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Rock Group AMERICA Headed to MCASD


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This Friday, Grammy Award winning rock group AMERICA will perform a special show at MCSAD La Jolla at 8 p.m.. The show includes an interview by GRAMMY Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli, an audience Q&A session, and an acoustic performance. The band recently released "Back Pages," a collection of cover songs by various artists, including Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, and others.

We caught up with Gerry Beckley to talk about what's new with the group and what has changed in the music industry since their formation 40 years ago.

What's new with AMERICA?

Well, we have a new album out called "Back Pages". It's actually a first for us in that it's an entire album of cover songs. We picked a few of our favorite songs from a few different decades. We're pleased with how it's been received.

Are you used to playing in museums? Have you ever played in one before?

We did a concert in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, but no museums. Although we play in all kinds of venues, I wouldn't think museums are up there. It would be a little hard for us to come up with a museum show.

What would be your dream venue?

My joke is if it was up to us we'd be playing Maui all the time, but that's a location thing as opposed to a venue. If I had to pick, I’d say probably a good-sized theater. There are some nice new or restored theaters in the country. Over 1000 seats, but still feels intimate enough so that everyone enjoys it.

For the Q&A section, what's one question you'd like -- or wouldn't like -- the audience to ask you?

There are so many questions that we get all the time: how did you get together? and how did you come up with our name? I don't mean any disrespect to those questions, and it doesn't mean they're bad questions, it's just that we get them all the time. But I will tell you that one time, I sat down to do an interview and the first question out of the guy's mouth was one I'd never heard before. "What are you reading?" I thought that was quite interesting. First of all to just assume that we were all reading something was quite bold, and also I am a fanatic reader, so it just touched something in me.

So what are you reading?

Right now I'm reading a collection of essays by Christopher Hitchens, Arguably.

What's the biggest way being a musical icon has changed from the early 70s to today? Is it the internet, what audiences want from their stars, technology?

The entire industry is different at the moment and it's just been happening kind of like dominos. From growing up in the era of record companies and platinum albums and stuff, we're now in an era of digital rights and downloading. And now with sites like Spotify and stuff, we might see an era where people don't purchase albums anymore, where all they do is assemble playlists which they stream. So that's a huge change.

Does that scare you?

I'm a techo guy and I just think technology is an amazing thing. But I have the comfort -- we have built, over the years, a huge live following. So what I have as a kind of a good strong foundation -- we go out and perform our music -- is not an option for a lot of groups anymore because they don't have the ability to build an audience. They don’t  sell entire albums of their music. They don't establish a fan base that's just going to go out and hang around with them from year to year. So I consider us very lucky to have been a part of that era. Because it has allowed us to provide for our families and play for our fans for decades.

What are you looking forward to in San Diego?

We travel the world, and whenever I’m asked “Where do you think is the most beautiful place in the world?” I think northern San Diego has some of the most beautiful spots on the planet. And I have seen a lot of them. So I have to say we’re always excited to be able to come down. It’s going to be a nice day for us.

An Evening with America takes place at MCASD La Jolla on Friday, November 4th at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15-$20.

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