In 2005, Don Was visited Detroit’s Concert of Colors and fell in love — with the festival, not a person.
And this weekend, the Grammy Awardwinning producer and co-leader of Was (Not Was) is back to preside over a Detroit Super Session featuring an array of Motor City friends and collaborators.
“It reminds me of the old rock ’n’ roll shows I used to see, or the Motown Revue, where people get up and do their hits in one little package,” says Was, 55, who was raised Don Fagenson in Oak Park and played at the 2005 Concert of Colors as the special guest of Algerian singer Cheb Khaled.
The Detroit Super Session takes place at 7:15 p.m. Sunday (July 20), with performances by Mitch Ryder, the MC5’s Wayne Kramer, John Sinclair and Was (Not Was) partner David Was (ne Weiss), along with bands such as the Dirtbombs, the Ramrods, Black Bottom Collective, Black Merda, Sisters Lucas and Lola Morales. The house band includes Was (Not Was) guitarist Randy Jacobs and former band keyboardist Luis Resto, while Don Was will play bass with the Detroit Cobras.
The two Was “brothers,” meanwhile, hit town early to record a song for Amnesty International with Sudan United, another all-star group that’s playing at the Concert of Colors.
“It took on a life of its own,” Was says of the Super Session project, which he’s filming for his Wasmopolitan Cavalcade of Recorded Music Web site on My Damn Channel (www.mydamnchannel.com). “It became about showing just how broad the spectrum is of Detroit music, going from John Sinclair to the Muldoons. It really covers 45 years of Detroit music. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, to be honest with you.”
Was — who credits Concert of Colors founder Ismael Ahmed with the Super Session concept — also feels the festival is the perfect venue for this kind of endeavor, acknowledging the seeming irony of a Jew from Oak Park headlining an event sponsored by the Arab American National Museum.
“I just think it’s the greatest festival that anyone puts on,” explains Was, who recently produced albums for Amos Lee, Todd Snider and the Old Crow Medicine Show, and is preparing to work with Ziggy Marley. “I love a festival that muses music to make the point that everybody’s basically the same inside and wants the same things. They want to eat, they don’t want their kids to get killed — very simple things.
“I’m just really pleased to be part of something like that, and I like the fact that you can put together, even in a microcosm situation, this 75-minute thing we’re doing that shows the similarities and the vast differences in the musical styles of these artists.”
The 16th annual Concert of Colors continues through Sunday (July 20) at the Max M. Fisher Music Center, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Admission is free. Call (313) 576-5111 or visit www.concertofcolors.com.
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