listen. the style of music.

Wardrobe may not make the band, but it just might make the brand.

Do you remember the scene in That Thing You Do when Tom Hanks’ character, Mr. White, tosses a pair of sunglasses to Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott)? If you need to refresh your memory, you can watch it here.

It was a defining moment for the fictional Erie, PA band members that suddenly found themselves on the precipice of fame. They signed a record deal, donned suits and glasses, and played their music. Only this time, it wasn’t just the music on stage but the complete picture, and instantly, The Wonders found fans.

For musicians and bands like The Wonders, regardless of the era, there must be a tug of war between art and fame, or maybe it is a cycle in which art produces fans who then produce money which supports the art. The biological term for the relationship is symbiosis. Symbiotic relationships can be categorized further. And, while I am sure that fans can sometimes seem like parasites, for the most part fans and the objects of their affections are an example of mutualism.  

About the time fans are found, an artist also becomes a brand, especially these days with more means than ever to market that brand. (I’m not sure how these musicians maintain their personal identity in the face of fame.) And when you become a brand, everything observable becomes a part of it. Like Guy and his “shades”, artists often become know for, a gimmick, their style, or even a single accessory. The Beatles influence did not stop at the border of music and its industry but caused many a ripple effect in fashion and beauty circles. I mean, who doesn’t associate the “mop top” with The Beatles? When someone wears one white, beaded glove there is only one person they are alluding to. And on Halloween, you can easily spot a Madonna from any era.

While I don’t believe that style and accessories make the music, the band, or any individual involved, they do communicate something to an audience. They even allow those who don’t share musical talents to connect to the brand.  Between sets at City Stages, I had a lot of time to observe. When I wasn’t watching my fellow festival-goers, I was taking in the artists’ choices and trying to answer the question plaguing me: “What does one wear to perform in a very humid 97 degree heat?”

Here are some answers.

Clothing
There were a lot of lightweight fabrics, breezy dresses, light colors, or some combination thereof. Unless of course a signature look didn’t fit in and then, they just suffered and sacrificed.

CityStages_0910b

Courtney Jaye’s dress was so apropos I wondered what came first – the dress or the name of her band, The Aloha Honors System.

I was a little jealous of Erin McCarley; I wish I could pull this off so well!

I was a little jealous of Erin McCarley; I wish I could pull this off so well!

(I wasn’t the only one who liked her style: read the Lucky write up from Bonaroo. )

Sunglasses
Depending on the time of day and stage, these were an absolute must.

Guitarist for Zee Avi

Guitarist for Zee Avi

Abram & Sarah

Abram and Sarah

Brandon Young

Brandon Young

Hats
Supposedly a Southern lady doesn’t sweat; she glistens. If that’s true, I am not Southern in the least. Most of the ladies steered clear of hats, but I think I would be sporting one if I were in the performers’ shoes.

K.S. Rhoads (with Erin McCarley)
K.S. Rhoads (with Erin McCarley)
Aloha Honors System band member

Aloha Honors System band member

Mat Kearney

Mat Kearney

Bear Rinehart of NEEDTOBREATHE
Bear Rinehart of NEEDTOBREATHE
Bo Rinehart of NEEDTOBREATHE

Bo Rinehart of NEEDTOBREATHE

Jewelry
When you stand as close to the stage as I did, you see details. These people made me want to wear jewelry, and that, my family and friends can attest, is no small feat.

I caught a glimpse of Zee Avi’s necklace when she put her instruments down.  The keys as pendants blended a little with her top but were just noticeable enough.

Zee Avi

Zee Avi

I love it all – the ring, the Wonder Woman cuff, the simple initial “E” necklace, the blue nail polish, and though not jewelry, you cannot ignore the feathered guitar strap.

Erin McCarley

Erin McCarley

I do have more to say about the actual music , but my mind wandered here and I wanted to share.  I’d love to know what you think about all this, so comment below.

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