I saw forty shows during the CMJ Music Marathon this year, and the one by the Brooklyn-based band People Get Ready was by far the most creative. Part of what I love about the band is the way its members think outside the box ... way outside the box. For brevity, I'll describe People Get Ready, led by guitarist, dancer and choreographer Steven Reker, as an indie-rock-performing-art-dance troupe. This is magical musical theater.
In the carefully orchestrated live show I saw during CMJ, the video featured here was actually one of the props the band used. Picture this: Some of the group's members stand off to the side of the stage making music while two other members "play" the Masonite flooring. They pull up floor panels, make them wobble and buckle and generally create cool sounds. At some point the panels fly into the air using hooks and ropes, and — bam! — projector lamps come on and play this very video on the panels.
The video itself, for the song "Windy Cindy," plays off images originally created in the 1970s by conceptual artist and photographer Cindy Sherman. Sherman's famous series of photographs are called Untitled Film Stills, and People Get Ready's Steven Reker spent a lot of time studying those images — images of Cindy Sherman posing in stereotypical female roles. This video, directed by Ty Flowers, takes those images and has the band loosely reenact them. You'll see some of the band dressed up in gold lamé body suits with bandmate Jen Goma in Statue of Liberty attire. In a way, it's a dialogue between those old still pictures that mimic cliches and question roles of gender, paired with Steven Reker's wild imagination.
People Get Ready's Steven Reker:
"Ty really saved the day — our original camera person got a movie gig the day before the shoot — Ty was miraculously free — so we hopped over to Governor's Island with costumes and a rough concept of 'rhythmic tableaus' — it was mostly improvised — and I think subconsciously inspired by some Bauhaus performance work that I have lingering in my head ... Ty was incredible — I'd throw out an idea — and five minutes later we were filming it — was so much fun!"
"One of the more memorable moments in making this video is the three of us jogging down a street at night, in head-to-toe gold leotards, while our friend followed us in his van to light the way — it was hard not to attract attention — most people were making fun of us as they walked by or were honking from their cars — there was one serious 'there goes the neighborhood' look from an older couple — but one guy passing through on his skateboard didn't say a thing — just gave me a solid high five as he sped by — damn I wish we got that on tape!"
People Get Ready's self-titled album is out now.