Anyone who loves Big Star’s music knows there’s a particular kind of pop songwriting power behind it; every member of that band, save Andy Hummel (only because I don’t think he wrote anything they recorded), had and has a great ear and talent for songwriting, and Alex Chilton was among the best there ever was. But Big Star had their interesting moments, too, and Third can be one of those moments; it is not an easy or peaceful album, it is strange and hard and beautiful in a dirty and fierce kind of way, sometimes. The releases of that album have been haphazard in naming and tracking, songs contained and songs left out, all these years, but last night at the Cradle, a bunch of musicians that I love took those songs and turned them into something even more powerful than Big Star’s songwriting at its best, something shivering and shuddering, heartbreaking and joyful.
It was basically a religious experience, for me. I stood two feet from Jody Stephens and five from Mike Mills. I stood in the audience and listened to Django Haskins wail out the violent, frightening and gorgeous “Holocaust” toward the end of the main set, and I cried a little off and on across the evening, and I grieved, again, for Alex, and Andy, and Chris Bell all those years ago, before I was even born, and I walked out lighter than I walked in. I got to say good-bye, in a way. I have been banged around by Alex’s death all year, never quite sure how to get past it, and this was it. This was a wake, and a celebration, and it was gorgeous and perfect.
So thank you to Chris Stamey, whose brainchild this whole thing was, and to Frank Heath, whose house we all stood and grieved and danced and sang in. To Jody Stephens, for still being here, for being funny and gracious and for writing “For You” and for still killing it behind the drums, and to Mitch Easter, still Chris’s partner in crime. To Ari, who is a genius, and to Mike Mills, who looks really good for an old guy. To all the musicians for making it happen. To Andy Hummel and Chris Bell, both of whom were gone too early. And thank you, thank you, thank you, to Alex Chilton, who changed my life in every way that’s good and amazing, and who wrote some of the most devastatingly perfect songs in the world. Thank you, friends.
More photos behind the jump.