Take Me to the River

stop making sense

More performance art than concert film, Stop Making Sense is something any Talking Heads fan should seek out. And if you made it to Silver Spring last night, the AFI was gracious enough to provide a free outdoor screening on a closed off Ellsworth Drive as part of their SilverDocs documentary film festival (in collaboration with the Discovery Channel). The location is across the street from the MLK fountain and midway between the Discovery Channel headquarters and the site that hosts the annual Silver Spring Jazz Festival.

The film was conceived and directed by Jonathan Demme in 1984, after seeing the Heads perform live at the Greek in LA.

The cinematic nature of their show inspired him to approach David Byrne and pitch his idea.

I forgot just how good the film and performance are after a 20 year hiatus. The street was packed with aging new wavers dancing and clapping and smiling with obvious enjoyment. Younger folks and kids also joined in. One man I met, an older blues musician who wasn’t familiar with the band and the film, seemed really intrigued when I explained some of the history of the group and the movie.

I saw the original the same year it was released in 1985, at the Downer Theatre in Milwaukee. It was the first concert film to use digital audio, and they did not hold back on the volume. Around the same time I was lucky enough to run into Jerry Harrison, a Milwaukee native. I had a nice chat with him over a few beers at the famous Hooligan’s Super Bar in the same neighborhood. After the Heads broke up, Jerry went on to produce records for such bands as the Violent Femmes (also from Milwaukee, the trio used to play on the street and were “discovered” by the Pretenders before a show they were invited to open for at the historic Oriental Theatre), along with the Foo Fighters, Crash Test Dummies, The Verve Pipe, No Doubt, and many others.

Follow-up releases of the film on DVD (and other formats no one uses anymore) include songs that were edited out of the original due to time constraints.

Fans of bassist Tina Weymouth should remember her spin-off band, the Tom Tom Club, which was a collaboration with her husband and Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz. They performed one song in the film, Genius of Love.

I almost forgot to mention the big suit, drop me in the water…

1 Comment so far

  1. Maia (unregistered) on June 15th, 2007 @ 7:28 am

    Yes, “Stop Making Sense” is one of the best concert films ever…I will have to check out the DVD.

    I was always sad “Heaven” didn’t make the album…a classic!

    Glad to hear it has stood the test of time.

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