WPKN’s Own Chris Frantz Presents the Lockdown Festival March 13

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.

Dazed and Confused: The Oral History

Alright, Alright, Alright: The Oral History of Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (Harper) by Mellissa Maerz

The template for successful oral histories was set by Jean Stein’s Edie: American Girl, about the doomed Warhol superstar Edie Sedgewick. Norman Mailer said at the time it was released in 1982, “This is the book of the ‘60s that we have been waiting for.”

It’s tempting to say, then, that Alright, Alright, Alright is the book about the ‘70s that we’ve all been waiting for—but that’s not quite it. This is the book that tells the story of the movie that best defines that era, or at least a small part of it. Dazed and Confused was set on the last day of high school, 1976, in a Texas town. The kids get high, they hook up, they bond, they say goodbye. It’s a microcosm, but one with broad application to other towns, and other years.

There’s a formula to making oral history work, and Maerz put the right chemicals together. Alright is a work that’s full of emotion, as these stories always are, but it’s built on a very sturdy and methodically planned base. We get the prelude to the movie (filmmaker Richard Linkater maxing out his credit cards to make his debut, Slacker, with a bunch of misfits in his beloved Austin), the financing (via Universal, a step up to studio filmmaking), the casting (including a bunch of future stars—Renée Zellweger, Milla Jovovich, Parker Posey, Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey), the filming (bonding ensued), the sad parting, the editing and music rights (replete with studio interference), the release (Dazed bombed initially), the reunion, and even a section on the film attaining cult status and the significance of it all.

There are sidebars, there are lists, there are (black and white) photographs, there are “where they are now” epilogues. If that’s an Entertainment Weekly approach to writing books, I don’t see an issue.

A few things stand out. One is Linklater’s iron determination to make the movie he was unspooling in his head. He wanted to keep it true to his own 1970s Texas high school experience, and he largely succeeded. Sure, some great material had to be cut, but what’s on the screen is mostly what the filmmaker—a football star for a time—actually experienced or saw around him at Huntsville High School. Even the names are preserved (which led to a lawsuit later). Ricky “Pink” Floyd really existed.

The film has a large, ensemble cast, and Linklater encouraged his actors to bond, and to create new scenes for their characters. Those who took advantage of that freedom—principally Posey and McConaughey—ended up with larger roles in the finished film and a boost for their careers. That iconic “alright, alright, alright” was McConaghey quoting The Doors’ Jim Morrison from the Boston Arena in 1970, though it could have come from “Cat’s Squirrel” on the first Cream album.

Those who didn’t get into the proper spirit, with the full-of-himself actor Shawn Andrews being the most glaring example, not only saw their screen time cut to almost nothing, but went nowhere later.

The great thing about Alright, Alright, Alright—and the oral history format—is that it gives you everything that happened in the making of Dazed from multiple points of view. (No, I’m not going to invoke Kurosawa’s 1950 Rashamon.) Cast and crew contradict each other, argue it out, and try to arrive at what actually happened during the 1992 shoot.

The author got great material from her subjects, and just about everyone (no Jovovich or Andrews) gave interviews. McConaghey plays an older guy still hanging around the high school parking lot. “That’s what I love about these high school girls, man,” he tells his buddies. “I get older; they stay the same age.” Looking at that today, the actor muses, “Who not only thinks that, but believes that? That’s this guy’s DNA….It’s a mantra. It’s a philosophy.” (Emphasis in the original.)

Most of the people involved went on to other projects, but few had experiences that were more affirming and life-changing. “There is no movie that has affected me more, or stayed with me longer, or shaped me as a filmmaker more,” says Affleck. “It’s my favorite movie I’ve ever worked on,” says Anthony Rapp.

It would be possible to do a book like this on almost any movie, but Dazed and Confused is a perfect choice. Actors sometimes barely remember film shoots—it was just six weeks out of their lives. But nobody ever forgot working on Dazed and Confused. Melissa Maerz does right by the film—and the people who made it.