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“Perfecting” The Moment

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 20, 2005 9:02PM

2005_10_fow.jpgLast week Fountains Of Wayne slipped into town to record an episode of the popular PBS (and Chicago-based) musical show Soundstage. Chicagoist hadn’t seen Fountains Of Wayne since they toured behind their Scratchie Records debut years ago, and our little brother had tickets, so we decided the show was worth checking out.

The first thing one should know about the Soundstage studios is that they are a bit chilly. And filled with lights. And cameras. And lots of people running from one end of the room to the other carrying clipboards in some oddly choreographed circle to nowhere. The show hadn’t even started and already we were entertained beyond belief!

The crowd was definitely comprised of a broad spectrum of ages which we are sure was a nod to the fact that the demographic the show is out to capture ranges in ages from 12 to 64 give or take one or two dozen years on either side of those figures. We did find it interesting that the front and center sections were built almost entirely of fresh-faced college students while the older folks were relegated to spaces further back and deeper in shadow. (Okay, we’re making the “shadow” bit up -- since there were so many lights we didn’t see a single shadow in the room – but we like the way it sounds, so there.)

When the band finally took the stage the crowd went so wild you would’ve thought the MC had just announced that Tom DeLay has been indicted for a third time. The energy level went up through the roof and stayed up…for about fifteen minutes when the band suddenly stopped so the crews could switch the videotape cartridges in the cameras. And everyone looked around in a bit of a haze until lead singer Chris Collingwood told the audience they could sit back down for a few minutes.

This brought up a paradox that Chicagoist still hasn’t been able to completely work out.

Rock and/or Roll shows are all about the moment, the buzz of the song, the adrenaline rush of the snare’s vibrations and the delirium that arises when one loses themselves in the song. Television shows, however, are structured affairs with logistics that must be constantly addressed as the production aims to capture the “perfect” version of just whatever it is that the program is dedicated to capturing. In the instance of Soundstage the crew is trying to capture an idealized portrait of a fleeting set of emotions whose existence is grounded primarily in a sense of momentum that can carry the senses toward abandon.

The show was solid enough. There were a few false starts and the band had an obvious case of nerves early on. The highlight of the show was a turbo-charged version of “Maureen” off their recent release of rarities and b-sides. Bassist Adam Schlesinger provided a number of funny stories during the set-breaks and was an inviting and engaging personality as he happily bounced around during the songs.

Surprisingly the low point was provided by the band’s biggest hit to date, the ode to MILFs the world over “Stacy’s Mom.” The band chugged through it with workmanlike precision the first time – yes, we said first – and then tried to do a little better for those perfection seeking producers later on in the show only to fuck it up again three-quarters of the way through. Personally Chicagoist would be fine never hearing that tune again and we suspect that the members of the band might feel similarly.

We are dying to see how they splice the song together in the finished “perfect” product of the shoot when the show finally airs though.