Kathy Clark stands off to the side, underneath one of the cement archways, readying her creation: the schoolteacher. The jointed cardboard puppet towers over the woman, as she steadies it using one of the skinny sticks attached to its main joints to maneuver its movements.
“He’s like, ‘Let me on stage,’” she laughs. “‘This is my moment.’”
Her marionette takes the stage with the Vagabond Saints’ Society tonight, as they take on Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
As the band sets up, hexagonal stage lights glow blue over the Coal Pit, an outdoor dugout resting below street level adjoined to Incendiary Brewing Company.
The brewery seems packed beyond the usual Saturday buzz, as people order passionfruit IPAs, dry rosé ciders and the other brews to drink through the show. A lit-up magenta interrupts the wood in the bar, the pink hue bounces off the glasses.
The Vagabond Saints Society plays in an open area of concrete columns and shop entrances. Colorful outdoor furniture and string lights dangling overhead balance out the industrial aesthetic of the venue and hangout.
Though many come for the music itself, the night also brings crowds of supporters for the local musicians and artisans who collaborate for the show. Parents guide their young children to a meeting spot for guest performers, and singers with their own projects talk to one another before they share the stage.
Patrick Ferguson, a guest singer, reiterates how Vagabond Saints’ shows link together musical professionals. He takes the stage with friends and total strangers tonight.
“I’m honored to be playing with them,” he says. “What I like about it is they try to get a community effort.”
The dense crowd begins to quiet as fog rolls out from onstage, the smell of the synthetic cloud blending with that of pizza and beers. As the band and guest musicians begin, they often appear in the haze more like silhouettes or outlines than fully-formed people. The bricks behind the band reach up meters above where the highest stage equipment sits, and overhead a film by Chad Nance starts.
Nance describes the film as a “European-style surrealist” piece, that mirrors the plot of the 1979 album, following the character of Pink as he struggles with self-isolation, descending into a paranoid, fascist delusion, only realizing at the end what his discriminatory views have done.
“It tells the complete story of Pink and his breakdown,” Nance says.
Nance grounded the work through the characters, even with Pink being played by four actors. The whole hour and 23-minute work involved 60 set-ups and was shot in only 19 days.
The time comes for the schoolteacher to make an entrance. A youth choir also climbs up, all wearing matching school uniforms. One girl, who looks younger than 10, plugs her ears with her fingers at first but drops her hands to her side as the band reaches the chorus for “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2.” Clark’s marionette looks like something straight out of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” as its incandescent eyes pierce through the haze of the fog.
As the night goes on, people part from the crowd in front of the stage, instead heading up to street level. They watch from above, looking through the fence that borders the drop-off to the Coal Pit. A woman leans up against it, her hand squeezed through one of the diamonds of the chain-links.
She joins the audience members who yelling out the lyrics to “Comfortably Numb,” giving the section of the fence a shake to the rhythm. Even the amplified sounds of the speakers get drowned out at points, the song becoming a joint effort from performers and the audience around them.
The Vagabond Saints grab the audience and pull them in, everyone part of the collaboration.
“As all of our Vagabond Saints projects are,” member Doug Davis says, “we want it to be a community inclusive kind of project.”
For more on the Vagabond Saints Society, visit their page on Facebook.