FERNDALE — AJ’s Café recently celebrated its official crowning as the world record holder for the longest continuous concert. Again.
On Dec. 29, owner A.J. O’Neil held a ceremony in honor of the recognition from Guinness World Records that his café’s 360-hour Assembly Line Concert: Third Shift had reclaimed its title. O’Neil was thrilled to see about 100 guests turn out for a special open mic night, during which patrons received a certificate announcing the new record.
“Everything went fantastic,” O’Neil said. “It was the culmination of an amazing grass-roots effort, and we were lucky enough to take back the record once again. I’m glad that we had so many people come out and celebrate with us.”
The Assembly Line Concert: Third Shift was a musical tribute held from March 19 to April 3 last year in support of blue-collar workers and community organizations. It was designed as a demonstration against U.S. companies that ship their jobs overseas, as well as last year’s protests in Wisconsin for union workers’ bargaining rights. Each day of the concert was dedicated to different types of employees or organizations, including United Auto Workers members, public school teachers, the FernCare Free Clinic, Community Living Services and women in the workplace.
“I saw this as a natural evolution from fighting for the Big Three and Detroit auto workers to fighting for local community groups and other hardworking people,” said O’Neil, who recently decided to run for Congress as a Democrat in Michigan’s 12th District. “We were taking a stand for the interests of people right here on ‘main street,’ rather than those on Wall Street.”
The marathon concert featured nonstop music from a cast of hundreds of local musicians. Not only did it carry on for 15 straight days, but it even managed to survive a small fire that led to the evacuation of AJ’s Café in the middle of the night. After the fire was extinguished, musicians continued playing outside in the frigid temperatures for about 10 hours while the Fire Department inspected the building.
The first Assembly Line Concert, held in 2009, achieved the previous world record of 288 hours. One year later, O’Neil held a Second Shift concert, which earned a new record after hitting the 313-hour mark. That effort was eclipsed a few months later by an Atlanta, Ga., pizzeria, which reached 343 hours, before the Third Shift concert brought the record back to Ferndale with 360 hours.
O’Neil said that this particular assembly line has likely reached its end, however. While he enjoys putting on the marathon each year, he knows that it would be a monumental task to try to keep topping his own world record. He also believes that the concerts have made their point, and now he hopes to carry on that message with his bid for Congress.
“I get probably 20 calls a week from people asking me to do an overtime concert (this year),” O’Neil said. “There’s been a huge demand for it. But since we’ve already done the first, second and third shifts, I decided that it was best to retire it to the history books.”