Lehigh Valley based Talking Heads tribute Start Making Sense to play River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains
PLAINS — Start Making Sense began with a close group of Lehigh Valley musicians getting together to play well rehearsed and performed cover songs. After six years of playing Talking Heads music exclusively, the Lehigh Valley natives built an outstanding reputation, a wide fan base and an impressive touring schedule. With their dead-on renditions of tunes by David Byrne and company and their uncanny ability to recreate the minutiae of live Talking Heads performances, the celebrated ensemble is returning to Northeastern Pennsylvania.
SMS will perform at 10 p.m. on Nov. 28 at the River Street Jazz Cafe. Tickets are $12 in advance and $17 at the show. Past performances drew large crowds to the venue to dance to music as unique and eccentric as it is brilliant. Each time the group revisits a location, they do so with an evolving catalogue of memorable Heads hits and new takes on embellishing well known and lesser recognized songs.
Founding member and lead guitarist, Jon Fadem, explained how a gig that started to have fun and earn a bit of extra money developed into a nationally recognized and sought after production.
“A few of us had been playing regularly at a club in Bethlehem called the Funhouse,” Fadem said. “One night, we had done an evening where we just did songs by The Who and Led Zeppelin, and after the show, the club owner suggested that we do an evening of just Talking Heads music, because she had heard us play a few Talking Heads songs in one of our other shows there. So Jon Braun, the singer, and I went about picking out musicians that we knew in the Lehigh Valley who we thought would be ideal for that project.”
Now the band tours as far north as Maine and Canada, as far south as Florida and as far west as Colorado with the help of Phil Simon of Simon Says Booking in Massachusetts.
SMS has caught the attention from fans nation wide as well as from the official Talking Heads camp and Heads/Parliament Funkadelic alumnus and keyboard player Bernie Worrell. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has even sat in with SMS.
“I had played with Bernie a bunch of times and he’s a friend,” Fadem said. “I played him some tapes of the shows we had done, and he loved it, and he said that it sounded great and that we really got the sound. He was very supportive of us.”
Worrell has gone on record with his support, which can be seen on http://startmakingsenseband.com.
“To all you listeners…This is an appropriate title — Start Making Sense,” Worrell has said. “This band makes plenty of sense to me, and is a great representation of Talking Heads’ music. So listen up and go check them out.”
Fadem, whose dexterity and creativity is on par with premium players industry wide, astonishes crowds with his tastefully constructed solos in moments of improvisation, and Braun, the front man, is a multi-instrumentalist who does such an impassioned impersonation of Byrne that it is almost eerie while wildly entertaining.
The guitar player talked about the theatrical elements SMS employs, which include Braun’s character acting as well as well choreographed movements by the entire band that add authenticity to an already spectacular musical performance.
“They definitely are an artistic band and Byrne’s idiosyncrasies are a big part of the sound and look of the band, so I think any kind of representation of their music has to include those physical manifestations of that aesthetic,” Fadem said.
Recently Fadem has been endorsed by companies who have recognized his top shelf ability.
“I exclusively use Paul Reed Smith guitars, Mesa/Boogie amplifiers and Dean Markley strings. I am honored to represent them when we’re out on tour,” Fadem said.
While continued success and exposure has taken SMS all over the U.S., Fadem addressed the band’s affinity for the Jazz Cafe, where they have played once or twice a year since 2009.
“I just really enjoy playing there,” Fadem said. “I think it’s a very intimate kind of room, and the people there treat us really well.
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or [email protected].
If you go:
What: Start Making Sense: Talking Heads Tribute
Where: River Street Jazz Cafe, 667 North River St., Plains
When: Nov. 28 at 10 p.m.
Ticket Information: Tickets are $12 in advance by visiting www.riverstreetjazzcafe.com and $17 at the show.
Additional Information: SMS will be playing a New Year’s Eve show at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia on Dec. 31.