Back in 1973, John Lennon wanted to make New York City his home, but he was being treated like an illegal immigrant. Though his wife Yoko Ono already had a green card, the rabble-rousing Lennon had been denied permanent resident status in the US. So with characteristic whimsy and outside-the-box thinking, he called a press conference on April Fool’s Day to announce the pair’s creation of “a conceptual country, Nutopia,” seeking diplomatic immunity as its ambassador.
“Citizenship of the country can be obtained by declaration of your awareness of Nutopia. Nutopia has no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people. Nutopia has no laws other than cosmic,” Lennon declared. The couple even hung a plaque inscribed “Nutopian Embassy” on their kitchen door in the Dakota. The virtual country flew a perpetual white flag, and its Great Seal was a picture of…a seal. You know, the kind that barks and does tricks for fish.
Thus it seems completely appropriate that a pair of veteran folk/rock performers, Rex Fowler of Aztec Two-Step and Tom Dean of Devonsquare, declared themselves Nutopians in 2010 for the purposes of honoring Lennon’s musical legacy. Putting together an eight-piece ensemble, they created a tribute album of acoustic Lennon covers titled John Lennon Imagined that was honored as the Vox Pop 2010 Tribute Album of the Year by the Independent Music Awards. The late, great deejay and music historian Pete Fornatale called the Nutopians “among the very best Lennon interpreters ever.”
A successful Kickstarter campaign last fall has enabled the release of a second CD, Lennon Re-Imagined, and the Nutopians are taking it on the road. A special concert titled “John Lennon Re-Imagined, Beatles & Solo Years” will be performed this Saturday, July 13 from 5:30 p.m. to dusk at Opus 40 in the western Saugerties hamlet of High Woods. It’s hard to imagine a more magical portal for a time-trip back through the oeuvre of the great rock visionary and peace advocate. Proceeds from the show will benefit the instrument donation program of Hungry for Music, a Washington, DC-based charity that provides musical instruments to underprivileged children across the US and abroad.
Besides singer/songwriter/guitarists Fowler and Dean, the Nutopians consist of Dean’s longtime Devonsquare bandmate Alana MacDonald on violin and vocals; Gary Schreiner on chromatic harmonica, accordion and piano; Jordan Jancz on cello and percussion; Teg Glendon on bass and vocals; Robby Coffin on acoustic and electric guitars and vocals; and 16-year-old Maggie Coffin on vocals. Aztec Two-Step, who graced the stage of the Bearsville Theater back in April, will be back as well to do a set from their own acclaimed repertoire.
Tickets cost $20 in advance, $50 for premium seating including a meet-and-greet with the artists, available online at www.hungryformusic.org. Tickets will also be sold at the Opus 40 gate for $25 on the day of the show. Bring lawn chairs or a blanket and a picnic, and arrive early if you want to check out the work-in-progress on repairing the Main Ramp of the great earthwork that was damaged by recent flooding events; access to the sculpture itself is always restricted during performances at Opus 40. The show will go on rain or shine.
Lennon Re-Imagined is now available via iTunes and CDBaby; autographed copies can be ordered at https://thenutopians.com/shop.html.
“John Lennon Re-Imagined,” the Nutopians with Aztec Two-Step, Saturday, July 13, 5:30 p.m., $50/$25/$20, Opus 40, 50 Fite Road, Saugerties; www.hungryformusic.org, www.thenutopians.com.