What’s better than a whole night that showcases local musicians? One that features those same artists and bands performing the music of legends.
And better than that? Songs that made up the soundtracks of our lives in the 1990s.
Better still? Those performances taking place on the stage at Fort Wayne’s historic Embassy Theatre.
That’s exactly what happens on Saturday, Feb. 23, at Down the Line 13. Down the Line is a concert series that began more than a dozen years ago as a way to raise money for the Embassy and to highlight local talent.
“The idea is to take legendary performers and then have local artists who have received inspiration from those artists interpret their songs,” explained Embassy Theatre Marketing Director John Hughey.
Chris Worth / Alice in Chains
This year’s theme is the music of the ’90s, something Chris Worth is very much looking forward to. In his shows, he sings a little bit of everything, including Frank Sinatra, R&B, and country. At Down the Line 13, he’ll focus on the music of Alice in Chains, a group formed in Seattle in 1987. Worth and his six-piece band Apocoshyne will cover hits like “Man in the Box” and “Down in a Hole.”
“It’ll be all Alice in Chains, but I am going to do one that I wrote, one original called ‘Blue Green Butterfly,’” Worth said. “It’s basically a song about the joy of life and redemption. Alice in Chains is pretty dark, so I wanted to put a counterbalance in there. Sometimes things are dark, but things are OK, you know? Without sounding cliché – look for the bright side of life.”
Strange Waters / Nirvana
Alice in Chains rose to fame as part of the grunge movement of the early ’90s. It’s a music scene very familiar to one of the members of local instrumental surf band Strange Waters.
The band’s guitarist has adopted an alter-ego for performances. He never speaks and is never identified by name. He dons a black suit, cowboy hat, and dark sunglasses and clinches a cigar in his teeth.
“I think I just wanted to do something different,” the guitarist said under condition of anonymity. “I’ve been doing music for so long and I thought, ‘What can I add to that stage that brings a little intrigue or mystery or that people might think is pretty cool and make things a lot of fun?’ When I start playing, everyone starts to look at this guy and thinks, ‘What is this? It isn’t surf.’ By the end of it, they can’t picture it without that character.”
Strange Waters will cover the music of Nirvana during Down the Line 13.
“I didn’t know how it would sound as surf. We went and started digging in and it really sounds cool. I think people are going to be really surprised. I really think they’re going to remember Strange Waters when we’re done with the show,” he said. “People in the audience can expect something they haven’t heard before, done in a strange way. If they leave happy but kind of scratching their head, we did our job.”
Jess Thrower / Sheryl Crow
The show will also include Jess Thrower, who’s well known on local stages for her original music. At Down the Line, she’ll cover the songs of Sheryl Crow.
“They wanted us to pick a ’90s artist and I couldn’t really think of that many super-popular female artists that I know a lot of songs of, and so I was looking at Sheryl Crow and she’s got like 10 number one hits that I didn’t even realize that I knew. That’s how I ended up with her,” Thrower explained.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” she continued. “It’s artists that everybody knows. It’s songs that everybody knows. They can go to the show and think, ‘I know all of these songs and I can sing along and dance.’ It’s just really going to be a fun time. It’s all ages, so I feel like it’s something everyone can enjoy.”
The Snarks / Green Day
Kendra Johnson, the lead singer of The Snarks, says that’s definitely the case. She and bandmates Bart Helms, Dan Kinnaley, Zach Kershner, and Dan Arnos will regale the crowd with hits from Grammy Award-winning rock band Green Day.
“I’m pretty pumped,” Johnson said. “The first CD I got was a Green Day CD, so being able to perform that music at the Embassy will be fun. We’re going to mostly do songs off the albums Dookie and Insomniac. There will be a few deep cuts, but we’re mostly playing the hits.”
“I think we’re all excited to play the show because we’re all from Fort Wayne and grew up thinking about how cool it would be to get a chance to play the Embassy stage,” bassist Kinnaley said. “It’s kind of surreal, honestly, to get a chance to do it with some of your best friends.”
Fatima Washington / Whitney Houston
Fatima Washington agrees that there’s no place quite like the Embassy. She can’t wait to get back on the stage, this time to celebrate one of her idols.
“I’ve done some of Whitney Houston’s stuff in my shows before, but there’s just something different when you dedicate a whole show to someone as amazing as Whitney Houston.”
Washington is looking forward to performing hits like “I Will Always Love You,” but is also excited about the experience she and the other artists will be able to provide for the audience.
“I think the cool thing about Down the Line is you not only get a show from these bands that play locally that everybody knows, but you kind of get to see us transport ourselves into these people,” she said. “In some cases, we get to put our own spin on their songs and in other cases we’re singing them so classically like the original artist.”