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Border City Music Project premieres at the Emagine Royal Oak

Border City Music Project


From the first time I saw a post on social media about the Border City Music Project, I was intrigued. Honestly, anything with the word music in the title sparks my interest. I did a little research and found out that this is a documentary developed by Jon Gillies, Dusty D’Annunzio, and Mark Farner. They filmed over the course of two years covering Detroit, Windsor, Boston, L.A., and New York in an effort to remain objective in their findings.

Janel Stone (7 Stone Management) & Jon Gillies
Janel Stone (7 Stone Management) & Jon Gillies
Marc Nader

When speaking with Jon about the project, I asked him how it went from being just an idea to coming to fruition. He told me that it was born primarily out of his love for his two daughters 13 and 9. Watching them grow up in the modern culture that we are living in and being a musician and an artist it gave him a different perspective and inspired him to make a different kind of movie to make a comment on our shared culture, not necessarily social media, but our shared culture in the aspect of music, photography, and film. Being that he makes television for a living, he said that the production end of it was secondary as it was done in house. He enlisted the help of several experts in both the music and intellectual worlds such as Noam Chomsky, Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT, Dick Wagner (Alice Cooper, Lou Reed, KISS), Mark Farner (Formerly of Grand Funk Railroad), Jim McCarty (Mitch Ryder, Cactus), John Sinclair (MC5), Philip Anselmo (Pantera, Down), and the list goes on and on. Several of the enlisted experts were also a part of Tony D’Annunzio’s movie Louder than Love so he had already established a rapport with them. Several others were specifically targeted out of respect for their opinion.

Walking into the Emagine Royal Oak Movie Theater, it was definitely the best choice of venue and Jon told me that Janel Stone of 7 Stone Management selected it. I took my seat and looked around as it was kind of a “who’s who” in not only the “Detroit” scene but several other areas as well. I noticed several bands including Detroit’s Kaleido and The Infatuations, who were also contributors to the film and would perform at the after party after the screening. When I asked Jon about the after party, he said that it was an easy thing to do when you have expert musicians all in the same room and when they play it sounds like they have been playing together for years and years. He touched on the fact that a lot of our scene in both Detroit and Windsor was destroyed by September 11 in addition to some other factors and feels that now is the perfect time to start rebuilding that scene. The excitement was high as every one anticipated what and whom they would see.

As the movie began, people were mesmerized by the images and you could see people smiling when songs that they had not heard in a while were played during the transitions. One of the things that really stuck out in my head was when they were discussing the phone and portable mp3 player phenomenon. Jon showed images of kids all on their phones right next to each other and it was highlighted by a segment with Philip Anselmo (Pantera, Down) discussing how he was in a restaurant and saw a group of people who were all on their phones and at some point he realized that they were texting each other at times! It made everyone kind of look around at each other as we have all at one time been guilty of ignoring the world around us while on our phones. Nine times out of ten, what we were so entranced by on our mobile devices is not even important. Another thing that stuck out to me was when they talked about listening to music on your iPod. Now…this is something I know I have been guilty of many times and that is just skipping through music song after song and only really listening to snippets. No one has time anymore to really sit back, listen to a song or an album, and enjoy the music. Honestly, when I got in my car that night after the movie and yes, plugged in my iPod, I did my best to sit through the entire songs on my drive home rather than quickly try to skip to the next one. It was disheartening to me that it was a difficult task.

There were so many more key points in this movie that at the time seem like something we all know but judging by the reaction, it’s definitely not something we practice and it was eye opening to see how much our culture has changed over the years. There were highlights from the riots in Detroit in 1967 that spanned over the course of five days ad left 43 people dead, 1189 injured, 7200 arrests, and over 2000 building destroyed. Survivors of that time spoke about the constant gunshots, panic, and chaos that surrounded Detroit during those fateful five days.

When I asked Jon if the movie would be shown anywhere else, he let me know that the next plan was to get it on Netflix, where people could enjoy it at their leisure and really take the time to reflect on the state of our culture as it is now. He then joked that of course, people will be watching on the iPad and I of course added the iPhone!

The Q& A session immediately followed the movie and several people seemed to lean toward the same question of “Now that we are aware of how our culture has changed, how can we stop ourselves from making it worse?” The answer seems simple and that is to make an effort. Get off your phones and actually talk to the people around you. Don’t depend so much on mobile devices to run your life. Take the time to enjoy the music, the photos, the films. But can we as a society really take a step backward and do that when so much of what we know now is technology? Makes you think for a minute doesn’t it? It certainly made me think about it.

Then…it was time to jam! Several artists from old to young took the stage and came together in the universal language of music. It was inspiring to see so many people having fun, laughing and enjoying themselves bonding over this shared culture. This is the reason that the film was made in the first place.

All in all, I am extremely glad that I was able to go and watch the film and see the after jam. It was something that I think I will remember for a while and I hope that more people are able to watch this compelling documentary. I thank Jon Gillies and Janel Stone of 7 Stone Management for the invite and the hospitality. For more information on the Border City Music Project and its creator Jon Gillies, please visit