Former R.E.M. bassist/vocalist Mike Mills has been occupying himself with an assortment of musical activities since that band’s retirement, including the sporadically active Big Star’s Third project.
The “tribute band” of sorts was essentially spearheaded by Chris Stamey (The dB’s) and Big Star drummer Jody Stephens in the wake of guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Alex Chilton’s death in 2010. A Big Star performance at Austin’s South by Southwest music fest had been scheduled to take place just two days after Chilton’s death; instead, the night became an all-star celebration of the band, and many of the participants decided to take the energy further and continue on, performing Big Star’s third album (titled either Third or Sister Lovers, or both, depending on which edition you prefer), plus other assorted Big Star songs, with star-studded casts and orchestration in selected cities nationwide. Besides Stephens (the only surviving original member of Big Star), Stamey and Mills, the core players include Mitch Easter (Let’s Active) and The Posies’ Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer (the latter two having also been Big Star members during the band’s ‘90s/’00s revival).
Recorded in April 2016 at Glendale, California’s Alex Theatre, the new concert film and accompanying soundtrack, Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s Third Live…And More, features that core ensemble plus a who’s who of indie rock, including Jeff Tweedy and Pat Sansone of Wilco, Ira Kaplan (Yo La Tengo), Robyn Hitchcock, Dan Wilson (Semisonic), Benmont Tench, Jessica Pratt, Brett Harris, Django Haskins and Skylar Gudsaz, as well as a full chamber orchestra helmed by San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet and conducted by Carl Marsh, who wrote the original orchestrations for Third/Sister Lovers.
The concert film and album will be released April 21st via Concord Bicycle Music in either DVD or Blu-Ray with accompanying 2-CD soundtrack, or just as a standalone double CD package.