For a couple of years at the turn of the decade, the Story/Stereo series paired musicians and writers for concert/readings at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and it was successful enough to get an NEA grant in 2010. But founders Chad Clark and Matt Byars ended the series after its second season. Clark says there were tensions with the Writer’s Center board, and “it seemed an elegant time to step away.”
Six years later, the project is back. The short explanation, Clark says in an email, is that “Matt and I missed it!” There’s a new collaborator — Politics & Prose bookstore — and less dependence on a single venue. The first show in the rebooted program will be Sunday evening at Busboys and Poets’ Takoma location, but Clark says future events might be elsewhere.
Sunday’s event will feature author Bill Beverly, who teaches at Trinity University in D.C. and has a new novel, Dodgers. The band will be D.C.’s Soccer Team, which released Real Lessons In Cyncism in the fall.
Byars deserves the “true credit” for sparking the revival, Clark says. The venue might be different, but the goal is the same.
“I still see Story/Stereo as a special opportunity. You get to meet these great writers, people who are going to be tomorrow’s Don Delillos or Alice Walkers. And plus you get to experience a cool band in a really nice, dignified setting,” he says. “I don’t mean ‘dignified’ like ‘fancy.’ I don’t care about fancy. I mean, we take music seriously as an art form and we hold it on parity with literature as a medium. I think the bands can feel that vibe … and they play in a way that reflects that spirit.”
Clark says this is the first Story/Stereo event for which the author and the band are already acquaintances. The others have been “kind of a blind date,” he says.
“Bill is excited about the new Soccer Team album and Melissa Quinley [of Soccer Team] just texted me the other day how much she loves Dodgers. So that’s cool,” Clark says. “Beyond that, I think there is a tactility to both artists’ work … a kind of dry presence and ‘rawness.'”
Clark also reveals that the first run of Story/Stereo had big personal meaning for him. The project sprang from his recovery from open heart surgery in 2008. Audiences probably weren’t aware of what he was going through, he says.
“Stepping onto the Story/Stereo stage to introduce the artists was a physical challenge for me, but I felt I could pull it off. … Speaking for myself, it served as a way to stay active and engaged in the D.C. creative community during a time when I might otherwise have been more reclusive,” he says. “It was a nice way for me to express my passions — writing/art/communication — without any focus on my work. I was happy to feature the work of other people. It felt good.”
Story/Stereo takes place May 22 at Busboys & Poets in Takoma.