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America is ready for its DL debut

In just a few short days, the Historic Holmes Theatre will celebrate its fifth birthday with a concert featuring one of the biggest acts to grace its stage since it opened in 2002.

Seventies rock icons "America" will appear in concert at the Holmes on Sunday, May 6, at 7:30 p.m.

Dewey Bunnell, one of the two founding members who has continued to play with the group since its inception, agreed to an interview Tuesday via telephone.

"We've been singer-songwriters for the past 35 years," Bunnell said. "We're still playing upwards of 100 shows a year."

But the touring schedule has changed a little, he said. Instead of spending weeks and months on the road at a time, the group -- which includes founding member Gerry Beckley as well as three other veteran musicians, Willie Leacox, Michael Woods and Richard Campbell -- will do tours of 1-2 weeks at a time, with breaks in between.

"We just got back from Australia -- that was a little longer (tour)," he added.

"We've had a quite a start to this year," Bunnell said. Though Bunnell and Beckley are now in their 36th year as collaborators and musical partners, the 2007 release of "Here and Now" marks the group's first full-length album of original material in 7-8 years.

"It's our first album of the new millennium!" Bunnell said, clearly excited about the two-disc set that includes one disc of all-original material, and another comprising live performances of the group's greatest hits of the 1970s and 80s.

"We pride ourselves on writing our own material," Bunnell said, but added that on this album, the group collaborated with several younger musicians, including Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne and James Iha, formerly of the Smashing Pumpkins, who served as co-producers for the album.

"We're (the band) fans of Fountains of Wayne," Bunnell said of the collaboration. "We love their stuff."

The younger musicians' involvement as producers also attracted other notable guest musicians, including Ryan Adams, Ben Kweller and seasoned veterans Stephen Bishop and Rusty Young, along with members of contemporary groups such as Nada Surf and My Morning Jacket.

But while Bunnell is quite excited by the new record, he knows audiences primarily come to their concerts to hear the group's more familiar, iconic hits, such as "Horse With No Name," "Sister Goldenhair," "Ventura Highway" and "You Can Do Magic."

"The core of our show is the stuff that's most familiar -- our hits from the 70s and 80s," Bunnell said. "That's what draws most of our audience -- but at the same time, it's kind of a fine line between our older fans who have been coming to concerts for years, and want to hear the new material, and those new fans who want to hear the old songs (they haven't heard performed live before)."

For its current tour, the group has rehearsed approximately a half dozen songs from its new CD to complement the old favorites, and "we do 3-4 of the new songs per show."

America is known primarily for its vocal harmonies, accompanied by beautiful acoustic melodies.

"We're known primarily as a vocal harmony acoustic band -- which we are," he said. "We come from the school of the Beach Boys and the Beatles, after all."

However, Bunnell said that while "we don't veer too far off from the original instrumentation," audiences are often surprised to find that "our live performances are a little more driving and uptempo."

Thirty years after they hit the top of the charts with "Horse With No Name" and became serial hitmakers through the 1970s -- notching up 11 U.S. Top 40 singles and 17 gold, platinum, and multi-platinum albums -- America still sells out arenas throughout the world.

"We're always on tour," Bunnell said. "Domestically, we work all kinds of shows -- casinos, festivals, concert halls -- we can pretty well plug ourselves into any venue or format ... We're still playing upwards of 100 shows a year, we've got the new album -- we have nothing to complain about.

"We're really looking forward to playing for you (in Detroit Lakes)."

Tickets for America are available by calling the Historic Holmes Theatre Box Office at 218-844-SHOW or online at Advance tickets are $38 for adults and $19 for students. Day of show tickets are $45 for adults and $25 for students. A special premium seating package including priority seating, an "America" CD and an exclusive reception with the band is also available for $75.

The Historic Holmes Theatre is a beautifully renovated 837-seat theater providing music, dance, theater and visual arts for the residents of Detroit Lakes and surrounding communities.

The theatre, which opened in May 2002, brings local, regional, national and international performances to the Holmes stage. Look for a story on its five-year history in Sunday's Detroit Lakes Tribune.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454