Baltimore artists’ remount of the Talking Heads’ classic concert Stop Making Sense was like a booster shot. It rounded out a weekend stuffed with things to do, people to see, art to enjoy, the kind of weekend that reminded me about a few things I appreciate about this city: its citizens, its arts and culture, its solidarity, its capacity for criticality. On Saturday, I walked pretty much everywhere I went, from a memorable roundtable discussion with artists from Baltimore and Montreal whose work is on view in La Track/The Track at ICA Baltimore, to Terrault for Zachary Z. Handler’s affecting and nostalgic Zevel, to the opening of Karen Yasinsky’s show at Resort, to a karaoke fundraiser for the independent publication Baltimore Beat. Walking out of the Ottobar and into the night’s chill after Stop Making Sense, I felt thoroughly warmed. 

I don’t mean to sound cloying, talking about my spirits being lifted because of art—there are plenty of reasons none of us can really experience unmitigated joy in this hellworld and in the incredible city of Baltimore more specifically which is saturated with grief and trauma and pain. But art can offer, even momentarily, a window or a way out. And if you ask anyone who lives here what makes this city so great, they’ll probably tell you that it’s the people: it’s the community organizers and advocates fighting for better schools and lead abatement and affordable housing and safer streets and food access. It’s also the bevy of artists and writers and musicians and performers that make our art scenes—complicated and problem-wrought as they are, too—so dynamic and appealing.

So, prior to the show, I was heartened to interview musicians/producers Abby Becker and Rich Kolm about the 25-person-plus cast and production team putting on this remount of Stop Making Sense, and the decision to donate some of the shows’ profits to the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition, which advocates for people who are affected by the war on drugs and anti-sex work policies. (As one set of practices within a larger social justice movement, according to BHRC’s website, “Harm reduction recognizes that society, and the systems within it, have historically increased harm to people who use drugs or engage in sex work through oppressive policy and stigmatizing culture.”) 

I was happy to buy a ticket to support the artists putting on Stop Making Sense—they all received a stipend—and to support a small organization doing valuable and life-saving work in this city. I was delighted by literally every moment of the performance—from opener Kathleen Wilson’s vulnerable, solo “Psycho Killer” to Abby Becker’s glorious bellowing on “Heaven” to Landis Expandis as a high-rolling holy-roller making it rain upon the audience during “Once in a Lifetime” to Amy Reid’s lamp dancing and sweet-voiced “This Must Be the Place” and J. Pope’s funkified “Found a Job” and Eze Jackson’s quick-paced “Crosseyed and Painless.” And of course I just lost it when Sara Kryscio wove into Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” the chorus from Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy.”

The lighting and projections made excellent references the original show’s cool blues and hot reds, high-drama shadows, and word-salad text projections. Britt Olsen-Ecker and Melissa Wimbish took David Byrne’s famous “big suit” and made it sexy. Kat Zotti’s costume designs were inventive too—particularly the suit jacket cut in half and worn by backup dancers Marissa O’Guinn Dahl and Blair Hagan, who mirrored and entangled one another in movement during Quinton Randall’s generous and spiriting “Take Me to the River.”

The photos below, which capture much of this energy and spirit, were taken by Brian O’Doherty, courtesy of the photographer and of the show producers. (Rebekah Kirkman)

 

Rich Kolm and Abby Becker

Amy Reid

Bobby Harris Eze Jackson Corey Hennessey and JacQuan Knox

Landis ExpandisDanielle Robinette Marissa O’Guinn Dahl and Blair Hagan Quinton RandallRich KolmSarah DangerShawna PotterHunter HooliganJ Pope Melissa Wimbish and Britt Olsen-EckerGreg Bowen Harriet Smith, executive director of Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition

 

Stop Making Sense production team:
Rich Kolm – Music Director
Miriam Cummons – Stage Manager
Matthew Casella – Producer
Abby Becker – Producer
Joe Martin – Set Design
Chris Allen and Lighting Dragon Design – Lighting Design
Tom Ware – Sound Engineer
Jessica Keyes – Horn Arrangements
Shannon Light Hadley – Print Design
Kat Zotti – Costume Designer
John Bezark – Projection Designer
Core band:
Rich Kolm – bass
Landis Expandis – drums
Christie Macdonald – guitar
Patrick McMinn – synth
Trevor Shipley – keys
Jim Hannah – aux percussion
JacQuan Knox – backing vocals
Sara Kryscio – backing vocals
Sarah Doccolo – emcee
Set list / David Byrne(s) / Singers
Psycho Killer – Kathleen Wilson
Heaven – Abby Becker
Thank You for Sending Me an Angel – Sarah Danger
Found a Job – Sara Kryscio (Saturday), J Pope (Sunday)
Slippery People – Shawna Potter
Burning Down the House – Hunter Hooligan
Life During Wartime – Danielle Robinette
Making Flippy Floppy – Corey Hennessey
Swamp – Bobby Harris feat. Greg Bowen
What a Day That Was – JacQuan Knox
This Must Be the Place – Allison Clendaniel (Saturday), Amy Reid (Sunday)
Once in a Lifetime – Landis Expandis
Genius of Love – Sara Kryscio
Girlfriend is Better – Grace White & Glenna Urquhart of Domino (Saturday), Britt Olsen-Ecker and Melissa Wimbish (Sunday)
Take Me to the River – Quinton Randall
Crosseyed and Painless – Eze Jackson
Road to Nowhere – Christie Macdonald & Trevor Shipley
Horns:
Jessica Keyes – saxophone
Adam Schuman – trumpet
Sarah Manley – trombone

Dancers:
Marissa O’Guinn Dahl
Blair Hagan

Guest Instrumentalists:
Nick Jewett – guitar
Tony Kelly – accordion
Greg Bowen – drums & drumline
Dusty Peterson – drumline
Dan Taylor – drumline

 


Photography by Brian O’Doherty.