Monday, October 19, 2020

David and Lola

When ‘Becca’lise and I started the adoption process, one of the first things I did was make a playlist. I was dead-set against committing myself to years of "Baby Shark" and whatever this generation’s incarnation of The Wiggles is called. I ended up with a list of about 300 songs with catchy hooks and zero profanity. A cornerstone of this playlist is songs by both David Byrne and Talking Heads.

Talking Heads are an ideal band for small children. The beats are infectious and the lyrics are simple. When they sing about “buildings and food” they are singing about things your child sees every day. They’re also a great way to introduce your little one to avant-garde music, theatre, and film.

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Ever since we got Lola as a little, giggling four-month-old, she has had the urge to move to music. Before she could even crawl she would bop around to whatever ‘Becca’lise and I would play around her. Even moreso once she learned to walk.

Once she was up and moving we started showing her clips from musicals and ballets. We were amazed at how well she could mimic the choreography of stuff as diverse as the "Rich Man’s Frug" sequence of Sweet Charity and clips of Maya Deren.

Eventually I stated showing her some music videos. One that really really caught her attention was the Talking Heads video for "Wild Wild Life". Next came the animated video for "And She Was". Before you knew it, we’d made our way to the Jonathan Demme concert film Stop Making Sense.

Watching that show get built, musician by musician is mesmerizing. First there is just David with his guitar and boom box. Then there’s Tina. And before you know it there’s a full band, and additional instrumentalists, and additional vocalists, and dancers. And those screen projections! And the big suit! You're sort of surprised when you notice that you’re also jogging along to "Life During Wartime"! Lola gets a kick out of how sweaty everyone gets.

A few months after that lone viewing, Lola asked me if we could watch, “David dance with the lamp”. Her memory astounds me. Of course I obliged. And within a few weeks we were deciding to give True Stories a spin.

This was less of a sure bet. I knew she’d like the "Wild Wild Life" sequence because it’s literally the music video, but there’s no getting around the fact that True Stories is a weird, little movie. The fact that Byrne essentially hosts the whole endeavor is a definite plus for a little girl who has grown up on Mr. Rogers’ direct address style. David’s childlike enthusiasm and fascination are also a plus. As is the fact that the movie is a series of fashion shows, parades, and performances, leading up to one big performance. I think it's whole aesthetic might've teed her up for Pee-Wee's Big Adventure a few months later.

American Utopia was the first David Byrne/Talking Heads thing that I really built up for her. The others were just something that I would pop in on a whim, but for this one I built anticipation. I told her that David had a new movie coming out in the fall. We watched trailers and SNL/Colbert performances of a few of the songs. I tried to use this as an entryway to Spike Lee but the idea of collective authorship is still a bit advanced for her.

Of course she loved the film. The whole thing is so minimal that little things were able to have big impacts. The chain(?) curtains that form the walls of the stage were "jellyfish" and the tiniest lighting effects were "magic”. By about the time of "I Zimbra" she had taken it upon herself to clean up several toys on the carpet to make way for dancing, "like a giraffe".

A particular favorite moment was when they sang "Everybody's Coming To My House". In the era of Covid, this song has really hit a nerve with her. It's catchy and easy to sing, but she's also started to realize songs are about things. On car rides she will constantly be asking me what a song is about. She really seems to have zeroed in on this song's sentiment of not wanting to be alone, wanting everyone to come to your house, and not wanting them to leave. Me too, kid.

Oh, and David Byrne dressed as Elsa from Frozen, singing "Pay Attention!" with Lexi Perkel in John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch sorta blew her mind.

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