If you are one of those people who loathe the constant barrage of holiday music that blasts over the airwaves of every station this time year, then the Anchorage Concert Association may have an antidote for you—The New Standards Holiday Show. Sure, it has “holiday show” in its title but this isn’t your typical holiday music. It’s kind of like a musical ‘festivus for the rest of us.’
“The New Standards was a group that we brought up the first time in 2011 but it was before we'd really started committing to artists who have a different sensibility than your typical performing arts show which a lot of times can be something like jazz or classical music,” said Anchorage Concert Association Executive Director Jason Hodges, who first saw the band perform in 2005. “They had this one song called ‘Snow Days’ and I just thought it was so fun!”
Comprised of three core members based in Minneapolis—Chan Poling, Steve Roehm and John Munson—The New Standards are equal parts punk, jazz and pop. Sprinkle in a dash of retooled Christmas music and you start to get a sense for their Holiday Show.
"Audiences consider our show a more contemporary, relaxed and 'intelligent' tonic to the season, as opposed to the usual sugary stuff. You will not hear a straight version of 'Jingle Bells,'" said Poling who spends his downtime performing with punk-rock outfit The Suburbs. Not for nothing, but The Suburbs were voted among the top 100 most influential Minnesota musical entities of the 20th century by the Minnesota Tribune.
If you don’t recognize the name Chan Poling, then the name John Munson may sound familiar. Remember that delightfully melancholic chart-topping hit ‘Closing Time’ by Semisonic? Munson is the band’s bassist.
How did a trio of jazz, pop, and punk musicians from Minneapolis come together to create a Holiday Show? The answers are at the heart of what makes this a can’t miss act.
Munson, Poling and Roehm rued the lack of jazz trio repertoire that extended past the “old standards” so they decided to create a “new standard” of repertoire from post 1960’s pop music. By performing the music in a stripped-down acoustic setting, the band makes room for solos and arrangements with the freedom of jazz without abandoning their pop roots.
“A New Standard is a song that we love—like a rock song or a funk song—that we lavish with a new kind of approach,” explained Munson. One such song is the band’s remake of Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ which is performed by the band in a sultry minor chord.
But the band doesn’t just rearrange pop songs. In a remarkable feat of musicianship, The New Standards partner with local acts to produce a unique show that exemplifies the best each city has to offer. To that end, no two performances will be the same.
“To make this happen we provided the band with a shortlist of artists we felt would be a good fit and then the band researched each act, watched videos and listened to music samples before handpicking their local collaborators,” explained Hodges. “As an organization our direction has been to bring up nationally touring acts but we also believe in the talent of the local musical community and this has been a great way for us to build relationships with the community.”
This year, The Super Saturated Sugar Strings will serve as the house band for this musical celebration of community. They will also be joined by special performances by Pamyua, Quinn Christopherson, John "Pypes" Teamer, and favorites from the Anchorage dance community.
“If you think about the performance in terms of holiday parties, I would say this is like the cool, swanky cocktail party everyone hopes they get to go to,” laughed Hodges.