Friday night at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, the Cat's Cradle presents the North Carolina premiere of the concert film "Thank You, Friends." The movie's name comes from a Big Star song from Third (the band's third album). The movie documents an on-going, star-studded tribute to the band.
What started as a one-off tribute concert has turned into a nearly decade-long traveling tribute and movie.
Big Star, a band that took its name from a Southern grocery store chain, was relatively obscure in its day. The band formed in Memphis, TN, in 1971 and broke up three years later following two releases. (A third album made up of earlier studio sessions was released in 1978.) Though the group's commercial impact was limited during its time together, the band inspired others such as R.E.M., Beck, Wilco, The Bangles, The Replacements, and many more in later years.
Big Star's members were Alex Chilton and Chris Bell (guitars) with Andy Hummel (bass) and Jody Stephens (drums). At age 16, Chilton has sung lead on the 1967 No. 1 hit "The Letter" for The Box Tops. Big Star's rhythm guitarist and songwriter Chris Bell died in car crash in 1978. Chilton and Stephens reunited in 1993 and toured as Big Star until Alex Chilton's death in 2010. Hummel also died in 2010.
Video: Big Star's original "Thank You Friends" From 2008 Ardent Records Tribute
With songs like "Thank You Friends" the band caught the ear of Chris Stamey as he was growing up in Winston-Salem. Stamey went on to form the dBs and along with Frank Heath from the Cat's Cradle was responsible for getting the Big Star Third tribute off the ground.
Listen to Skylar Gudasz and Ensemble sing Big Star's "Thirteen"
The first Big Star tribute produced by Stamey was in Chapel Hill in 2010 shortly after Alex Chilton's death. Originally the plan was to present a one-off concert at The Cat's Cradle. But, in the years following, the tribute has been performed across the country, including a date in Glendale, California, in April 2016. That filmed concert included sole surviving Big Star member Jody Stephens, Mike Mills (bassist of R.E.M.), Mitch Easter, Chris Stamey, Chapel Hill's Skylar Gudasz and several other musicians.
The Friday night screening in Durham will include a Q&A afterward moderated by Eric Hodge featuring Jody Stephens, Skylar Gudasz, Django Haskins, Jeff Crawford and Chris Stamey.
April 21, 8 p.m. | General Admission. No reserved seating. All seats $15 plus tax and fees. | Carolina Theatre Durham
Listen to a conversation about this Big Star tribute with Mike Mills, Chris Stamey and Jody Stephens:
You can hear songs by Big Star on WUNC Music.