Since Donald Trump was elected president, there have been protests, anxiety and outrage among his detractors, but hope and elation among his supporters, leading to a nation more sharply divided than any time in recent memory.
The members of a local band – a diverse group of musicians who come from different backgrounds and political persuasions – want to help end the rift, and made a public pitch this week to play Trump’s inauguration after big-name artists like Elton John, the Rolling Stones and Vince Neil said this week they would refuse to perform at the Jan. 20 event.
Shorty Long and the Jersey Horns have played some big gigs in the past, including Philadelphia Eagles games and regular shows in Atlantic City, plus openers for Paul McCartney, the aforementioned Stones and Cheap Trick. But if someone in the Trump camp notices their offer and invites them to Washington, it would be their biggest, said John Kern, the band’s lead singer.
The news this week that artists were refusing to play the inaugural is what prompted Kern, Shorty – real name Ricky Tisch, a Brick native who incorporates his physical disabilities into the band’s performances – to offer their services.
“It moved us to comment,” said Kern. “I try not to post too much political stuff because even our own band members are somewhat divided on which candidate they wanted to win.”
But the band is a unifying force, its members believe, and playing a presidential inauguration would be a tribute to both the nation and the diverse audiences they entertain.
“Case in point: we play a venue that buses in a lot of people from Chinatown in New York,” said Kern. “These people do not speak English, and when they first see Shorty with his physical condition and height they stare … At first it seems rude, but at one point someone from their group that loves our band said to us they’re not being rude. In their country, people and children with such conditions such as Shorty’s don’t make it.”
If they played the event, perhaps it would prove to be a unifying moment. The band’s members are white, black, male, female and were raised in varying economic, social and racial environments. There is a 30 year age difference between the oldest and youngest members.
“We aren’t trying to judge those who are refusing to play,” Kern said. “They have their beliefs and reasons – they could fear blacklisting and not getting work from the powers that be – and that’s their thing and we must respect that. We just don’t have to agree with it.”
Shorty Long and Jersey Horns incorporates patriotic music and displays in their act and begins each show with a salute to members of the military and first responders and the singing of the national anthem. While its members might have different political views, the band says it will support whoever is president because the country is in their hands.
“We as a band didn’t all love presidents Bush or Obama, or all that they did as presidents, but if asked to play we are there free of charge and without seeking the publicity,” Kern said. “It’s like a civic duty and an honor to play for that office and the men (and hopefully one day women) who hold or held it in the past. Brave men and women serve overseas and give their lives for these freedoms.”
If the band does end up getting an invite, there has already been talk about which songs to play. Some tunes from Earth Wind and Fire, Bruno Mars and the hit Cake by the Ocean would be on top of the list. They’d also try to sneak in a few slow jams (for the lovers, Kern said) and “Do What I Tell Ya to Do,” a personal favorite of Dee Farace, the band’s vocalist besides Kern and Tisch.
No matter who occupies the Oval Office it is “a symbol of the freedom and greatness that makes us the greatest country on the face of the planet,” Kern said.