The Talking Heads‘ Stop Making Sense was a hugely successful concert film that redefined the live music experience in the 1980′s. While the movie was released almost 30 years ago, the show leaves an impression that will always feel contemporary. I remember watching the film over and over when I was a teenager, trying to figure out why I loved it so much. It wasn’t until I started writing this article that I finally saw Stop Making Sense as a piece of interactive artwork meant to feel more like a theatrical performance than a concert.
The film is structured like a story or a play with specific props and reactive characters. While the script of Stop Making Sense is made up of Talking Heads songs, the film’s purpose was not to showcase their music, but to incorporate it into what was happening on stage. More than almost any other band, The Talking Heads understood the visual element to their music.
Enter This Must Be The Band.
Formed in 2007, this young group of musicians only plays Talking Heads music. While they mostly stick to all request shows, in 2010 they finally decided to tackle Stop Making Sense. The goal of the performance is to replicate the concert movie note for note, scene for scene. While they try to limit the differences between their recreation and the film, a precise replication will never be achieved, nor should it.
On November 9th, for the fourth year in a row, TMBTB recreated Stop Making Sense in their home town of Chicago. The concert begins with Charlie Otto walking out onto an empty stage looking like a sales man, only he carries a boombox in his hand instead of a briefcase. In a convincing manner, informs us he has a tape he wants to play.
Otto then sells his pitch with the song, “Psycho Killer”.
This is the first time we are introduced to our main character’s neurosis. David Byrne, the original front man of the Talking Heads, is extremely hard to capture and over the years Otto has learned to nail this persona. At certain points in the song he seems to have no control over his body and a nervous energy forms as he awkwardly twitches across the stage. As an observer, you can’t help but connect with whatever it is that is so strange about him.
The scene evolves over the course of the next six songs. Equipment gets wheeled out, the crew sets the stage piece by piece, and the cast takes their places. Building the scene as the show progresses gradually increases the energy emitting from the stage. It is quite a process before the whole band is finally all there for the powerhouse hit ”Burning Down the House”. This evolution of the scene and deliberate emphasis on execution is much more obvious in real life when compared to the film. The fact that the stage production seems simple is very intentional and it showcases the avant garde elements of the show.
While watching this all unfold, I found myself extremely sensitive to what was happening on stage. Facial expressions, the way the band moves, and the way they interact with each other were more impressionable in the live setting than on film. Vocalists Kasey Foster and Trawny Newsome danced in sync with each other and with the rest of the band throughout the show. While this also takes place in the movie, watching the synchronicity in real life pulled together all the members on stage into a unit. By the time TMBTB slammed into “Life During Wartime”, the whole band and most of the audience was running in place. And, just like that, everyone in the room became invested in this performance.
Throughout Stop Making Sense, our main character neurotically controls how the show unfolds like the ringmaster of a circus. The show then feels like it’s losing control when he exits the stage for the Tom Tom Club’s ”Genius of Love”. A spotlight creates a larger than life shadow on the stage’s backdrop when he finally reenters the scene for the set’s next tune; “Girlfriend is Better”. As he emerges to the front of the stage, we notice his morphed silhouette is actually the result of a costume change into an oversize suit. This iconic large suit makes his head appear small and exaggerates his presence on stage.
Part of the reason TMBTB’s Stop Making Sense recreation is so successful is because it captures the art of the situation, the complexity of human interaction and a sensitivity to what is happening on stage. These things can not be duplicated from one performance to the next and they are very difficult to capture on film because camera angles and edits cut out a lot of these elements. When the show is recreated, tiny details of how each scene was put together stand out loud and clear.
While This Must Be The Band pays close attention to all these details, it is impossible to recreate the energy of a performance, no matter how many variables are controlled. This is not a bad thing, in fact, this is what makes Stop Making Sense a memorable performance worth experiencing over and over again.
Stop Making Sense Photos
This is the story told by a girl who survived the Chicago Phish shows that took place in July of 2013.
I awoke Sunday morning feeling defeated. I sent a nasty text message to Sparkle Ass about her being a flake and it helped me feel a little better, but I couldn’t deny that this weekend was starting to kick my ass. Although my crash pad was convenient, I looked forward to sleeping in my comfy apartment in the middle of nowhere special.
This wasn’t fun anymore.
Let’s start at the beginning of this epic night. After a weird Chicago summer of never being really that hot, until one point when it was insanely hot, we finally reached the best-ever-summer-weather. Tribe and Umphrey’s played this Saturday at FirstMerit Pavilion (Northerly Island). Fun fact for non-Chicagoans… Northerly Island is an island that used to be an airport. One day many years ago former Mayor Daley decided to tear it up in the middle of the night – pilots had no idea… one night there were bulldozers tearing up the runway and the next morning there were planes looking for somewhere else to land. God, I love Chicago.
So, the plan started to conceive that there would be a nature park and concert venue on Northerly Island. Now, these are the facts as I assume to be true (you can actually read about this here) – but at some point it was decreed that there couldn’t be any permanent physical structure on the island, so the entire stage and risers are created in compliance with this, and can be taken down any time. This year, what used to be simply the floor area + risers opened up to have an entire lawn area behind it, which wasn’t used for this show but was packed for Phish a few weeks ago. It’s a gorgeous venue, you have the lake behind you and the skyline in front of you, and on this perfectly beautiful night, there was no better place to be.
Enough of the history lesson. STS9 went on at 7:00pm sharp, which for me was a little odd at first… I’d never seen Tribe that early in a night, while it was still light out, and I was still sober. Most of you Scampers must agree that it’s typically more of an “after midnight” experience. I loved experiencing it in this way… as more of an Umph fan myself, it really sold me on wanting to catch more STS9 exclusively. I have to particularly note the lights… of course, we all know that Umph is going to have an insane light show going on, but I must say that Tribe really was the stand-out! Their ability to create such a dynamic experience as the sun was setting was truly one of a kind. Stellar.
Set: This, Us > Squares & Cubes, Golden Gate, One A Day, Abcees, Vibyl, Simulator, Kabuki, Circus, Vapors, Be Nice, King Pharoah’s Tomb, Moon Socket, Scheme (confirmed @ http://www.thebarnpresents.com)
If I had to sum up Umphrey’s, I’d have to use the word “classic”. Not because they played a predictable set, but instead because of their Umph-like choices to mix classics & surprises in the perfect blend of excitement. Hitting the stage at 9:15, we knew they were only going to play one set, and boy did they make it worth it. As we moved from Bridgeless into Plunger the crowd really met that harmonic place of Umphrey’s love.
Speaking of, let’s have a sidebar about the crowd. Now, I had my cousin from Ohio in town, so I brought her and my sister along to the show. They’re great music lovers and were super excited, but probably would never have considered buying tickets on their own if I hadn’t made this the night’s plan. The quotes coming from an Umphrey’s virgin included “I can’t believe how nice this crowd is”, “Everyone is so friendly”, “I’ve never been to a concert this crowded where everyone was so happy!”. Good work, Umph fans… you always show a newcomer what it’s like to be a concert with a collective good vibe.
Let’s flash forward to the encore, because it warrants it’s own focus, particularly “Let’s Dance”. This was the 9th time they’ve played it, beginning with New Years Eve 2011 in St. Louis — it had never been played in Chicago. They brought up the boys from Tribe and kicked off the song, and the crowd went nuts. Everyone loves a good Umphrey’s dance party, and boy did we get one. I can’t imagine a better way to close out that night… Stasik absolutely killed it on that song. You could tell how much fun they were having on stage, so it was easy to mirror the energy. I give this night A+ for both STS9 and Umphrey’s… having a short amount of time to deal with given the 11pm hard stop in Chicago for outdoor venues, they more than made the journey worth our time.
Set: Le Blitz > Bridgeless > Plunger > Dear Lord > Plunger, No Diablo, Tribute to the Spinal Shaft -> Conduit, The Linear -> Bridgeless / Encore: 40′s Theme, Let’s Dance (confirmed @ http://www.thebarnpresents.com)
Pretty Lights’ newest album, A Color Map of the Sun, just dropped and let me be the first to say that this is one high quality, groove pumping, tastefully produced record. The progression of the album makes the listener feel like they are on a journey through the human condition, experiencing every emotion possible through their spiral down the rabbit hole.
This album was made for vinyl with vinyl produced by Pretty Lights. In fact, it comes with a whole extra disc of bonus material that is just that: The raw vinyl cuts that were used to produce the tracks found on Color Map. Each cut was orchestrated by Colorado’s very own home grown, Derek Vincent Smith, the mastermind behind Pretty Lights, who collaborated with dozens of musicians from around the country to produce one of his most soulful pieces of art to date. If you dig music, you better dig soul music, and A Color Map of the Sun smacks you across the face with soul.
The album’s first two tracks, “Color of My Soul” and “Press Pause” pack a soulful punch before Color Map really starts to throw down his bone moving grooves with “Let’s Get Busy.” The combination of both horns as strings brings layer upon layer of energy and purpose to almost every track on the album, yet the snap crackle pop of the vinyl brings the element of raw sound full circle.
While at times the album seems to lack the hip-hop references we are so used to hearing at a PL live show, it is almost as if A Color Map of the Sun is a nod to hip hop’s roots. In fact, too literal of a hip hop reference could have damaged the integrity of an album so full of raw musical expression. Pretty Lights seems determined to show the good, bad, and downright scary side of his musical aesthetic. ”Go Down Sunshine”, “So Bright”, and “Dead Wrong” explore the depths of PL’s dark side. On the other end of the spectrum, “Yellow Bird” and “One Day They’ll Know” have a more relaxed, ethereal sound that seems to provide balance to the album. It takes guts to express these types of musical emotions and it is definitely not commonplace within this genre of music.
As with all of Pretty Lights tracks, you can download the entire album for free or it can be purchased through iTunes or Prettylightsmusic.com. As an independent artist, he has found great success by making his music available to everyone for free over the years (with only the suggestion of donation.) In order to provide a bit more incentive for fans to pay, PL is offering a variety pack of goodies in order to entice fans to open their checkbooks. Color Map vinyls, pins, t-shirts, bonus tracks, and a neat little book all about the album have nearly all sold out through pre order. Luckily, there is more swag being produced and record stores are currently stocking their shelves with LP, but I am sure they won’t last long.
PL made a sweet little video on the making of A Color Map of the Sun you can check out here!!!
The PL YouTube channel also has music videos for every track on the album, along with visual art to emphasize the overall concept that is “Pretty Lights.” Check out the playlist here.
Friday night walking to the first Umphreys set I saw my shoes came untied. Since I was excited to get to the show I made the rash decision to wait and tie it once I got there (I like to live on the edge). A little later down the trail I ran into a group of girls that I started to chat with. It wasn’t long at all before they noticed my shoestrings and decided they needed to inform me of my situation, like i couldn’t see it. So sarcastically I tell them that I never learned to tie my shoes. I said that I thought shoestrings were just a fad and eventually everyone will move to Velcro. Velcro is obviously the better choice. These girls ate it up, the closest one bent down and tied my shoes for me while reciting, “See? You do the loop d loop and pull.” I just stood there flabbergasted. Never in my life have I witnessed such kindness paired with such cluelessness. I never even ended up coming clean about it. I think she must have figured it out by now though….right? The story would be so much more funny if she found out by reading this. I hope you are reading this shoe tying girl from Louisiana .
Friday was crazy day of running around and settling into our new homes for the weekend. I met a lot of AMAZING people, saw some great shows, enjoyed a refreshing cocktail or two, and danced my booty off. I am excited for another day of absorbing all that my favorite fest has to offer and sharing with my festival family.
Wow! The weekend we have all been anxiously awaiting for has arrived. It has been a crazy ride so far, and the festival hasn’t even started. I’m so excited to have been named the 2013 Summer Camp Counselor! It is honestly an honor to be the third ever! The other CIT’s, Carmel, Alex, Sean, Woody, Eric and Brad, all gave me a fun fight to earn the title, and I’m very proud to rage with them in this family we call the counselors! I also wanted to give a shout out to my family and friends who helped support my campaign and believed I could do it! I’m even more proud to be raging with many of them this weekend.
Lets be honest.This line up is sick sick and SICK! Every single time that I logged into Facebook since November, I made it a point to go right to Summer Camp’s page to see if any more amazing artists would be announced, and every time I didn’t think it could get any better, it did. Summer Camp clearly knows how to put on a stellar line up each and every year with no signs of slowing down in the future. There are so many artists that I’m looking forward to. Starting off right from the beginning, giving us MOE and UMPHREY’S 3 days is a staple of Summer Camp. You don’t even have to know the rest of the line up to want to come to Summer Camp. That’s enough to get us all in our car traveling with our friends with that amazing May wind blowing in our face blasting some pre-camp music! I love the open road, and the 12 hour drive from the chicken wing capital of Buffalo was refreshing. Thinking of this line up gets me more pumped up then when I was a little dude on christmas morning! I mean, who isn’t PUMPED for 2 FULL sets up Trey Anastasio Band?! I don’t think there will be anyone not smiling from ear to ear during both sets ( let alone the whole weekend ). I’m also super excited for STS9, Yonder Mountain String Band, UV Hippo, Gramatik, and of course coming from my hometown of Buffalo, NY, Aqueous. Do NOT miss Aqueous at 11 AM Sunday at the Campfire Stage! These dudes seriously bring it! Who am I kidding though? I’m excited for this whole line up! It’s really hard to just name a few. I’m smiling just typing this out thinking about the late nights as well. There is so much going on it’s going to be one glorious adventure which I can NOT wait to spend with each and every one of you! Don’t forget, we are all one big family… Look out for each other. Lets make this a safe weekend that will be unforgettable.
See you guys soon!
Kyle Hess 2013 Summer Camp Counselor
Well here I am again in beautiful Chillicothe, IL.
After 9 years of coming to Summer Camp, Three Sisters Park definitely feels like home. This year I have about 30 people in my crew, I’ve been friends with many of these people since High School, most have been to Summer Camp over 5 times and we even have a handful of Summer Camp virgins. The beauty of Summer Camp is we can act ridiculous without having to think about grown up problems back at home, it’s like being a kid again.
Needless to say, setting up our campsite is quite a task when you have so many people. Luckily, this isn’t my first Summer Camp. I am practically a pro at planning and organizing the dopest campsites and this year was no exception. I was able to choose the most perfect spot right off the path in the woods. Part of being a CIT allows me to enter the camp grounds early on Wednesday to scope out the scene and plan the best spot to call home for the weekend.
Once my crew was able to meet up with me and all the essentials were up, we were finally able to crack open a beer and head to our first show of the weekend… Umphrey’s soundcheck It was awesome to see over a hundred people to show up just for a soundcheck!
After meeting all the rest of the CIT’s I headed on over the VIP tent for the 312 Welcoming party. This was a great opportunity to kick back on some recliners and watch a little bit of the Hawks game, which they projected on the ceiling of the tent. I concluded at this time that this might be the most baller spot to hang out at camp.
On our way back to the Starshine stage to catch Cornmeal a very friendly gentleman gave us a ride on his mustache mobile.
Cornmeal was something special. Tons of people were at this set to see one of their favorite bands play one of their last shows with their current lineup. I met some wonderful fans that shared some mixed emotions about seeing these last shows with Allie Krall. I met a wonderful woman named Audrey who wanted to be the official Summer Camp Mom. She definitely has my vote!
Yesterday’s pre-party had a variety pack of music that got me really pumped for the rest of the weekend. My favorite part about the pre-party is the local Midwest flavor that breaks in our dancing shoes and helps us practice our dance moves.
Thursday’s pre-party provided the perfect opportunity to loosen my bones and get my dance moves down pat. It was a long, grueling afternoon, hauling all of our gear from the lot to our campsite, but well worth it. Our site is perfect, we have excellent neighbors and we even got to catch some amazing music. And that was just the pre-party!
Year after year moe. and Umphrey’s McGee have anchored Summer Camp’s schedule, but the addition of Trey Band has made this year’s lineup one of the most scene oriented to date, not to mention Yonder, Keller, STS9, plus Medeski, Martin, and Wood. The only other bands that could possibly fall into this topnotch jamband echelon would be Cheese or Bisco, so the good people at Summer Camp HQ decided that EOTO and Conspirator would have to fill that void. I have seen all these acts multiple times, most of them at Summer Camp, and they are the reason I fell in love with the scene so many years ago.
In case you are living under a rock, Cornmeal’s Saturday show will be one of the most talked about sets of the weekend. Their fiddler, Allie Kral, has announced that this will be her last show as a member of Cornmeal. This band has been a staple at Summer Camp for almost a decade and many Scampers, like myself, have completely fallen in love Allie over the years. Even though this is not the last we will hear from Cornmeal or Allie, for that matter, this set is bound to be a tear jerker for many a fan.
This lineup contains at least a dozen other bands that make me dance, but in all honesty, I return to Summer Camp every year because I’m an Umphreak. Summer Camp provides 6 sets of Umph, a handful of side projects, plus sit-ins that make Memorial Day Weekend UMforgettable. My first Umphrey’s show was at Summer Camp in 2004, so I guess it is only perfect that I will be celebrating my 75th Umph show at Summer Camp 2013. I’m predicting a few new songs, maybe a new cover, and a ridiculous light rig that will bring facemelt to a whole other level. Prepare to get your minds blown people!
Now for my Sunday variety pack…..
Both electronic and jamband fans will enjoy the way DJnoDJ fuses these two genres by layering their talents in order to duplicate our most beloved tracks. If I still have enough fuel left in my tank early Monday morning, this is where you will find me.Needless to say, I can’t wait to experience Summer Camp as a CIT! I guess it’s my job to remind my fellow campers to be safe, stay hydrated, and see as much music as possible because this year’s lineup is INSANE! With that being said, hollar at your CIT if you see me around! I love making new friends, especially at Summer Camp!
This Must be the Band just came through Colorado and boy was it a treat. Don’t miss them at the Soulshine Tent, 1am Monday morning, the only way to bring this festival to a close. Click HERE to check out my video blog on them!