Radiohead, Nirvana, Bob Dylan, the Cure: Most of Post-Life Crisis’s musical influences will likely sound familiar to Piccolo Spoleto audiences on June 7, 8 and 9. But Charlestonians may not expect what they’ll see on the walls and stage when it plays at Pure Theatre on Cannon Street.
Why the name “Post-Life Crisis?” Well, three of the five band members are either retired or well into their careers — and not as musicians. Acoustic guitarist/vocalist Gary Smith, 68, was a journalist for Sports Illustrated from 1983 to 2013. Lead guitarist/mandolinist Jim Prutting, 57, has been a health care consultant for many years. And vocalist/keyboardist Duke Hagerty, 72, was a plastic surgeon until recently. As these older members and their nearly 200 years of combined life experience turn the page on their careers, they are marking their “post-life” era by playing in a band.
And then there’s the word “crisis.”
“It’s, you know, kind of a play on ‘mid-life crisis,’ ” Smith said.
It’s really a new life for Smith, who spent the first 55 years of his life not playing any instruments or doing music of any sort.
“I started learning from scratch,” he said. “I’ve always loved music but never played. I just decided it’s time to learn. Learn this trade.”
He describes Hagerty as having “a very unusual perspective on the world and an unusual eye,” which you can see from the paintings on his website — or at the Piccolo show.
“His art is highly incorporated into our act,” Smith said. “We kind of jive up his artwork and a number of our songs to our lyrics. You know, trying to find interesting images in his art to connect with our stuff.”
The band tried to use these visuals in its shows at Awendaw Green in the past, according to the venue’s owner, Eddie White. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out at my place because it wasn’t dark enough to have a multimedia presentation,” White said. “But I can assume that is what is going to happen at the Piccolo event, which will be very, very exciting to see.”
It will happen this time, and Smith is just as excited about it. He said this mix of rock concert and arts show makes Post-Life Crisis a great match for Piccolo.
“Piccolo is, you know, all about performance,” he said. “It’s about dance. It’s about music. It’s about visuals. We knew that just to go out there and play a set of music like a regular rock band wasn’t going to fit into what they did. We felt like what we naturally are does fit.”
The band’s bass player, Blake Ryan, said having Pure Theatre as a venue allows them to project images and other great theatrical opportunities.
“They’ve taken this old church and renovated the inside and have a wonderful, wide semicircle stage with a lot of room for props and other things and design plays and performances,” said Ryan.
The artwork and the music will bring to light the theme of crisis — but not just the midlife kind.
“[Crisis] not just in terms of life,” Ryan said, “but crisis in terms of climate change and crisis in terms of the pandemic and everything.”
By addressing those world issues in the show, Smith said, the goal is to bring awareness but also a little hope.
“We’re dealing with some heavy stuff, the crisis facing mankind,” he said. “But we wanted to do it with some heart and hope and humor, so it’s not just a sledgehammer to the skull.”
But the show will begin with a “sledgehammer,” for sure.
“The first song that’s going to kind of set the tone for the whole crisis theme is called ‘World Need an Ambulance,’ ” Smith said. “Then it goes on from there, you know, spiraling further and further into the crises.”
At 25 and 30, respectively, Ryan and drummer John Ewing are roughly half the age of their fellow band members. Given how far they still are from midlife crises or retirement, they said they are glad to have climate change and pandemic crises that they can relate to from the band’s material.
“Every time I tell people the name of the band, they’re like, ‘I hope there are some older people,’ ” Ryan said. But he loves the name Post-Life Crisis. “I think it’s a great name to throw out there because people will instantly recognize it. And one day, I’ll probably come to recognize it,” he laughed.
Post-Life Crisis will perform June 7, 8 and 9 at Pure Theatre, 134 Cannon St., Charleston. Its set starts at 6 p.m. Find tickets under the ‘Theater’ link at PiccoloSpoleto.com.
Gabriel Veiga is a graduate student in the Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications Program at Syracuse University.
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