This is NOT Spinal Tap
This is a play about a band. A real-fake band, or maybe a real-real band, but a band nonetheless. A band called The Rising Fallen, featuring members of New York City’s own (even though they hail from San Francisco) Banana Bag & Bodice. You’re used to Banana Bag and Bodice acting on stage, but this time, they both act and play instruments. And they do it very well. But make no mistake: they are not acting at being musicians, they are actually playing music that you are actually listening to as though you were at a real concert. And it is a concert. Right, guys? It’s just that it’s a concert with a story. And the story part is the fiction, but the concert part is not. And combined it makes for a dream come true. Go see it. It’s playing at PS122 until May 12th.
And read on, if you’re so inclined. I grew up wanting to be a rock star before I wanted to make theater. Before I heard the word “meta” (and many of you may curse the day I did) or even “emo,” I heard my own fears and questions and joys in the music and lyrics of the bands I loved, and I felt comforted by the fact that someone else felt the same way I did. And it was then that I realized that art, above all else, was a medium of communication. It was a way of communicating the private to the public and back again. And now that I’ve actually read a little Arendt and cut all my hair off, I too-often forget that before I had critical theory to keep me warm, I had the Rolling Stones and Weezer and Joni Mitchell.
During the The Rise and Fall… I found myself forming an attachment to this band, as I have to all the bands I’ve admired in my life. The story -part tells of their trajectory from being young and wild and dirty, to being hot and famous, to being frustrated and self-indulgent. And as the band’s status changed throughout the story, so too did my relationship to them. At first I felt like I was one of them, and then I exalted them, and then I hated them. I mean they totally sold-out, they totally stopped caring about me, their songs got so long and boring. But then I remembered: this is a fake story about a real band. And I am supposed to feel this way because that is where we are in the story – the part where they get fat and boring. And then the show ended, with Rod Hipskind (as Westie) stating the music and the performance is the band’s gift to you (the audience) and you will thank them for it. I am thanking them, publicly, right now, for making a highly entertaining, unapologetic piece of performance that reminded me of how I used to want to be a rock star, and that I still can be. With the exception of Casey Opstad, everyone else learned to play their instruments inside of four months while they were also building the show and forming the band. Incredible? Fuck yeah. Impossible? Obviously not.
This isn’t a play whose point is for you to fall in love with the protagonist – this a play whose point is for you stamp your feet and sing-a-long and then get mad because your idols disappoint you. But maybe they never asked to be your idols in the first place? Maybe you just decided that, and you should try being your own idol for a while. Or maybe you should just see the show, and have a good time pretending that Peter Bloomquist means YOU when he talks about the dog on the way to the tilt-a-whirl and screaming like you haven’t in a long time every time they finish a song. It is partly a concert after all, and you should just have a good time partying because it’s not going to be that way forever, but it’s going to be great while it is.