Recap: Time stands still with Music of Beach Boys at the Grand Rapids Symphony's Picnic Pops

By Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk

The Beach Boys, for more than 50 years, have been delighting fans with the sounds of surf, sand and endless summer.

Papa Doo Run Run has been at it for almost as long. In fact, one could argue they’re poised to outlast the Beach Boys.

Five years to the day after they last appeared with the Grand Rapids Symphony at Cannonsburg Ski Area, the surf-rock band from California returned to the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops with the Music of the Beach Boys.

Plenty has happened in the world over the past five years. But time stands still when you’re listening to songs by the Beach Boys.

GR Symphony Picnic Pops - Music of Beach Boys

Fun, fun, fun was happening with couples dancing in the aisles, beach balls flying through the air, and the audience singing along on songs such as “Help Me Rhonda.”

Surf wasn’t up but umbrellas were. But rainy weather didn’t stop the show with some 2,400 in the audience for opening night on Thursday, July 28.

Plenty of the Beach Boys’ biggest hits – “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Get Around” and “Surfin’ Safari” – filled the program, plus a few less familiar tunes such as “Do it Again.”

Beginning with “California Girls,” which opened the show a good 23 songs plus two encores kept the audience entertained for the third week of the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops.

All six members of Papa Doo Run Run sing, some better than others.

Several songs, such as “God Only Knows,” were accompanied by the Grand Rapids Symphony under associate conductor John Varineau. Many songs were Papa Doo Run Run alone.

For that matter, not everything was by the Beach Boys. Music by Delltones and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons were part of the show that ended with “Devil with the Blue Dress” by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.

Chantays’ “Pipeline,” with a monster guitar solo by Bobby “G” Gother, was a big hit.

Papa Doo Run Run, which hails from Cupertino, didn’t enjoy the same success the Beach Boys did. They didn’t have Brian Wilson writing songs for them.

On the other hand, the band’s pedigree as practitioners of surf rock is unimpeachable. The band toured with Jan & Dean in the 1970s and spent 15 years at the house band at Disneyland in California. Founding member, keyboardist and vocalist Don Zirilli, still is on the bandstand.

The current lineup includes Randell Kirsch on bass, who first was a member of Papa Doo Run Run, then sent 11 years touring with the Beach Boys, and now is back with Papa.

Guitarist Adrian Baker can top that. He spent 20 years with Beach Boys, and before that toured with Frankie Valli and the Four Season.

The show was full of unexpected surprises such as “God Only Knows” seguing into The Beatles’ “The Love You Take.”

None more so than guitarist Bobby “G” Gother singing the lyrics to The Who’s “Pin Ball Wizard” to the music of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” including its original guitar solo. It was a mashup that was wickedly funny and well done.

The Grand Rapids Symphony opened both halves with orchestra numbers.

Robert Wendel’s “Tall Ships,” an epic extravaganza, paints a cinematic picture of waves crashing over the bows of wooden sailing ships as sailor sing sea chanteys as they battle the elements. Very evocative in Varineau’s hands.

The second half opened with a suite from Erich Korngold’s “The Sea Hawk,” the 1940 film starring Errol Flynn as an English privateer, defending England on the eve of the Spanish Armada.

It’s music that not only sets the scene for an adventure on the high seas, it also expresses the romanticism of summer in Michigan.

Who could ask for anything more?


Posted by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk at 12:00
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