Monday, March 24, 2008


I would like to personally extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped to make last Saturdays show at the Vassar Theater a success. Special thanks to Bissonette Sound, Seth Payton and Stamp'd, Chuck Harrington, Aaron Lenk, Tim James, Lavel Jackson for recording the show and Gary Bredow with Big Bang Films. Also a huge thank you to Tim O'Brian at the Vassar Theater for all his unflinching support. I also would like to extend my love to my Brothers-In-Arms in THE PROCESS, Garrick, Bill and Gabe. To all of our friends, fans and family who made it out to the show, your support meant more to us than you could ever know. Much love to everyone, David

Monday, March 10, 2008

A marque-worthy return Sunday, March 09, 2008

A marque-worthy return Sunday, March 09, 2008

Several dates stand out in the history of the Vassar Theatre, an art-deco movie house that first opened its doors on Dec. 26, 1937.
For example, a mural painted on the lobby wall recreates the long lines waiting to see its first feature, Barbara Stanwyck in ''Stella Dallas.'' Flood waters in 1986 reached more than halfway up the movie screen in the theater dubbed ''The Jewel of the Thumb,'' though you wouldn't guess it today.
''I asked why anyone would build a theater at the lowest point of a town known to flood, and people told me that in 1937, that's where everything was happening,'' said owner Tim O'Brien. ''That was the place to be.''
And in 2005, about 15 years after he purchased the movie house at 104 E. Huron, O'Brien opened the doors on a fully renovated theater with the Tom Cruise sci-fi adventure, ''War of the Worlds.''
But for The Process' David Asher, the defining moment was a night in 1990 -- or was it 1991? -- when the newly formed rock-reggae band took its show to the Vassar Theatre stage.
On Saturday, March 22, he and bandmates Garrick Owen, Bill Heffelfinger and Gabe Gonzalez will return, with psychedelic films, more than 30 music-synchronized lasers, a pig head and lots of music. The band Stamp'd, along with Aaron Link and Jim Perkins, will open the show, which begins at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $6.
''We've stayed in touch, and it was over a few beers that we thought it would be fun to do again after all these years,'' O'Brien said of the homecoming. ''And this was one of those rare beer discussions where it still sounds good the next day. We're welcoming our hometown guys back to where it all began.''
The theater was built by Howard and Stanley Smith for $50,000, though most people today remember Harry Smith as the man who kept it in operation.
''When I was a kid, coming here for movies, the film would keep breaking, and we'd yell, 'Pedal faster, Harry, pedal faster,''' Asher remembered. ''It was 'Battle for the Planet of the Apes,' and the place was dingier, but it had the same clock and the same look.''
The theater, sitting at the very bottom of the hill in downtown Vassar, has gone through a number of changes since then, not all for the good. At one point, an owner even sold it to the city of Vassar for $1, long before it came into O'Brien's possession. O'Brien scheduled a few events, such as The Process concert 18 years ago, after buying it in 1990, but his Green Acres Cinema in Saginaw and the State Theatre in Bay City took up more of his attention.
Ultimately, it was the Vassar house that paid off, though he says he still regrets not bringing the State to its full potential. While not as opulent as the Temple or as versatile as the State, the 371-seat Vassar Theatre does have its own charm, from the vintage feel of the women's bathroom to Jerry Ragg's towering murals.
''Old theaters are always a work in progress,'' O'Brien said. ''Even when you're finished redoing everything, there's something that's ready to be done over again. It's a long and exhaustive process.'' The Process' show isn't likely to launch a string of live performances -- ''First-run films are our bread and butter,'' O'Brien said -- but it is part of a trend among theater owners, of finding ways to reach new audiences.
The Saginaw 8 in Kochville Township tapped into live broadcasts of performances from the Metropolitan Opera. Fashion Square Cinemas kept the box office hopping with concert films featuring Hannah Montana and U2. Cinema Hollywood in Birch Run hosts Battle-of-the-Bands competitions, coupled with first-run movies.
On the live front, Pit and Balcony Community Theatre is looking for ways to build on the recent crowd-pleasing tribute to ''The Last Waltz,'' featuring mid-Michigan musicians.
And the Temple Theatre in Saginaw and the State in Bay City have filled schedules with a blend of live performances and films both art and classic.
''It's the first time since we reopened that we've done anything like this,'' O'Brien said. ''We're not making any money on it, of course, but if the demand is there, the potential to do more is, too. This is a good way for us to gauge the interest.''
The Process comes with a long history as well.
''Bill, Garrick and I grew up together right on top of the hill in Vassar,'' Asher said. ''Bill and I used to play in a crib together, that's how far back we go. Garrick lived around the corner; he was seven years younger, but he had a sister, Patty, who was really good-looking, so we knew the family.''
The band, with its Rastafarian roots, soon emerged from its small-town beginnings, building an audience around mid-Michigan, and in time around the country and most recently in Europe. Gonzalez replaced original drummer Arik Aneszko, who moved to Chicago, but The Process is working its way toward its 20th anniversary relatively intact.
Seth Payton from Stamp'd is one watching The Process closely, hoping to achieve the same with his own band.
''We started so young, we never took our music seriously until we were too caught up in other things to pursue it,'' said Seth Payton from Stamp'd. ''We were 14; we were just bouncing around.'' ''Life happens,'' Asher agreed. ''You can't put your life on hold. The power will take you where you should be, the power that comes from God.
''We had a showcase once with Virgin Records, and I think today, the way a major label redesigns you, that we probably wouldn't be here today if we had signed.
''The Internet has been very good for us. It's made the world smaller. We can record from all over the globe, we can write music with people in London, we can get our music to people everywhere.''
And sometimes, Payton added, it's good to get back to your roots.
''I have the greatest admiration for The Process and the way the guys are sticking it out, doing things their way,'' O'Brien said. ''I'm glad they're coming back to where it began, too. They've really pulled it all together.''
Sue White covers entertainment for The Saginaw News. You may reach her at 776-9601.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Tim O'Brien and The Process Roll Out the Red Carpet at THE VASSAR THEATRE

Tim O'Brien and The Process Roll Out the Red Carpet at THE VASSAR THEATRE.
By Robert E. Martin, Photos by Rick Moreau, Band Photo: Gotts
As an aficionado of film, beauty, and the miraculous synthesis that occurs upon the silver screen when a film is viewed by a community within the wondrous walls of a restored movie palace, as opposed to the drab concrete walls of a multiplex, Tim O'Brien is decidedly in a class all his own.
A former owner of The State Theatre in Bay City and Green Acres Cinema in Saginaw, O'Brien purchased The Vassar Theatre back in 1990 with a dream of restoring it to its former glory.
After investing over $500,000 and well over 13 years of his life, O'Brien executed the restoration almost single-handedly and re-opened the theatre in November 2005, where it continues to run feature films weekly.
O'Brien believes that where you see a film is as important as the movie itself and apart from the restoration, he has seen that the venue is equipped with professional 35 mm film projection and premium Dolby Digital sound enhanced by four 18 inch JBL subwoofers and 14 surround speakers.
On Saturday, March 22nd, O'Brien will be hosting a different type of entertainment at the restored venue when he brings fellow Vassarites The Process into the theatre for a Live Concert at 7:00 PM with special guests Stamp'd for an 'all ages' show.
The Process will be filming their next live DVD 'Urban Guerrillas' at the venue and encourage everyone to become a part of history and experience the unique fusion of a 'Rock Reggae Implosion' and laser light show within the walls of this historic venue.
Recently I caught up with both Tim O'Brien and The Process' David Asher to discuss the significance of this unique fusion of performer, venue, and artistic vision.

Review: Having realized your dream of restoring such a grand old Dame' of a building to its original splendor, what does it feel like to walk through the doors each day?

O'Brien: I've been walking through these same doors for seventeen years during which time I've worn many different hats. At times I've been the designer/architect, carpenter, electrician, plumber, booth technician, dry waller and much more.
I'm now consumed with the day-to-day operations of the theatre, which doesn't leave much time to continue the restoration details that still need be addressed. When I walk through the doors on any give day, I see more work than time will allow. Of course at this point, I'd rather be selling movie tickets than sanding drywall.

Review: What's it feel like doing this show in your hometown of Vassar in this restored jewel of a theatre?

Asher: Well it is a dream venue. Tim O'Brien is a very determined man who made it his project to restore the theater over more than a dozen years. This is our first show in our hometown since our last show there in 1991. Bill Heffelfinger, Garrick Owen and I all are originally from Vassar. We have lots of friends and family I hope make it out to the show from all over!

Review: What is the most challenging component of keeping an entity like the Vassar Theatre going?

O'Brien: The biggest challenge is perhaps the same as for any small town business in a troubled economy: keeping the operation viable and competitive by offering products or services to meet your customers demands while maintaining a tight control over costs.
Unlike a restaurant whose menu may cater to many different tastes, a single screen movie theatre lives or dies according to the movie du jour. It is essential to offer a breadth of programming that is embraced by the community. It's always a challenge.

Review: Weapons of Mass Percussion was nominated for a Grammy and has received considerable attention. Do you consider it your most successful endeavor and what have The Process been up to lately? Are you back in the studio?

Asher: Weapons has been very successful but I think a lot of that has to do with the band reaching "critical mass" after nearly 20 years together. Of course all of the attention has been a great blessing. I really like all three of the albums we did with Gee Pierce producing. "Blood and Bones" has sold very well. I also like "Craven Dog" a lot and hope to reissue it again soon. "Weapons" is a very timely album, with a lot of spooky sound bytes from the so-called "War On Terror". It is a real departure in terms of the sound of the band, even though it is a remix project.
Receintly, we started out own pre-production studio and we will finish the tracks up with Gee Pierce in Saginaw. We have been working with a couple of different artists in London as well.

Review: How did that come about?

Asher: Well, such is the power of the Internet. One is an amazing female artist I met named Mikki who is helping out with vocals on our new single, due to be released later this year. Her parts for the single are being recorded in London. She is working on her first album, with Skip McDonald (Sugar Hill Gang, TackHead, Little Axe) producing.
We also wrote another song for the single with an incredible singer from London named Ghetto Priest. That man Ghetto Priest is so much what music needs right now to me. He does very diverse styles of music, from reggae to rock to hip hop and he tours all over Europe.We actually wrote a song together online, a duet called "The Lion Of Judah". It really turned out great. I had never worked in that way before and it felt very natural.

Review: Can you calibrate the success of the theatre since its restoration? Has it been financially successful and do you get a different form of appreciation from customers because of the work and dedication you've shown to the venue?

O'Brien: In defiance of the pundits that predicted our demise, I'm happy to say that the doors are still open and business continues to grow. Nobody gets into this business or stays in it that is not willing to live off of popcorn and peanut butter, but that's the only way it will work.
This is a different type of movie experience than can be had at the multiplex. People largely come here because of that difference. It is very gratifying when a customer returns to the theatre after many years and lights up when they describe their first date or first kiss here. One guy told me a childhood story about how the movie he was watching was interrupted so that the management could announce the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
I guess it is that history - that place in the local heritage that makes these theatres special.

Review: What is the significance of the Process event and do you anticipate doing more of these types of shows?

O'Brien: I hosted The Process first in a concert seventeen years ago when I first acquired the theatre. This is a sort of "homecoming" in that we're welcoming the band back on stage in their hometown theatre all these years later. It's interesting that we're still plying our respective crafts after all this time, although we've both benefited from the wisdom that can only come from experience.
I have an immense respect for David Asher and The Process for their passion and dedication to their music. Theirs has not been an easy road to travel, but their fresh original work continues to be recognized and appreciated in ever-larger circles. I hope that this event will help to advance that.
If this event is well received, I would certainly like to continue to explore the potential for more live entertainment and alternative programming in addition to film.

Asher: Well this is a very special show, as we are filming it for an upcoming DVD release. We have a very impressive laser light show with more than 30 lasers on a big truss and they all work together with the music. It is awesome. Plus we will be using our animated films, on the big screen, which we have not used in a long while. If all goes well, perhaps we will have the chance to bring other performers into the venue. I hope so.

Review: Having been involved in the theatre business for so long, what is your definition of a successful theatre'?

O'Brien: A successful theatre is one that continues to thrive - to entertain and enhance the culture of the community - while being self-sufficient.
Most of the old theatres are now transitioning into the public sector where they are "saved" by a 501c3 corporation comprised of people who know as much about restoring and running theatres as the local bump shop. These groups are often able to access millions in public and private monies, which finance huge restoration projects that would not be possible or practical in the private sector.
Volunteers and boards of directors who do not have a vested interest in the operation run these "community" theatres. In many cases, the theatres do not generate revenues sufficient to meet their overhead (especially where paid staff is employed) and continue to be dependent on private donations and tax dollars in the form of grants.
While none of this is a bad thing (and certainly better than the wrecking ball), it is vastly different operating a classic historic theatre in the private sector where those few that continue to exist, do so only because the owner/operator is willing to give much more than take. When people wax nostalgic about their childhood experiences seeing movies in their hometown theatre, I think this is what they have in mind.

Review; Any words to the fans?

Asher: Well I would love to thank them for the wonderful support they have given us through the last 17 or so years. Without them it would not have been possible to keep The Process going. I hope to see you all out at the show so I can tell you all in person how much we love you all!

More Pics of Vassar Theatre
Tickets for The Process Live in Concert at the Vassar Theatre are only $6.00.
The Vassar Theatre is located at 140 E. Huron in downtown Vassar.

For more details call the theatre at 989-823-4000 or go to

Thursday, March 06, 2008



"Wow. A picaunt mix of arena rock and Rasta.
Jamaican soul meets Anglo Strut and its good!
Cred alert: Drummer Gabe Gonzalez pounded behind George Clinton."

03/07/2008 08:00 PM - Hamtramck BLOWOUT ’08 Motor City Sports Bar 9122 Jos Campau Hamtramck, US
THE PROCESS takes the stage with Gabe Gonzalez’s Old School Detroit Funk D&B Ghetto Metal Unit ENEMY SQUAD celebrating a ten year re-union performing "The Blowout" also 2007 D.M.A. winner The Process which also features Gabe Gonzalez.The performance will be dedicated to Sean Tonak a.k.a.Ojibiwa