Without the real thing, This Must Be the Band

The storied New York venue CBGB’s remains one of the great American landmarks that served as the launching pad for many bands.

The lower East Side dive, which has since gone the way of many New York institutions, is still synonymous with new wave and punk music. You should be familiar with many of the names: Blondie and Television certainly had their impact, the former achieving some moderate success while the latter remains influential in some circles – even if they still fly below the mainstream radar. And the Ramones, another CBGB’s staple, became the face of punk music and their contribution to all things rock n roll will never be matched.

But I’d argue the band that had the biggest global impact with influences in rock, world, funk, new wave and punk is The Talking Heads. The quartet formed in 1975 by David Byrne made eight records over the dozen or so years they were together. Difficult to imitate, and even more difficult to label, they gained fans from all over, while achieving some great success and commercial radio airplay worldwide.

Their public longs for the band to play together again, and a reunion is on the wish list of many promoters, but the damage done during their breakup may be too deep. The hatchet will likely never be buried, and the world will have to be satisfied with the next best thing: watching The Talking Heads on YouTube and catching one of the Talking Heads tribute bands that tour in the absence of the original.

One of the more critically acclaimed tributes will return Tuesday to Durango, when This Must Be the Band will play at The Summit. Their last appearance was a sell-out affair at the Abbey Theatre. For this tour, This Must Be The Band, which has a rotating cast of up to 20 different members, is constant frontman Charlie Otto on vocals and guitar joined by Jamie Jay on bass and vocals, Alan Maniacek on drums, Kiley Moore on vocals, Vincent Naples on keyboards and guitar, and Nate Urbansky on percussion.

Otto was a latecomer to the game in discovering the music of The Talking Heads. He stumbled across the band in 2003, about 15 years after The Talking Heads’ last release and breakup, and he became an instant fan. He took a musical dive head-first into their catalog; he had no alternative when his nightly set lists were dictated by the fans who demand songs from any era. This Must Be the Band is always there for the audience.

“We let the fans decide the set list and we play it,” Otto said from a tour stop in North Dakota. “Some places want that CBGB stuff and ‘More Songs about Buildings and Food,’ some people want ‘Stop Making Sense’ stuff, and, of course, it’s a mix usually. It’s so nice for the person that has this one weird song that they totally love, and they are so delighted when we play it right when they ask for it.”

Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu. Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.