Live at Bumbershoot 2014, Day 2: Big Star’s Third

Bumbershoot, Live Reviews
all photos by Brittney Bollay

While we consider all our Bumbershoot Music Lounge sessions "special," there's something undeniably extra-special about this one. When main songwriter Alex Chilton passed away in 2010, followed shortly by the passing of founding bassist Andy Hummel the same year, most assumed we'd never hear from the legendary band Big Star ever again. (Co-songwriter Chris Bell had already sadly passed in 1978.) Formed in Memphis in 1971, Big Star only released a few albums in their short career, but their influence and legacy has gone on to span decades. A group of musicians, who grew up listening to Big Star, have since banded together to form this all-star band: Mike Mills (R.E.M.), Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow (The Posies), Mitch Easter (Let's Active), Chris Stamey (the dB's), and a very special Seattle guest, Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready. And behind the kit is the sole surviving founding member of Big Star, the inimitable Jody Stephens.

Using the moniker Big Star’s Third, this collective of fans have played very few shows since forming in 2010. KEXP is honored to host this gathering of amazing musicians for one of these rare performances.

The music lounge stage was a constantly rotating blur of talent for Big Star's set. After opening with Third classic "For You", Jody Stevens got off stage entirely and passed the torch off to keep the energy moving forward for "Take Care", led by Ken Stringfellow. The arrangements for "Nightime" and "Give Me Another Chance" could not have been more glorious, as the string quartet and bassoon were countered perfectly by slide guitar and endless vocal harmony. But everything stripped back for #1 Record classic "Thirteen", which got a simple duel vocal and guitar harmony that could take your breath away from a mile away (I can't wait to see what it sounds like on the Starbucks stage later). Jody returned for a rapturous rendition of "Blue Moon" before Jon and Ken returned to take us home on the timeless "I am The Cosmos" and "In The Street". From the beginning, Big Star's Third has been a heartfelt and moving celebration of a band and an album with an unforgettable effect on the world. But here in the music lounge, with the intimacy experienced here with this collection of phenomenal musicians, the sentiment was felt 10 times over.

If you're here at Bumbershoot, you can catch Big Star's Third at 8:00 PM at the Starbucks Stage, where the line-up will also include The Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli, Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws, Steve Berlin from Los Lobos, The Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn, and the Young Fresh Fellows/Minus 5/Baseball Project’s Scott McCaughey.

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