Big Star’s Third Live…And More

concert doco all-star show celebrate Big Star’s Third album AmericanaFest



Energetic pop/rock band Big Star formed in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1971.  Members were Alex ChiltonChris BellJody Stephens and Andy Hummel.  Even though they quickly became darlings of the critics and attracted a hard-core of followers, they never broke out of the ‘cult-status’ dome.  The group broke up in 1974, but reorganized with a new line-up nearly 20 years later.  Despite the lack of widespread acclaim at the time, the reputation of the band and its work has never diminished.


Big Star’s third album, Third (reissued later as Sister Lovers), was a radical departure from their earlier work and has been the subject of some stellar reviews citing its enormous influence on the wave of alternative rock that was to follow.  Written and recorded when the legendary band was primarily a studio project consisting of Chilton and Stephens, the Third album had never been performed in public with the original string and wind orchestrations.


That changed in December 2010 when an all-star band unearthed the original scores, assembled an orchestra and performed Big Star’s Third at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, North Carolina. Performers that night included Stephens (Big Star), Mike Mills (R.E.M.), Mitch Easter (Let’s Active), Chris Stamey (the dB’s), as well as members of Lost in the Trees, the Love Language, the Old Ceremony, Megafaun, Birds and Arrows, The Rosebuds and the North Carolina Symphony.

“The original written scores for the record were long missing,” Chris Stamey says. “But John Fry at Ardent Records was able to supply us with elements of the original multi-track tapes. Composer Carl Marsh, who wrote the ground-breaking charts for the original record, used these tapes to precisely re-transcribe his arrangements. And I’ve orchestrated anew some other elements of the recordings for the players, in order to recreate live some of the aleatoric studio effects. We’ve also been able to hear and match the inner workings of these glorious compositions in much greater detail this way. It’s been a fascinating process, and a real community adventure as well.”

Concert Documentary

Following the untimely death of front man Chilton only two days ahead of Big Star’s scheduled South By South West (SXSW) performance in 2010, performer friends came to play the gig in his honor.  A concert documentary film Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s Third Live…And More followed this year with a premiere at SXSW which features Stamey, Stephens, Mills, Ken Stringfellow, Sansone, Easter, Jon Auer, Jeff Tweedy, Robyn Hitchcock and the Kronos Quartet.

Live Screening and Performance at AmericanaFest 2017

On Monday, September 11 at 7 p.m. at the historic Belcourt Theatre in Nashville there will be an intimate screening of the concert documentary Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s Third Live…And More with a special Q&A with film director Benno Nelson and Big Star’s Jody Stephens and more will follow the screening.  This event is open to AmericanaFest conference registrants with an RSVP in advance.

The day following the film, you can catch the entire concert at the Cannery Ballroom starting at 6:30 p.m (September 12).  Performed for the first time in Nashville in its entirety, the event will feature original Third conductor Carl Marsh and core players including sole surviving Big Star member Jody Stephens along with Mike Mills, Mitch Easter, Chris Stamey and Pat Sansone.  This performance will be followed by a set of Big Star hits with many special musical guests.  This event is also open to conference registrants and wristband holders. 

Listening Through The Lens will be covering AmericanaFest.


concert doco all-star show celebrate Big Star’s Third album AmericanaFest


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Author: Rob Dickens

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