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Clubland: A fond farewell — a minimum of for awhile — to Valley music professional F. Alex Johnson – jj
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Clubland: A fond farewell — a minimum of for awhile — to Valley music professional F. Alex Johnson

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Published: 7/17/2019 4:46:43 PM

Modified: 7/17/2019 4:46:28 PM

F. Alex Johnson has put a lot of himself into the local music scene over the years. But at the end of the month, he’s making a big change, becoming about as un-local as one can get: He and his wife, Jodi, are moving to their new home in Kyoto, Japan, 7000 miles away, where Jodi will teach English.

Johnson will play his last show with his original rock trio Colorway at the Florence Civic Center tonight, Thursday, July 18, at 6:30 p.m. 

He moved from Fall River to the Valley in the autumn of 1991, and during his years playing guitar with the Drunk Stuntmen, he often went by the name Freddy Freedom. By the time I became his bandmate in the Young@Heart Chorus in 2007, he made it clear his name was “Alex.”

Johnson was trying to make some healthier changes in his life, and he was successful, eventually getting to a place where he started his own band, Colorway, ready to be in the spotlight, rather than in someone else’s shadow. 

In the spring of 2016, Johnson also began building community as the generous host of a popular open mic at Brew Practitioners in Florence, which grew into a true scene of musicians, poets, and performance artists — an extended family of regulars.

As big of a profile as Johnson has had as a bandleader and open mic host, he’s created all sorts of magic on Valley stages over the last quarter of a century. I’ve particularly loved getting to play in bands with him during Transperformance and other cover shows, hearing him nail the exact guitar tones and solos of beloved players like Prince and Lindsey Buckingham. 

We both participated in a Fleetwood Mac tribute at the Sierra Grille in 2012 (in a collective called Fleetwood Snack), and when he launched into the famous solo on “Don’t Stop,” it felt so exactly right, the entire room seemed to be hit with a wave of elation.

Johnson played guitar with Spouse for our Prince set at Transperformance in 2011 (wearing a purple overcoat for the special occasion), and as if he wasn’t amazing enough with the perfect guitar pyrotechnics, right before the first verse kicked in, he spun around for extra flash. It’s another great memory of Johnson’s skills and passion for music and performance, his way of (as Steve Lacy once put it) “lifting the bandstand.” 

Basically, if you want your rock band to sound better, you get F. Alex Johnson in there. Surely it won’t take long for some Kyoto musicians to discover that fact.

******

Singer/songwriter Martin Sexton appears at the Stone Church in Brattleboro, VT on Friday, July 19 at 8 p.m.

I got to see Sexton at Blissfest in northern Michigan last weekend, and he dazzled the evening crowd with soulful singing, beatboxing, scatting, stream-of-consciousness medleys of other people’s hits, and more.

Sexton happily played requests instantly, and even invited a local saxophone player out of the crowd and onto the stage to join him for a tune. He wowed the audience with just his voice, his guitar, and his unique freewheeling creativity. It was a highlight of the festival. 

Ken Maiuri can be reached at clublandcolumn@gmail.com.

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