali." It's a song Graham says Stuart wrote to "give people hope and courage" and it's a song Graham often closes his show with.

The Sunday show at the Sunday Roadhouse was just a gem from start to finish. Graham opened the show with "Faithless" & "$100 Bill" back-to-back and played through a series of older, lesser-known songs along with newer ones, including "Yes, Yes," the new song he just released exclusively to his JonDeeCo Co-Op. (See "The Manifesto" at for details.)

Here is Jon Dee performing "Faithless" & "The Restraining Order Song." (Videos by Toni & Mark Gerking from Sioux City)

He also played a remarkably beautiful and haunting song by Roky Erickson called "Starry Eyes." The sweetness of the song is undermined by the story Graham shared about how Erickson wrote the tune after undergoing shock therapy so excessive that it tore the pupils of his eyes.
Graham played it in sound check and also during the show. (And now I can't find the video online, maybe I will locate it later, but look up Roky's version of the song.)

Here's another older song of his own that Graham's been including in his sets lately, "Kings."

Graham's agent and touring partner Mike June took the stage for a few songs including his engaging song about Austin blueswoman Miss Lavelle White, who was his neighbor for a while. Here's one of Mike's other originals, he's an excellent songwriter and it sounds like he'll be back through our area in March with his own band. Hear more of Mike's music  at

Mike June performing "Mama, You Been On My Mind."

The weekend of great music from Jon Dee was over all too soon, but I soaked up all the hope, courage, love and inspiration that I could. I hope some of the folks that came out who are new to Graham's music got caught up in the fierce joy and no-holds-barred fearlessness that are Graham's calling cards. Graham's music is full of Luminous Hope and the admonition to, in the words of his father, "Pay attention!" Something Wonderful is always happening, if we only allow ourselves to see it.

In keeping with the changing season, here's Graham's ode to "October"....

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