By LAUREL BUSBY
While most of the Fourth of July traditions in Pacific Palisades came crashing down this year, the annual evening concert will continue, starting at 8 p.m.
Of course, the format has been altered from in-person at Palisades High to online, but this change offers a unique opportunity for a particularly inspiring show.
Three-time Grammy-winner Ben Harper has agreed to join drummer Adam Topol and singer/guitarist Tom Freund in entertaining the Palisades community.
Even though he’s in Ghana, reggae artist Rocky Dawuni also plans to contribute, and some local celebrities have agreed to join the festivities with short video tidbits to honor the holiday tradition.
This year’s event “is wide open to possibilities,” Topol said. “I think it’s really great that we’re going to move forward. It’s such a great family event. I’m glad we’re going to put some good vibes out there.”
Freund agreed: “I think it’s important, maybe more important than ever, to have a celebration among a lot of chaos. It’s good to have positive reinforcement in a chaotic time.”
Topol and Freund, both seasoned musicians, who have led or contributed to more than 50 albums during their careers, have been reaching out to friends far and wide to join the concert. And they each have extensive contacts. For example, Freund has collaborated with Elvis Costello and Jackson Browne in addition to leading his solo efforts, while Topol, also a solo artist, plays and tours with Jack Johnson and has also worked with artists such as Jimmy Cliff and Ziggy Marley.
One pal is Harper, who, due to the pandemic, can make time to join the concert this year. The widely popular singer-songwriter plays a mix of blues, folk, reggae and rock guitar, and will contribute a few songs from his home, while also joining Topol and Freund for one number. A varied talent, the seven-time Grammy nominee has won awards for best pop instrumental song (2005), best traditional soul gospel album (2005), and best blues album (2014).
Chris Joyner, the keyboardist from Heart, and violinist Jessy Greene, who tours with Pink, have offered their skills, as has singer-songwriter Louise Goffin, daughter of Carole King and Gerry Goffin.
New acts and celebrities are joining the lineup every day, including basketball great Steve Kerr, actor Steve Guttenberg, and Assemblymember Richard Bloom, all of whom have contributed short video tidbits.
The emcee will be longtime Palisadian Sam Lagana, who has been the stadium announcer for L.A. Rams football games at the Coliseum.
“There’s crazy pent-up demand,” said organizer Keith Turner. “I was able to connect with some really interesting people this year, because they were just sitting around.”
One fun aspect of the concert will be that Palisadians can pipe it directly into their family barbecues via Facebook Live. In addition, a beloved concert tradition will be upheld. As usual, at 9 p.m., the show will end with a sing-along of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” Palisadians are encouraged to step outside to sing the standard together, if desired, and the show overall should provide a bit of the local community spirit that the holiday normally inspires.
“America has been through some big changes, big challenges” this year, singer/songwriter Freund said. “If we can do our little part with the music and some healing in an online music celebration on July Fourth, then we’re being put to good use. It’s a new strange model, but everyone can still feel togetherness—togetherness from our home to yours.”
Some local acts will also be joining the event, although the final line-up will not be available until after this program goes to press. Teen Jacob Winthrop, the guitarist and singer of Phat Trick, plans to play, and the 2004 Miss Palisades, Gilli Messer, will be joining the endeavor by singing “America the Beautiful.”
Messer, a 2006 PaliHi grad, started off the event last year by singing the Star Spangled Banner. Growing up, she also sang the national anthem for both the start of the parade and the Will Rogers Run. This year, the singer/actress and Barnard College alum, who now lives in Westwood, is looking forward to a new way to contribute to the festivities.
“Singing ‘America the Beautiful’ now is bittersweet,” noted Messer, 31. “Our country has been through so much between the pandemic and finally, real acknowledgment of racial inequality, so it can be hard to see its beauty, but at the same time, the progress we’ve made recently does give me hope and reminds me that there is, in fact, beauty in this country.”
The show itself should be one part of that beauty as people come together to create a unique event at a trying time. The nature of this new type of show means that there will inevitably be some surprises. Turner is receiving a stream of emails from local acts and celebrities who want to contribute, and some of the lineup may alter as details are finalized.
The trailer for the Palisades Rocks the Fourth virtual concert and community singalong can be found at: https://youtu.be/bsSJI-H7nZg.