The Time Machine: Top Hits of Every Decade for a Century
Montopolis goes multimedia and transtemporal in live concert
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
2:10PM, Wed. Jan. 11, 2017
In your ears: Top music hits from every decade – as performed live by composer Justin Sherburn and his all-star Montopolis outfit.
Onscreen: Local and global photos from each of those decades, wrapped with interactive animation by digital artist Stephen Fishman.
[Note from the press kit: Although they’ve traveled through every moment in human history searching for a better understanding of art, music, fashion, architecture, love, Pop Tarts, sweaters, miniature golf, go carts, video games, soup, and the human condition in general, the crew of the Time Machine shops for clothes only in the Seventies.]
We imagine this night of musical and tech-wracked wizardry will be pretty damned sweet, a night of sonic exuberance that even your great-grandparents would enjoy several parts of (if the more recent rock & roll portions didn’t freak them the fuck out). The band’s lineup includes Laura Scarborough (Golden Dawn Arkestra) and Catherine Davis (Illusory Impressions, Zykos) on synthesizers, supported by a rhythm section featuring Josh Robins (Invincible Czars), Gary James (Bell Tree), and Andy Beaudoin (The Eastern Sea).
We can hardly wait until this thing gets going, frankly, so we’re sitting down with Montopolis honcho Sherburn and the intrepid Captain Silva right now and getting some details with which to further stoke our aesthetic furnace and yours.
Brenner: Justin, what the hell? I know you’ve scored films and things, those freaky shows by Trouble Puppet Theatre, your sister Jennifer’s dance performances, but now you’re taking on one of these big multimedia gigs yourself? Like, the busy life of a composer and touring bandleader isn’t enough, you’ve got to get all complicated and theatrical with your career?
Sherburn: Yeah, after this? I’m going back to just doing music. I’m gonna work on an album and come out on a stage and play music – and not have anything else going on. Because right now I’m running around town, doing all these things, so much shit to keep track of – and it’s fun to do this stuff, but it’s also kind of distracting. You know? Although, I’m also building a musical vocabulary. Transcribing all this music – like Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing,” figuring out all the parts and how they’re working together, that counterpoint. So the arranging, and working with all these synthesizers, that's been great. Catherine has these fancy Roland synthesizers, Laura’s got her rig, and I just rented a Moog Voyager – this incredible mono synth that I’ve always wanted to play – and it sounds amazing.
Brenner: And how did you go about choosing the songs? Was it whatever was the most popular from each decade, or … ?
Sherburn: It was an elaborate fucking process, man. What became more important was the narrative, rather than what was most representative, like the biggest hit of the decade or whatever. It became more about what worked best with the whole show. Like a rock band will have a set list: big opening number, big closing number, you’ve gotta have a ballad in there, and something to come out of the ballad with. And each decade has so many songs that are representative of their period, so it took a surprisingly long time to figure that out. But I think it’s working really well.
Brenner: And Gricelda – Captain Silva! – you’ve worked with Justin before, right?
Silva: When I first met Justin, I was doing my first theatre gig – The Red Balloon, with David Yeakle. And I know him from Trouble Puppet – but, for those shows, Justin usually came in for a few rehearsals and left, and we’d hear his music. But he played live for Moby Dick, was a bit more involved. And for Time Machine, he asked me if I’d ever thought of being a captain-commander. And I was like, “Well, no – but yes!” And he said, “Well, I’m not going to direct you, but – you know Danny DeVito in Taxi? Kind of like that.”
Brenner: And, Justin, you’ve got Stephen Fishman of the Austin Museum of Digital Art – his work is part of the mix, too?
Sherburn: Yeah, we worked together on Loop Mass, his AMODA thing at the Off Center last summer? And I was blown away by his projection mapping, and I wanted to use it for the Time Machine. And I went through all these ways to figure out how to do projection mapping, and the solution I ended up with was to build these music stands – like Lawrence Welk music stands, but with screens – and they’re kind of the same design as Stephen’s animations, so it’s all tied together, it really worked out.