Lou Durnbeck
Lou Durnbeck

I really don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up tickets for the premiere screening of the film “Border City Music Project”. I knew it was directed by Jon Gillies and Co-Produced by Dusty D’Annunzio, both from Windsor, and the Associate Producer was Mark Farner, of Grand Funk Railroad fame. I knew Dusty would sing and play, the film would be shown, followed by a question and answer period, and more music would follow, including Jon, Dusty, Mark, and Dick Wagner from Frost/Alice Cooper/Lou Reed, etc… It Sounded good. As it turned out, it was even better! 

But I thought maybe the film would be about the unique Detroit Rock music scene that sprouted in the late ’60s and early ’70s. I remember that time and the music very well, and it had a lasting effect on me and many others. As it turned out, the film is about that time – but only in part – and I was quite surprised when it took a turn in direction to evolve into a highly thoughtful and thought-provoking documentary that raises many questions about societal issues of today and the state of the creative arts and how propagandists and concentration of power and influence impact all of us.

Many of us feel that something is just not right these days, even if it’s hard to quite put our finger on it…The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class seems to be shrinking away. But we take it, perhaps sated by “bread and circuses”/”let them eat cake” distractions that keep us occupied to the extent that we, the masses, are lulled into a state of comfortable numbness. This allows a variety of abuses – societal, political, and economic to be thrust upon us by small powerful groups that exercise control. Masters of propaganda (less ominously known as “marketing”) have become so skilled at that craft that they shape our reality, often without us even being aware of how deeply the manipulation runs.

So, if music is indeed the universal language and musicians can be considered “canaries in the coal mine” when it comes to cultural realities, is it valid to listen to what they are telling us about the direction in which modern society is going and appreciate what that could mean for the immediate future as well as for future generations?

“Border City Music Project” features interview clips with a variety of musical artists and others close to the Detroit/Windsor music scene. The commonality of their views – supported by the deep-thinking visionary professor from M.I.T., Noam Chomsky – are views and concerns that must be seriously considered.

This is a film that warrants and deserves widespread circulation. People of all ages and backgrounds can use this as a springboard for further thought and discussion – and action collectively and in their individual lives – lest we allow the “sheepification” of humanity to take us to ever-deepening lows.

Back in the late 1960s and early 70s, there were many really talented musicians and great Detroit Rock bands whose songs rang of honesty and integrity. They did it their way, and therein lies the truth: Grand Funk Railroad, Frost, MC5, Iggy and the Stooges, SRC, Alice Cooper, Bob Seeger, and the Last Heard, to name a few.

But I remember a particularly poignant song for our purposes here – “1984” by Savage Grace. It may very well be that way back then, they were already issuing a musical warning by referencing the George Orwell novel: “1984, knockin’ on your door, will you let it in, will you let it in?” HAVE WE LET IT IN?

– Lou Durnbeck

Border City Music Project – Film trailer from joncgillies on Vimeo