Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Dear Senators: Please join bands and fans in ‘Free Joel Bremer’ movement!

To: Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar
From: Citizen Jim Walsh
Re: Joel Bremer, Terrorist of Love
Date: Feb. 9, 2011

Dear Sen. Franken and Klobuchar:

Lord knows you’ve got enough on your plate, but I wouldn’t bother you with the following predicament if it wasn’t very important — politically significant, even — to me and a lot of other Minnesotans. Here’s the story, and I will keep it brief:

Our friend Joel Bremer is an extremely gifted fiddler who lives in Sweden. He visited here last year and fell in love with the Twin Cities’ original music community, and vice versa, and ever since he has served as the greatest ambassador for Minnesota music I’ve had the pleasure of being around. Seriously, he is a one-person state tourism department. Good energy, as they say.

I know I speak for many musicians, songwriters, writers, bartenders, music fans, etc., that Joel Bremer knows that music is special, and therefore he makes you feel special, like your work is important, like the madness that swirls around all this art and love and music is worthwhile and meaningful. He hugs you. He bugs you. He loves you. He inspires you.

Joel Bremer
Joel Bremer

(Read my testimonial to him in the Southwest Journal, watch him in action, and read songwriter/guitarist Jennifer Markey’s love letter to him.)

Here’s where you come in. Last month Joel tried to return to his home-away-from-home for another visit, but Homeland Security nailed him at the gates of Minneapolis-St. Paul International, because Joel confessed to having made $600 playing pick-up gigs during his last stay. Note: While there are plenty of professional musicians in Minnesota, many play mostly for the love of it, and the kind of money Joel Bremer made came from tips, and from musicians who insisted on paying him, on showing their appreciation for a job well done.

After grilling him for a few hours and turning him into a sweaty, nervous wreck, the officers escorted young Joel down the ramp like he was a terrorist, not the brilliant soul that he is, and put him on a plane back to Sweden. Sensitive artist that he is, Joel was mortified; he curled up in his room for a couple days.

In Minneapolis and St. Paul, from Palmer’s to the Aster Café to Kings and the 331 Club and Turf Club, the WELCOME HOME JOEL parties were scotched. People started talking about it on Facebook and, sure as hell, something amazing happened.

How do you say “revolution” in Swedish?

Markey and her longtime man Jonny Imperial joined forces with a bunch of other Bremer faithful to put together a killer benefit that happens Thursday at Palmer’s on the West Bank. The money goes to Joel, in hopes he can recoup his lost-mission plane fare and take away the sting of having had his apartment burglarized this week. A bunch of bands and songwriters are playing, there are “Free Joel” buttons and T-shirts being made on the spot, and it’s certain to be an atmosphere of memorable music and camaraderie. (See the “Free Joel Bremer” Facebook page.)

To put it bluntly, Senators, tomorrow night will be a great night, made greater by any news you can give us on how you might be able to help out, vis-à-vis when we get to see our friend again. You’re both invited to the gig; stop in and do “Walk Like an Egyptian” with St. Dominic’s Trio.

Lastly, please forgive me for the crassness of putting this letter in a column and not first going through proper channels to get it to you. To be sure, I’ll email a copy to both of your offices. But time is tight, and your attention to the matter would be a shot in the arm to a bunch of us this frigid February.

As I said, this may not be the most important thing going on in the world. But the “Free Joel Bremer” movement is something every artist or musician dreams about being part of, even just once, and it simultaneously mirrors everything that’s right and wrong with everything. Joel Bremer came here, played music, the universal language of love, and made a lot of people happy, sad, dance, drink. He made a lot of friends, and we want you to help us.

We have a dream: We want to play music with Joel Bremer on Valentine’s Day in Minneapolis. Can you help get him here and restore our fading faith in humanity and its governments?

Thanks in advance; people have the power, etc.

Jim Walsh

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Myrna Assange on 02/09/2011 - 12:11 pm.

    “This may not be the most important thing going on in the world.” There’s the understatement of the century, especially when one considers this musical “revolution” and cause can count only 213 members in its Facebook Group.
    Now, how about focusing our attention, efforts and fiscal and in-kind contributions on something really important? Or have such un-trendy conditions such as famine, hunger, racism, unemployment, war, domestic violence and poverty already been eliminated?

  2. Submitted by A. Schweitzer on 02/09/2011 - 02:05 pm.

    What are the growing risks to our freedoms that are illustrated by the dire plight of Mr. Bremer who was refused entry to the United States because he reportedly worked here illegally? Should we allow all undocumented and illegal workers from other countries to enter and work in our country at will?

  3. Submitted by A. Schweitzer on 02/09/2011 - 03:26 pm.

    Oh, now that I read carefully, I see that Mr. Bremer (a foreign national) “confessed to having made $600”, even though he was not legally authorized to work here in the United States. And by working here illegally, he risked losing his freedom to visit the United States, even though he could not recover his cost to come here.
    It really is a little thing – one that could be solved by opening our borders to anyone who promises to make $600 or less in wages or tips when visiting here.
    How dare our government enforce its rules and regulations and impinge upon its’ citizens personal freedoms in this way?

  4. Submitted by Jean Marie on 02/09/2011 - 04:44 pm.

    Wow. Trying to take the wind out of a group’s sails is really noble. Thanks for the attempt.

    Nope, not the most important thing going on in the world, but dammit, the guy was NOT HERE TO WORK. There is a mistake in this article; while Joel was here for 3 months last year, he made around $200. Well, that’s a good living. It’s for sure less than my weekly unemployment payments.

    Sweden is also part of the Visa Waiver Program; if you are from Sweden you do not need a visa to enter this country. Just FYI.

    Point: The guy was coming here as a tourist, because he loves it here, and because so many people here love him too. He’s not a terrorist and he’s not taking anything away from anyone. He spends money here, supports the local music scene, and takes all of his experiences back to Sweden with him. Maybe some of those Swedes will want to come and visit someday and take it all in the way Joel does every time he comes here! Wouldn’t that be great for the tourist industry!

    I think it’s a great cause and I, myself, will be there Thursday night. If you don’t think it’s a great cause, don’t come. It’s as easy as that. Oh yeah, just checked; wind still in sails.

  5. Submitted by Myrna Assange on 02/09/2011 - 09:15 pm.

    Is Mr. Bremer currently barred from entry into the United States for a certain length of time because he did not have a work visa during his previous stay when he worked and earned $600 (or was it $200) here?

  6. Submitted by Lisa Uhlig on 02/10/2011 - 06:24 pm.

    i just want joel, and everyone else to know that the lulu of minneapolis supports this effort. i understand that there are more pressing issues in this world. i understand that this issue has a lot of legal holes. we are just standing up for our friend. he made music and gave a mountain of love back to minneapolis.

    i know that there are all kinds of visa laws and other sticky situations entering this country, but just because they exist it does not make them right. patriot act? more like un-patriot.

    you are allowed to question these things everyday. even as the turmoil of the world surrounds you. and it always will.

    every fight has its’ place.

    i will be there tonight, even as turmoil surrounds us all, because joel is a good person and i love him. -lulu of minneapolis

Leave a Reply