Kimball concert celebrates "Magic of Motown"

The Motown record company captivated the world with musicians whose soulful sounds pioneered a new era of music during the 1960s. CultureFix aims to celebrate that enduring legacy with a “Magic of Motown” concert at the Kimball Theatre Saturday.

“It’s music that I feel like a lot of people really connect with and can move to,” said Shirley Vermillion, CultureFix’s director at large. “It’s one of those unifying genres and periods of music. The dance floor will be packed.”

The show incorporates the music of Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, the Supremes, the Four Tops and Marvin Gaye.

Leading the charge are two local bands, the MJs and Brasswind, an ensemble that debuted at CultureFix’s Winter Blues Jazz Fest in January. The event also features several guest artists, including former Gaye guitarist and musical director Gordon Banks.

Curtis Brown, Brasswind’s saxophonist, said Motown music endures because it focused less on making money and relying on DJs, instead emphasizing ambiance and showmanship with elaborate choreography, large backing bands and complex vocal harmonies. The musicians would also re-imagine their hits onstage to offer a twist on what fans heard on the radio.

“It was more about putting out a good product,” Brown said. “It was just arranged in a way that the scope of Motown almost hilariously dwarfs anything that’s being put out today.”

The concert marks CultureFix’s final tribute concert at the Kimball for the foreseeable future, as the College of William and Mary begins to use the space full-time following the closure of Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall on campus.

Steve Rose, CultureFix’s founder and president, said the goal was to offer something completely different following March’s Beatles tribute concert. Tickets are also regularly selling in groups of four or more as opposed to just one or two at a time.

“I think that’s really exciting, to see people coming out as a group to experience an event,” Rose said. “I think people are just going to have a really exciting time.”

Brown said he hopes the audience will laugh, dance and travel back to an era of music with a certain spark that he finds lacking in modern releases.

“What I’m trying to do is bring back a sense of quality in the area because I don’t think modern music has it,” he said. “But at the end of the day, the ultimate word is just ‘entertained.’ Our job is to simply entertain, so I hope they leave entertained.”

Want to go?

“Magic of Motown” runs 7 p.m. Saturday at the Kimball Theatre. Doors open 6:30 p.m. $20 tickets available at

Birkenmeyer can be reached by email at, by phone at 757-790-3029 or on Twitter @sethbirkenmeyer.

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