Local Current Blog

Adam Levy on this weekend’s tribute to Joe Strummer at First Avenue

Adam Levy (Photo by Andrea Swensson/MPR)


First Avenue has hosted many large-scale cover shows over the years, most notably the big Replacements tribute that converges in the Mainroom each November and the Rebel Rebel: Rock for Pussy tribute to David Bowie that raises money for local cat shelters in the spring.

This weekend, another big all-hands-on-deck tribute show will be thrown into the mix, and this time around it will be a way to honor the lives of both the Clash’s Joe Strummer, who died suddenly in 2002, and young artist Daniel Levy, who passed away from suicide early last year. Players from every corner of the local scene will converge to cover Strummer’s songs, and proceeds from the event will benefit Free Arts Minnesota in Daniel’s memory.

Daniel’s father, Adam Levy—who many in the Twin Cities know as the frontman of the Honeydogs and the Bunny Clogs—stopped by to chat about Friday’s event and reflect on the year since Daniel’s death. Adam will perform at Friday’s tribute show alongside numerous other musicians, and you can see the full line-up and read our full conversation below.

  1. Listen Interview: Adam Levy talks to the Local Show

Local Current: Tell me about the show coming up Friday. Why is it significant to you, and why Joe Strummer?

Adam Levy: Ali Lozoff organized this along with James Diers. It’s something that she had done in the past under the guise of charitable intent, and it’s called “Turning Rebellion Into Cash.” It’s sort of an annual thing she had done in the past, and I lost my son last year to suicide, and I think Ali had spent the last year trying to figure out some sort of tribute to pay to my son and some sort of charitable event to link it to. And these two things sort of came together. It just so happens that my son Daniel was a big fan of The Clash. And it happened to probably be one of the biggest formative bands in my childhood growing up and an influence on my own songwriting both politically and musically. So it was nice to be included in this and a real honor for my son to have his memory celebrated in this fashion.

The proceeds for the event are going towards Free Arts Minnesota in Daniel’s memory. What can you tell me about that organization?

Levy: Free Arts Minnesota is an organization that works with children who were victims of abuse and violence and are at some sort of at-risk status. Connecting those students with the arts community and with creative opportunities – just the idea that art can have therapeutic and often life-changing results for kids that have suffered from all of these kinds of things.

And Daniel was an artist himself, right?

Levy: Right.

Do you have any plans to distribute his artwork or display his artwork at this event?

Levy: You know, I haven’t had time to do that. I have more long-term plans. I think Daniel would have felt honored to see this linkage between art and its therapeutic role in people’s lives that have gone through some sort of suffering — mental health issues or violence. And it’s something that is very important to me. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with Daniel’s art in terms of making it public, but I want to do that, because I see art and Daniel’s life as probably one of his central things that helped him cope through the most painful time of his life.

You’ve been very open with your story and your experiences with Daniel, even telling it quite beautifully with music editor Reed Fischer in a City Pages cover story last year. What has that been like for you, to be so public with this experience?

Levy: Honestly, I didn’t feel like I went through any conscience choice — like am I actually going to talk about this? My instinct was to talk about it. And I talked about it with all of my friends and my family. And it seemed like sort of a logical extension to talk about it. I guess I knew I probably ran the risk of making your life public, that you’re going to get a lot of people responding to that and maybe I was a bit naïve about it because I did get an outpouring of responses, primarily of people who had similar stories. People who went through similar things with loved ones and in some cases felt like there was no avenue to talk about it and saw me as somebody public talking about it. Like you should hear my story, thank you for sharing that story. But that was amazing. There really is no upside to the death of my son. I can’t look at this in any real positive light. It’s a horrible tragedy. But the connectivity that happened as a result of his death with the community here and with people that shared their own stories and came to support us and ask for advice has been really pretty amazing.

Did you have a hand in organizing the guests who are going to be at the event? 

Levy: Yeah. I’m glad to say I’ve had to do little or no heavy lifting on this. Ali and James did everything and just kind of asked me to be included. I even asked them, “Do you need any assistance from me?” And they didn’t and put together an awesome line-up. I may have made a suggestion or two but mostly they were folks they had already contacted.

Have you chosen what song you’re going to play?

Levy: Yeah. A couple of tunes that we’re going to do. It’s always really hard, especially with that music. One song was an easy choice just because I play the song with one of the bands that I play in on a regular basis, so that was easy. The other one is just one that was really important to me as a kid.

And did I hear that your daughters are going to be joining you when you perform too?

Levy: Yeah, they don’t know that yet, but I’m making them come up and sing.

Turning Rebellion into Money: A Tribute to Joe Strummer happens this Friday night, February 1 at First Avenue. 7:30 p.m., $5 adv/$10 door, 18+.

Full line-up:

The 9/16s (Jeremy Ylvisaker, Janey Winterbauer, James Everest, Trent Norton, Matt Darling and Richard Medek)
Adam Levy
Al Church & State
Blue Sky Blackout with Janey Winterbauer
BNLX+ with guest Jim McGuinn
Dylan Hicks
The Farewell Circuit
Haley Bonar
James Diers
Jim Ruiz Set
Kevin Bowe & The Okemah Prophets
Martin Devaney
Rob Skoro & Anonymous Choir
Rogue Valley
Van Stee
plus spoken word by Guante
Special guest DJs