Is it all misplaced or excessive admiration?
In the land of cult bands, it’s a pertinent question to ask of the singular case known as Big Star. They didn’t last long, but their reach seems to have extended well beyond their actual duration, as anyone can witness when First Avenue hosts a tribute concert of the band’s third album on Sept. 30.
Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls at 7 p.m. and it tolls for $20.
That’ll be enough to get die-hard fans scuttling to the venerable First Avenue, especially since in its initial incarnation (circa 1971) Big Star only recorded three albums. This one, known as “Third/Sister Lovers,” is something of a “lost masterpiece.”
Or so they say. They also say the power pop band produced “seminal” work, inspiring just about everyone who followed them, and fastened the moniker “quintessential” next to their name. And that was just Rolling Stone magazine.
When “Third” was released, four years after it had been recorded in 1974, the band had long split up, and quickly after it hit shelves one of its original members, Chris Bell, tragically died in a car accident.
It would be another two decades before Big Star would resurface, but this time totally realigned.
And now, all these years later, the title “Big Star’s Third” has taken on a new meaning, connoting a string of tribute concerts where the “lost” album is performed live. Such will be the case at First Avenue.
And, what a line-up: Original Big Star member Jody Stephens will be there, as will Mike Mills of R.E.M.; but so will Chris Stamey of The dB’s, Ken Stringfellow, Charles Cleaver, Audley Freed, Brett Harris, Skylar Gudasz, Jim Boquist, Josh Grier, Dave Pirner, Linda Pitmon, Trapper Schoepp, Matt Wilson, and The Wooldridge Bros.
Audiences can judge for themselves the cult surrounding Big Star. It’s entirely possible that the starry roster of performers may draw in those not too-familiar with the “Third” album. Tribute concerts can do just that.
One thing is certain: The admiration for Big Star keeps crawling through the years. Valid, misplaced, or excessive, it’s above all filled with interesting footnotes in the history of rock and roll, and more than that, worthy to put on the “check that out” list you may be keeping.