Heart Byrne Recreate the Thrill of Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense
Tonight, the Granada Theater stage will play host to two very distinct conventions of typical performance abandonment. One will be intricately oddball. The other will revisit a quintessential performance by one of the most revered and unapologetically adorable new-wave bands of the '80s. The rare occurrence of witnessing, nay, experiencing, two aspects of performance art on the same night will titillate your inner theater-goer senses. And there will be good music too.
Headlining will be Heart Byrne, the Austin-based Talking Heads tribute band that's a humble living snapshot of the Stop Making Sense concert film that was released 30 years ago.
And then there's Dallas' own offbeat oddity, George Quartz, who's no stranger to stepping into a quirky offbeat character and engaging audiences in overly enjoyable theatrics.
It's a pairing made in campy concert heaven.
It seems a lot of Talking Heads fans share one thing in common these days: they were born a decade or two too late. For whatever reason, David Byrne and company seem to have enjoyed a plethora of post-career success, leaving many of those green-behind-the-eared Byrne-heads to rely on YouTube videos and concert footage in order to witness their performances when they were at the height of their career.
"I think everyone in the band was impacted by Stop Making Sense as a concert film," says keyboardist Dustin Bozarth. "It just has a cohesiveness that seems to present Talking Heads in its most quintessential form."
Sure, David Byrne still performs, but Heart Byrne attempts to reel in the revelry of yore, sans a time machine but by the next best convention: costumes, carefully rehearsed tunes and acting out the band's familiar stage presence and groovy ambiance. This is what sets them apart from other tribute bands. Like a Civil War reenactment battle rather than just history buffs in costume, recreation takes precedence over song reproduction.
Andy Harn takes the helm as Mr. Byrne, and took the actor's approach when preparing to portray characters in film, studying his performance antics and mannerisms.
"I figured that to do this tribute project right and stay true to the original band, it would take a high level of attention to detail," says Harn. "Recreating DB is the main focus of the band, and bringing his essence to life is crucial. Fortunately for me, I'm naturally lanky and awkward."
Heart Byrne has garnered modest success in Austin, due in part to not only the (mostly) universal appeal of the Talking Heads but also the chemistry within the group. Their tribute to Byrne's alienating yet abstractly relatable music began in 2011 in a Talking Heads "Hoot Night" with other local Austin bands, before morphing into an actual band. They take their rehearsals seriously, wanting to do the Heads' music justice.
"We're also interested in getting inside these tunes, dissecting the parts and figuring out where these people were coming from as songwriters and performers," says bassist Evan Bozarth. "It's fun and educational to us, and hopefully some of that magic rubs off or finds its way into our own musical output down the line."
"We don't perform a straight reenactment of SMS, but we do draw heavily from that period for our staging, lighting, projection, and many of the song arrangements," says Evan Bozarth.
Also, Harn does a pretty impressive Byrne impersonation. He proverbially shakes the dust off Byrne's iconic silvered suit and dons it while tapping the well from those signature dance moves. One suspects Byrne would approve, too: as he states in his 2012 book, How Music Works, theatricality in performance isn't a bad thing. After observing various ritualistic and religious performances around the world, Byrne recalls deciding that maybe it was okay to wear costumes and put on a show. "It didn't imply insincerity at all," he writes. "In fact, this kind of practiced performance was all around, if one only looked at it."
Between Heart Byrne's playful Heads recreation and George Quartz's downright playful whimsicality, this is no more a concert than it is thespian art. Since most of us probably missed the Talking Heads' last Dallas stop, over 30 years ago, it's an entertaining notion that we can arrive this late to the ball but still get to dance.
HEART BYRNE play with George Quartz at 8 p.m. tonight, Friday, May 23, at Granada Theater, 3524 Greenville Ave., $15-$30