Like so many other bands, the Kicks Band of Fargo Moorhead didn’t play a note for the first 15 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now the big band is making up for lost time.

The organization recently announced a string of free shows for the second half of the summer, seven total in five weeks.

“We didn’t play all winter. Everyone feels safe outside, so let’s play,” says Tim Johnson, music director and president of the group. “Now is the time. Let’s play and hopefully build a crowd heading into the next season.”

The Kicks Band of Fargo Moorhead at its last show before the pandemic in February, 2020. Special to The Forum
The Kicks Band of Fargo Moorhead at its last show before the pandemic in February, 2020. Special to The Forum

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Johnson, who teaches music at Dilworth/Glyndon/Felton Middle School, started planning for summer concerts by booking the fourth Thursday of each month at Moorhead’s Gooseberry Park. The June set showed that people were hungry for live jazz again as about 200 attended the free show.

“Boy, that was a fun show,” Johnson says.

Johnson says all of the shows will be a little different. Last night the group played The Arts Partnership’s TAPpy Hour at the Red River Zoo with special guests, the Navy Band Great Lakes. Those who missed that set can catch the two groups team up again at 7 tonight at Gooseberry. Each outfit will play a set and then join together for a few numbers.

At 7 p.m. Friday, July 23, the Kicks Band is back to playing by itself, filling the Bandshell at Detroit Lakes, Minn., with its classic big band sound.

An Aug. 12 show at Hanson Arts Park, Jamestown, N.D., will see the group narrow to a six-piece Dixieland lineup.

“We’re not old elevator music,” Johnson says. “We’re high-powered. We play all styles.”

Kicks Band of Fargo Moorhead president Tim Johnson put down his trombone to be its musical director.. Special to the Forum
Kicks Band of Fargo Moorhead president Tim Johnson put down his trombone to be its musical director.. Special to the Forum

The organization started back in 1975 with Ed Christianson, the father of Johnson’s wife, Amy. When Ed passed away in 2011, Amy and Tim took over the group with the goal of keeping jazz concerts alive in the area, especially following the folding of the Jazz Arts Group.

Amy sings with the group and Tim used to play trombone, but transitioned to full time director over the years.

The day after playing the morning slot at the Red River Market on Aug. 7, Johnson and the band host the Kicks Band Jazz Festival from noon to 5 p.m. in Island Park. The musical event is a descendent of the Jass festival, which ended in 2019 after 25 years.

“This year, I thought, let’s go for it,” says Tim.

The lineup is a mix of local and regional acts, including Kathie Brekke & 42nd Street Jazz Band with Harley Sommerfeld, Festival Dixieland, Jazz On Tap, That There Then Combo, Russ Peterson and Funk Commission and the Kicks Band of Fargo Moorhead.

The shows won’t end with the summer. Tim has started setting up dates for the fall and is looking at doing a Christmas show in Fargo and the Historic Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes, Minn.

In mid-January the group will host about 3,000 5th graders as part of a jazz history showcase through the Fargo Public Schools and will follow that with other musical outreach programs with the local schools, including the All-City Jazz Fest in April, Jazz Appreciation Month.

“We’re just trying to spread the joy, get the kids hooked on jazz a bit,” says Tim.

Upcoming shows

  • 7 p.m., Thursday, July 22, Gooseberry Park, Moorhead, with members of the Navy Band Great Lakes
  • 7 p.m., Friday, July 23, Bandshell, Detroit Lakes, Minn.
  • 10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., Aug. 7, Red River Market, Broadway Square, Fargo
  • noon - 5 p.m., Aug. 8, Island Park, as part of the Kicks Band Jazz Festival
  • 6:30 - 8:30 p.m., Aug. 12, Hanson Arts Park, Jamestown, N.D.
  • 7 p.m., Aug. 26, Gooseberry Park, Moorhead

For more information on the Kicks Band and its shows, go to fmkicksband.com.