Chris Frantz, drummer for Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club and a WPKN disc jockey for a decade, is presenting a virtual day of music, The Lockdown Festival, on March 13. Frantz lives in Westport, Connecticut, and the festival will be hosted at the town library’s new Verso Studios. Tickets at $25 are available at https://westportlibrary.org/lockdown-music-festival, and the event will benefit Neighborhood Studios of Fairfield County, a nonprofit promoting art, music, theater and dance. A $40 contribution scores a ticket and the concert poster.
Performing during the event, which starts at 7 p.m., are soul-funk band Deep Banana Blackout; Tom Tom Club veteran Mystic Bowie and his Talking Dreads with reggae, ska and lovers rock; multi-instrumentalist Plastic Ivy (a/k/a Lira Marie Landes); electronica from Xeno & Oaklander; the all-hockey Zambonis; poet Sadie Dupuis; and husband-and-wife rock group Du-Rites/Lulu Lewis.
“Many of the groups are from Connecticut, but the Du-Rites are from Brooklyn and the new-and-wild Plastic Ivy is from Philadelphia,” said Frantz, who along with the other Talking Heads was just awarded a 2021 Grammy Special Merit award. “All these groups have an artistry to what they do—they don’t chase the trends. Sadie Dupuis has a band called Speedy Ortiz, but she’s also a published poet and for Westport she’s going to be reading from her work. Xeno & Oaklander are a synth duo, but they also sing beautifully.”
Curator Frantz will serve as master of ceremonies. “I may or may not be introducing the bands live,” he said. “We’re working that out.”
“Westport is very fortunate to have someone of Chris’s talent and generosity living in our community,” said Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer. “He’s an extraordinary musician who has inspired so many artists over his long career. When we brought up the idea of having a concert to showcase our new audio and video production studios, he was all in! The talent he has assembled for this show is nothing short of remarkable.”
Harmer continued, “The funds we raise from the concert will enable us to bring the young people from the Neighborhood Studios in Bridgeport to the library to experience a fully functioning commercial recording studio. We’re thrilled to provide this educational opportunity.”
Frantz’ WPKN radio show is called “Chris Frantz the Talking Head,” and over the years his guests have included Debbie Harry from Blondie, Richard Lloyd of Television, Cindy Wilson of the B-52s and producer Mike Thorne (Soft Cell, Laurie Anderson, John Cale).
Frantz guesses it was around 2010 that he and wife Tina Weymouth (bassist in both of Frantz’ bands) were approached at an arts fundraiser in Norwalk by then-WPKN Station Manager Peter Bochan and asked if they’d be interested in being on the air at the station.
“Tina said, ‘You don’t want me, you want him,’” Frantz said. “We have both listened to the station over many years and had visited to promote our projects. We agreed to do it because we enjoy the vibe, and the fact that WPKN is community- and listener-supported and fiercely independent in its programming. We’ve visited thousands of radio stations on tour over the years, but none were quite like WPKN.”
Frantz is excited about WPKN’s impending move this spring to 277 Fairfield Avenue in downtown Bridgeport. “It’s a great idea,” he said. “Clearly, WPKN needs to be in a place that has a bar [at the Bijou Theatre] downstairs. It’s a new day for WPKN, and a step in the right direction.” The station is currently raising funds for the move, which is expected to cost around $300,000.
Steve di Costanzo, WPKN’s current general manager, added that moving to downtown Bridgeport will add a heightened level of community engagement to the station. It will also give the operation much greater visibility with community partners, non-profits and the downtown creative community.