The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Des Moines artist B. John Burns plays tribute concert for Bill Sackter

Singer-songwriter B. John Burns played a benefit concert at Old Brick for KICI-LP Radio and its parent organization, the Extend the Dream Foundation.
Ava Goldsmith
John Burns III during his songwriters concert at the Old Brick in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023.

Old Brick on East Market Street echoed with the sound of acoustic guitar chords and rich piano harmonies. Beneath warm lights and a vaulted ceiling, singer-songwriter B. John Burns sang several original songs based on poignant moments in his life in a performance Sept. 9.

The Des Moines-area artist played a 90-minute concert to benefit KICI-LP Radio and its parent organization, the Extend the Dream Foundation. This event was Burns’ first performance at Old Brick, but he has performed in Iowa City many times throughout his life.

About 12 years ago, Burns began playing music at Wild Bill’s Coffee Shop in the University of Iowa’s North Hall twice a week. He met the owner, Bill Sackter, while attending the UI to study criminal law.

Sackter became a citizen of Iowa City when filmmaker Barry Morrow and his wife befriended him in Minnesota and brought him to Iowa City. Sackter was diagnosed as intellectually disabled, and his process of institutional rehabilitation was the subject of Morrow’s 1981 ABC movie “Bill.”

The Extend the Dream Foundation was established in Sackter’s memory after he passed away in 1983. The foundation is focused on providing services and a place of support for people with disabilities in Iowa City.

The foundation sponsored the broadcasting of KICI-LP to the Iowa City area in 2018. The station focuses on music from local artists, information about local affairs, and entertaining programs of all varieties. Its slogan, “Low Volume, High Impact,” reflects its commitment to extensive local programming.

Burns took to the stage at about 7:30 p.m., a table adorned with his self-published law books between him and the small yet intimate audience. He began his set on the acoustic guitar and frequently switched off with a keyboard between songs.

The first song that filled the space was about the closing of Wild Bill’s, affectionately nicknamed Uptown Bill’s. It was slow and mournful, setting the tone for the reflective evening ahead.

Burns has been featured on KICI-LP several times before and was honored to help the station gain recognition.

“Someday, maybe we’ll get Uptown Bill’s back, and we want to keep KICI alive,” Burns said. “They play two hours of regional and local music every day of the week. I did play more on there than any other place put together. So I want to reward them.”

The mood lifted slightly with the next couple of upbeat songs. Burns introduced each piece with an anecdote that made the performance personal. Every song was short and sweet, feeling more like a moment captured in time.

Burns brought a comedic element to his show, jokingly playing off mistakes, calling out people in the audience, and sharing humorous stories. The event felt less like a concert and more like a conversation with an old friend.

Sally Peck, a lawyer and longtime friend of Burns, attended the event after seeing an advertisement for it in West Branch.

“I really enjoyed it. [The songs] definitely were insightful,” Peck said. “They spoke to a lot of experiences in life.”

The benefit show shed light on the Old Brick venue, which has its own rich history. Originally built as a church in 1856, the building is one of the few surviving local structures dating back to the Civil War. It was placed on the National Registrar in 1973.

The building now hosts offices for multiple nonprofit programs and can be rented out by student organizations and community members.

RELATED: Uptown Bill’s, a community for all abilities, in danger of closing

Not only did the benefit show bring attention to KICI and the Old Brick, but it also recognized the Extend the Dream Foundation, which has been struggling to survive since Wild Bill’s was demolished.

Holly Hart is the program coordinator and event organizer for Iowa Shares and shared her thoughts on the future of Extend the Dream.

“Right now, Extend the Dream is just kind of hanging on to see if there’s been interest in reopening again, and there have been a couple ideas,” Hart said. “And the question will be whether people want to undergo a real capital campaign to really see if there’s a place where we could actually go into and afford or not, but that’s kind of where we’re at. We really want to have this.”

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About the Contributor
Stella Shipman
Stella Shipman, Arts Editor
Stella Shipman is a junior undergraduate at the University of Iowa majoring in English and Creative Writing and minoring in Cinema. A former Arts Reporter, she loves reviewing shows and covering musical performances. She hopes to encourage more students to engage in the vibrant arts community of Iowa City. This is her second year working at The Daily Iowan.