Art Beat: Sexagenarians rock out with a concert -- at the senior center

Mike Dunham
52 FORD is composed of 11 Alaska musicians turning 60 this year.
Rhonda Vanover
Members of the public, young and old, were invited to help paint James Havens' life-size canvas of an Alaska dinosaur, Pachyrhynosaurus Perotorum, at the University Center Mall last summer. Now Havens is inviting them to stop back by and sign their names to the back of the completed painting.
Havens Studios

Rock 'n' roll used to be a genre of music exclusive to teens and 20-somethings. That was then.

This month Mick Jagger, 69, is doing concerts with the Rolling Stones. Last year Bob Dylan, 70, did a tour.

Which makes the Alaska band calling itself 52 FORD seem absolutely adolescent.

Matt Hammer and Stu Schulman were doing an open mike at La Mex when Michael Faubion and "Hurricane" Dave Rush stopped in to jam for a while. "We got to talking and realized that all of us were turning 60 this year," Hammer said. "Bob Parsons walked in and we found out he was born in 1952, too. We got to wondering, 'How many of us are there out there?' "

According to the government, there were 3,913,000 babies born in the U.S. that year. They grew up with Elvis, the Beatles, Waylon Jennings and Led Zepplin in the audio background.

"We decided that we owed ourself a birthday party, if nothing else," said Rush.

They went on a local musicians website to canvas for other rockers born in 1952, and the talent came out of the woodwork. On Sunday night the "Funky Old Rockin' Dudes" (FORD) will perform in an expanded ensemble that includes Doug Brown, Bob Horwitz, "Tall" Paul Paslay, Barry Billings and Dean Reaves.

The concert will, fittingly, be a benefit for the Anchorage Senior Activities Center, where it will also take place. Admission is free, Hammer said, though donations will be solicited. "But there won't be any pressure," he added.

There will be cake, refreshments and door prizes, however, courtesy of the center.

"They're going all out for us," said Rush. "We didn't realize it, but we were all actually eligible for membership five years ago."

Hammer, who has been a fixture on the Anchorage music scene since he arrived here in 1976, is ready for it. He's already popped out parodies making fun of getting older, like this one based on "Born to be Wild":

"Get your walker rockin'/ head out in the hallway/ looking for your dentures/ or whatever comes my way."

"Who knows? This could be our last gig," said Rush. "We did a rehearsal last Sunday and it wasn't long before the conversation turned to health matters."

The program calls for pop hits from the '50s forward. There'll be some solos with the full band joining in for other pieces. "Our grand finale will be 'Those Were the Days, My Friend,' " said Hammer.

Hammer, like the others, is a constantly busy performer. He performs at the Dimond Boulevard La Mex, off King Street, on Fridays and Saturdays and hosts the open mike night there on Thursdays. He said he's enthused by the younger musicians he meets. "I survived the disco days. I survived the karaoke days. Now I'm really happy that there are a lot of young acoustic people writing their own songs. Someone who's 60 just can't write a song with that sort of attitude. But we can offer a little advice."

Despite their accumulated "six centuries of life experience," the players seem to shake off the years when they start making music. In an email, Faubion, who performs with several local groups, said, "I wasn't feeling very enthusiastic about turning 60 this year, but it made it a lot less annoying when I found out so many of my musical colleagues are doing it, too."

"We feel like the youngest old people we know," said Hammer.

The concert will take place at the Senior Activity Center, 1300 E. 19th Ave., on Dec. 9 starting at 7 p.m. "In the old days we wouldn't start playing until 10," said Rush. "And we'd go 'til 3 a.m. We're too old for that now, but we're not too old to rock and roll."


England loves 'Snow Child'

Mat-Su author Eowyn Ivey has been named the U.K. National Book Awards International Author of the Year. Ivey's novel, "The Snow Child," has been a phenomenal hit in Britain, where she's done several book signings. The awards, something of a U.K. "people's choice" contest, are sponsored by British companies year-by-year. This year's sponsor is the SpecSavers eyeglasses franchise. Last year it was Galaxy chocolates. Ivey told the Daily News that the book has made it possible for her husband and her to get a well put in at their home near Sutton.


Vivaldi's 'Gloria' for free

The St. John United Methodist Church Sanctuary Choir will present an ambitious Christmas concert at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 9, featuring the sparkling "Gloria" by Antonio Vivaldi. Music by John Rutter and others will be included in the annual program. The talent is also worth noting in that the choir will be accompanied by Anchorage Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Kathryn Hoffer, Dawn Lindsay, Anne Gantz Burns, Linda Hart Ottum, Katie Eakes, Emily Weaver, Sarah Cleary and pianist Freya Wardlaw-Bailey who says, "For the first time ever, I will play three different keyboard instruments in one concert: piano, organ, and harpsichord." She'll also be joined in some of the music by her husband, James, on cello. The church is located at 1801 O'Malley Road between Lake Otis Blvd. and the Seward Highway. Admission is free.


Dino ready for signing

James and Andi Havens are celebrating the completion of this year's "Painting with Dinosaurs" project with a signing of a limited number of prints. The project is a 12-foot canvas showing the unique Alaskan Pachyrhinosaurus Peratorum, a relative of the Triceratops.

The original painting was executed on location by the main entrance of the University Center Mall and took four months to complete. During the process, members of the public large and small were invited to add a bit of paint here and there. "We're inviting all those who participated to sign the back of the original piece," Andi Havens said.

Helpers can come to the mall and sign between noon and 6 p.m. through Dec. 15.

You can also see Havens' next project in progress, a life-size model of a pterosaur, a flying lizard with a wingspan of 25 feet. Its fossils were recently found in Denali National Park and Preserve.

The model is being sculpted from blue insulation foam, James Havens said. The sculpted foam will be mounted on a metal armature, laminated and painted. That project will probably continue through early 2013 and can be viewed Monday through Saturday next to the Natural Pantry at the mall.


Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.