It's common knowledge that "you can't go home again," but actor Scott Grimes is a master of the impossible - especially when it's for a good cause. With The Bachelor's Bob Guiney and Desperate Housewives' James Denton, the ER and American Dad! star took to his native land of Dracut, Massachusetts for a full concert weekend to help support music and performing arts programs in the community's public schools. Together they lifted hometown pride to new levels with two evenings of song, spirits, and seemingly endless beef teriyaki at the Lo Kai Lounge and Restaurant.
Scott, Bob, and Jamie have been playing music together for several years as part of Band From TV, a group of television personalities who rock out for charity. Last fall Bob and Scott formed their own offshoot band, Guiney and Grimes, with which they tour the country to fundraise for causes close to their hearts. Jamie joins them when schedules permit, as in October 2012 when the trio raised money for the Solon Springs, Wisconsin fire department.
The stop in Dracut is intensely personal for Scott, whose childhood home stands a 45-second walk away from the Lo Kai. Many of his family and friends still reside there, and it was through the Dracut schools' music and arts programs that his talents were nurtured. These same programs have suffered in recent years from lack of funding and massive teacher layoffs, and at times have risked being cut altogether. But not if Guiney and Grimes have anything to say about it - with a plea from Dracut firefighter Mark Morowski, it was Scott and Bob to the rescue. (Bob now calls Dracut his "adopted hometown.")
Guiney and Grimes shows are typically grassroots affairs, built around the twin joys of music and friendship; the prime spectacle they offer are themselves and their favorite songs, shared exuberantly with appreciative listeners. Some bands demand audience participation, but Bob and Scott seduce you into it, their mellifluous voices and radiant warmth enfolding fans like a fond embrace from which there is happily no escape. It's consistently the most beautiful part of the atmosphere Guiney and Grimes conjure up - the urge to be active, and the feeling that when we act, we are all one big family.
The concerts at the Lo Kai ratcheted this scenario up to the highest scale. Throughout the night there were exhortations for people to sing and clap along, to play "shaker" instruments onstage, and naturally to dance. (I must say from personal experience that Bob Guiney can spin a girl right round.) Before the first notes had even been played, the crowd cheered wildly, and every tune was greeted with the kind of kinetic glee usually reserved for a Baptist revival. Salvation was indeed in the air, especially when Scott and Bob debuted their newest song "I'm Goin' Home," a tribute to the people affected by the Boston Marathon bombings in April.
Watch Guiney and Grimes perform their new song "I'm Goin' Home" at the Lo Kai (video courtesy of Heather Skene):
There were celebratory renditions of Band From TV standbys ("This is How a Heart Breaks," "Walking in Memphis"); there were soulful selections from Bob and Scott's originals (notably "Girlfriend" and "Sunset Boulevard," the latter renamed "Sunset Road" in honor of Scott's former Dracut address). Jamie, as usual, wowed the assembly with his toe-tapping covers of Bruce Springsteen's "Pink Cadillac" and the poignant "We Take Care of Our Own."
Between the good vibrations came wellsprings of laughter as the performers regaled their devoted legion with stories and wisecracks - Scott's joke that the trio is developing a new show called "Desperate ER Bachelors" drew particularly approving peals. (Hint-hint, network executives.)
Of course, the deep emotions behind the weekend's events shone through the humor. In an exceptionally touching moment, Scott's father Richard Grimes appeared onstage with his son to sing John Denver's "Country Roads," the first song Scott ever learned. Watching his dad on the guitar, you know exactly from whence the younger Grimes draws his melodious chops.
The concerts overall were peppered with reminders of what was really at stake. Local music teachers Robin Mallory, Jen Perkins, and Julian Sciolla showed off their instrumental and vocal prowess in several energetic numbers. Meanwhile, a wide range of students in the performing arts programs provided backup on a family-friendly cover of Pink's "Raise Your Glass" and brought the house down in the finale, "Let It Be Me to Change the World." It's a potent example of what our country as a whole stands to lose if we continue cutting funds for arts education: noteworthy moments like these, yes, but more importantly the power that music gives a child to gain a deeper understanding of humanity.
Dracut's people are endowed with a stunning sense of humanity. Not only did they turn out in droves to welcome the fellas home, they raised over $4,000 at the auction and raffle following the concerts, where items sold included an American Dad! script with cast signatures and the scrubs shirt Scott wore on ER. One generous winner even donated half her prize of $240 cash back to the arts programs. God bless small towns with big hearts.
And as some parts of our past never leave us, it's clear Dracut will always be with Scott, and he with it. From noting that most of the people mentioned in his song "Around and Around" were sitting in the Lo Kai, to reliving the best beats of his childhood with an 80s medley and a supremely unforgettable version of "Purple Rain," Mr. Grimes was completely in his element and at his charismatic best. You can take the boy from the town, but you'll never take the town from the boy.
So here ends, for now, the tale of the musicians who achieved the great feat of going home again and actually making it better. But this is only the beginning. Where there are worthy causes to fight for, there Guiney, Grimes, and Denton will be, using a touch of celebrity and a whole lot of music to change the world. If we listen to them and spread the love to one another, then we can effect change too. It's as simple as striking a chord.
Follow Jaime Lubin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@jaimelubin