Performers in Portsmouth’s kick-off event for the Concert Across America to End Gun Violence share their thoughts

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By Matt Kanner

Since 2007, the date of Sept. 25 has been recognized as National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims. This year, that date will be marked with a series of concerts across the country. The Concert Across America to End Gun Violence includes more than 200 shows in all 50 states. Jackson Browne headlines the main event at The Beacon Theatre in New York City, which also features Rosanne Cash, Marc Cohn, and Eddie Vedder, among others.

Portsmouth has a unique role in the Concert Across America. On Friday, Sept. 23, 3S Artspace will host the kick-off concert for the nationwide event. Martin England and the Reconstructed headlines, with additional performances by The Look Backs, Chris Guzikowski & The Grim Brothers, and River Sister. The show opens with a set from DJ Skooch, and Sam Harding emcees.

The performers in Portsmouth and around the country are calling on state and federal leaders to take “reasonable, commonsense steps to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, like requiring background checks on every gun sold,” according to a press release about the Portsmouth show.

“I am tired of being silent on this issue,” said musician Elissa Margolin, an organizer of the local event and member of River Sister, in the press release. “Gun violence is clearly a public health crisis at this point and I look forward to coming together with other like-minded people and doing more as a community, as a state and as a nation to reverse this disturbing trend.”

The Sound invited several of the performers in the local show to explain why they are participating in the Concert Across America to End Gun Violence, and how the power of music can help effect change.

Martin EnglandI grew up in a household that was stocked with hunting rifles and a few handguns (my dad was a police officer, so he had service weapons). I have respect for folks who use guns responsibly, especially in regards to hunting and feeding their families. With that being said, I think it’s high time to pass strict gun-control laws to make it more difficult for violent criminals to purchase them. I also believe in better mental-health screening in this country. I realize criminals will always be able to get their hands on illegal weapons, but I also look at first-world countries that have imposed gun-control laws, and the data can’t be ignored in terms of what it’s meant to their crime and murder rates. We’d be a much safer society without quick, easy access to weapons that are designed solely for the purpose of killing people.

Jonathan Blakeslee of The Look BacksThe Look Backs are honored to be part of the concert. It’s an opportunity for people to come together and share their concerns about the growing epidemic of gun violence in the United States. Nationally, artists like Eddie Vedder, Jackson Browne, Rosanne Cash, and many others will perform at what now looks to be well over 200 concerts on Sept. 25. The fact that our local Portsmouth concert is the first in the nation feels extra special. Beyond playing a fun show and sharing the bill with some great musicians, we participate as concerned citizens who wish to honor the memories of those who have lost their lives due to gun violence. There clearly isn’t enough being done to make our country safe. Time to join our voices together and let our leaders know that we expect them to take action to keep weapons out of dangerous hands.

Chris GuzikowskiI am really excited to have the opportunity to participate in Concerts Across America. My hope is that the events can play some role in fostering progress toward balanced and reasonable solutions to a really complex issue. Sadly, so much of the discourse is dominated by extreme views — for and against — when most everyone I speak with believes in realistic solutions to a real problem. We need those voices to be heard, rather than be drowned out by harsh and extreme rhetoric. I hope these concerts can help do exactly that.

Elissa Margolin of River SisterThis event gives River Sister the opportunity to engage two of our greatest passions: music and community. We formed River Sister to connect our mutual love for music and to literally become one voice — a harmonious voice, a stronger voice, a more passionate voice. That is our hope for this community event as well. As musicians, we hope that Portsmouth’s concert, as well as the other 250 events in every state nationwide, inspire more grassroots engagement on the issue of gun violence. As community members, we know that the responsibility starts with us. As parents, we want schools and a community free from gun violence for our children.

The kick-off event for the Concert Across America to End Gun Violence takes place Friday, Sept. 23, from 6:30-11 p.m., at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth. Tickets are $10, available by clicking here. For more information about the national event, visit