Freedom Festival 2017 & The Johnny Holm Band
By Russ Fagle @russfagle
Freedom festival is a Cedar Rapids tradition that has something for everybody. One of the cornerstones of each Freedom Festival is its musical entertainment. With the opening of the downtown McGrath Amphitheatre in recent years, Cedar Rapidians have it better than ever to enjoy outdoor music performances at the festival and all season long. This year is sure to keep with this strong tradition with a Fourth of July headlining performance of the Minneapolis-based Johnny Holm Band kicking off at 7 pm at the McGrath Amphitheatre.
The Johnny Holm Band is the epitome of the mid-western summer festival band. The band plays rock solid covers of many of any audience’s favorite songs from nearly every popular genre spanning many musical eras. Known as the Human Jukebox, the charismatic showman and vocalist Johnny Holm has been filling dance halls and festival venues since the late 1970s performing iconic classics to current popular crowd pleasers. The bands’ versatility is impressive as they play solid versions of classic songs well known to audiences. Holm’s audiences expect their favorite songs that they grew up with to be played at a high level of quality and The Johnny Holm Band delivers this in spades with a vibrant stage presence and energy. Having a roster of highly skilled, professional musicians is the only way to accomplish the formidable task of performing songs that are both well-known and often technically challenging musically. In addition to Johnny’s versatile vocals, nearly every member of the band is capable of singing lead vocals for numbers throughout their extensive song list. Folks, we are talking Adele and Neil Diamond to AC/DC. Featured for her stunning vocal ability is Johnny’s daughter, Jordan Holm. Jordan’s natural stage presence and highly skilled vocal delivery makes her a key part of the bands’ well known and respected live performance reputation. The band’s musicianship is tight and top-level skill-wise, so much so that it often feels as if you are seeing a live performance of each song’s originator. Audience participation is a hallmark of the bands’ long and storied reputation as a band sure to win over any crowd. For people who have seen a lot of live bands, this is a skill to not be taken for granted.
While studying in college in the 1970’s to be a Special Education instructor, Johnny Holm began performing solo music shows at local clubs and venues in the Fargo, North Dakota area. In 1980, he was hired and played for 15 years at Valleyfair, near the Twin Cities, as a musical performer, honing his skills. After recording five solo albums in the 1980’s, Johnny decided to stop songwriting and recording and focus on live performing throughout the Midwest playing music the crowds knew and loved. “Lightening Bar Blues” is an original song from Johnny’s recording days that has remained a popular staple at his shows. The band has an extremely loyal following throughout the Upper Midwest that has been built over decades of performing at repeat venues and events like festivals, fairs and events. Over the years, as the band has grown to include longtime members who are able to respond and interact with audiences as a finely tuned single unit, Johnny explains his role as a “quarterback” reading queues from the audience and taking the band in a direction that will encourage dancing and crowd participation, amending set lists as needed in real-time. This is one of the reasons why The Johnny Holm Band continues, after four decades, to build an ever growing following and reputation.
The Freedom Festival will present The Johnny Holm band at the McGrath Amphitheatre Tuesday, July 4, 2017 from 7:00pm - 9:30pm. Tickets are free with a Freedom Festival button. Freedom Festival buttons are $5.00 and are available at Casey’s General Stores, Hy-Vee Food and Drug stores and at the Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival. You can contact the Freedom Festival at 319-365-8313 or www.freedomfestival.com
Find out more about the Johnny Hold Band at
www.johnnyholm.com • Twitter: @johnnyholm