Stop Making Sense in photos
As soon as we walked off stage, having finished our 2018 tribute to The Last Waltz, people were asking us what the show was gonna be next year. Having had a great night, raising thousands for Moveable Feast with ~25 musicians onstage in front of few hundred people at 2640, it was hard to say no.
We selected Stop Making Sense as the follow up because it fit a few things we were looking for. The Last Waltz doesn't exactly tell a story per se but there is a plot to it, most notably the finish with everyone coming back onstage to do "I Shall Be Released." Stop Making Sense presented a similar opportunity to tell a story through our production. It starts with a iconic cold open - David Byrne taking the stage to face a crowd of thousands expecting a full band rock show with only a guitar and a boombox. You get to then see the band and the stage built over the course of the show.
We built our band up in a similar way in our show, using curtain reveals and entrances from both backstage and the downstage left stairs at Ottobar to give a sense that it was coming together in front of the audience's eyes, building up the core band of instrumentalists over the first four songs and then adding backing vocalists, then horns, and then dancers to give a sense that the show was growing to a tremendous size.
What we added was that each song was led by a different singer. This for us was how we made the show about Baltimore - that we brought in a lot of the city's best and brightest from across a wide variety of genres to be together on one stage for one show. We wanted to tell the story of a city that's got fantastic scenes for rock, for hip hop, for punk, for indiepop; that this place and its artists have so much to offer and so much amazing breadth of skill in music & performance. The Talking Heads' music has a lot of different influences in it, and we wanted to have each singer take the songs and add their own flair to it. It's how Shawna Potter of War on Women made "Slippery People" punkier, how Eze Jackson made "Crosseyed and Painless" into a club banger, how Landis Expandis made "Once in a Lifetime" into some sort of insane pop rave-up. We made living music, made by breathing people, because we allowed the performers to breathe life into the songs and not just cover them.
It was super important to us to stage a diverse cast of artists for a number of reasons. Partially it makes the art better, and allows for more breadth in the performances. Partially it's about the communities of the city, and how we can use art to bring people together and break down barriers and create equity and understanding and love and support. I believe that there is a beautiful way of showing the ideals of the world we're trying to create in the largess and sometimes messy energy of a show like this at a place like Ottobar.
We also felt like working with the Talking Heads as source material gave us latitude in such a fun way. In a show with a dance with a lamp, a song played along with a boombox, and times when the lead singer runs laps around the stage, it felt like any element was allowable that heightened the immediacy and the energy of the performance. I said a bunch of times during the run up to the show "it's everything and the kitchen sink" and I think that we really lived that onstage.
Photos by Brian O'Doherty.
We filmed the Sunday night show with six cameras and took a 32 channel board recording, and a full high quality video of the performance is forthcoming.