Stranger-er Things (Uptown Renaissance, The Void House Band, Zack Be) @ Union Stage - 1/15/2018

One of the summer highlights in the DC area is the National Symphony Orchestra's live scoring of movies like Jurassic Park and Lord of the Rings. No matter what movie is playing behind them, the NSO is sure to faithfully recreate the music that made the movie so memorable. But for those with more adventurous tastes, College Park, MD-based label VoidLife Records has another take on live scoring. Three groups, all comprised of musicians from the DC area, were tasked with creating their own live score for three different cult favorites: Doctor Who, The Twilight Zone, and Twin Peaks. There were no faithful adaptations here: the results were as far out as the musicians' own output.

 Zack Be during his live scoring of an episode of Twin Peaks (Photo by Mauricio Castro /  @themauricio )

Zack Be during his live scoring of an episode of Twin Peaks (Photo by Mauricio Castro / @themauricio)

Uptown Renaissance, a band comprised of musicians from Nag Champa and Raygunomics, kicked off the night with a cosmic spin on the music of Doctor Who. Truthfully, Doctor Who was just the jumping-off point - those who know Jamal Gray and company know that they will always take listeners on a trip with their jazz and future soul-influenced sound. By the end, the extraterrestrial synths, frenetic drumming, and freestyling from Gray erased any indication that this was a Doctor Who-influenced score (aside from the episode playing in the backdrop), but it served as a great reminder that the area is brimming with creative musicians.

The Void House Band (members of Tomato Dodgers and Humbalaya) brought their funk/ska influences to the forefront in their scoring of The Twilight Zone’s “Time Enough at Last,” an episode about a book lover who is the last one alive after a hydrogen bomb explosion. Punctuated by heavy guitars and a band member who took on the role of the show’s omnipresent narrator, it was a high-energy affair and well-timed with climactic moments in the episode, sometimes to humorous effect. And, of course, the over-dramatic narration from the band was a necessity with a show like The Twilight Zone.

Zack Be and company took some more creative liberties with their live scoring of a Twin Peaks episode. He chose Part 8 of Twin Peaks: the Return, where they performed “She’s Gone Away” as Nine Inch Nails’ performance from the episode loomed in the background. But aside from the NIN cover, the music ranged from quiet contemplation to an extravagant wall of sound accentuated by Zack wildly flailing about on bass guitar and synths.

 The Void House Band during their live scoring of an episode of The Twilight Zone (Photo by Mauricio Castro /  @themauricio )

The Void House Band during their live scoring of an episode of The Twilight Zone (Photo by Mauricio Castro / @themauricio)

As the first event of its kind held by VoidLife Records, there may have been some confusion from concertgoers as to what kind of show this would be. No, there was no live scoring of Stranger Things. There was no NSO-like, note-for-note recreation of a live score either. But the show served as a nice entry point for those that want to get their DC music fix. A funk music lover who was in attendance for a live scoring of Twin Peaks might have left as a potential fan of Tomato Dodgers and Humbalaya because their musical take on The Twilight Zone was upbeat and up the audience member’s musical alley. And with the opening of new venues like Union Stage, there are more opportunities than ever for local bands to get more listeners. Pop culture-influenced performances like these could go a long way in connecting DC residents with the musicians living in their neck of the woods.

 

Photos by Mauricio Castro
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