Food and Music Come Together For Supper Studio, a DIY Dinner Theater
Photo: Deidre Schoo
Dinner and a show is the classic night out for a reason. Eating and enjoying music together is a primal, human urge. The same kind of urge that keeps us existing in groups--and limits nights spent eating tuna straight from the can while leaning over the kitchen sink. Laura Leebove and Tracy Candido took the folk standard and gave it a remix. Behold, Supper Studio, an experience involving live music and food inspired by the music itself.
See also: Supper Studio: DIY Dinner Theater
Leebove's cooking-ignited-by-music blog, Eating the Beats, and Candido's arts event production background led the two to bake up the blueprint earlier this year. "One cold night we met for tea," Candido says. "I was like, 'This is gonna be awesome, trust me.'" Leebove started skeptical.
All those nerves for nothin'. Supper Studio sold out their pilot run. The June 23 event featured alt-folk outfit and Eating the Beats vets Pearl and the Beard. The upcoming installment, Sunday, Nov. 17, revolves around psych-pop crew TEEN.
With each show, Leebove and Candido map out all of the courses themselves, drawing cues from the performing band's discography. Looking over the menu for the first event and mini-descriptions of each item, the care and creativity the duo takes is evident. For instance, take the wildly popular pudding dessert, as detailed below:
Dessert is a play on Pearl and the Beard's name. It's a vanilla tapioca pudding with strawberry rhubarb sauce and shortbread cookie crumbles; the pudding is sweet and soft, with tapioca 'pearls,' and the cookie crumbs are the rough contrast of the 'beard'--which also relates to the different textures and voices in Pearl and the Beard's songs. The strawberry-rhubarb is a classic, timeless flavor with a bright color; and all the elements are layered because their songs are all built by layering everyone's vocals in different ways.
Leebove, an editor for an online music store, sharpened her audio vocabulary eons ago. Using food as a palette--transitioning aural nuances to tastebuds--laid a brand new terrain. "These bands get written about all the time, but not in this way," Leebove says.
Pearl and the Beard's Jocelyn Mackenzie agrees. "Laura not only identified unique characteristics of our sound, but also created a meal that was thoughtful, creative, delicious, and totally seamless," she wrote in an email. "While a tapioca 'pearl' may have been a more obvious pairing, who really wants to eat tapioca? ...Laura's dessert paired it with strawberry rhubarb syrup and shortbread cookie crumbs in a way that elevated the tapioca to something completely heavenly and magical."
Leebove and Candido take a capable stranglehold on the series' operation, controlling all elements involved. "It's like when you're in a band and you do everything yourself," Candido, a decorated events coordinator herself, says. "You book the tour yourself, you drive the van, you screen print the shirts, you sell them at the merch table--that's what Laura and I do. It's very punk rock, DIY."
One of those components includes actually cooking the food. That means a lot of prep work before the show. On the actual night of, at least three friends help assemble courses in the space's airy kitchen.
"The open kitchen is us being vulnerable so we ask others [to] be vulnerable with us and discuss what they're tasting," Candido says. "[But this] is still an experiment, we're experimenting every time we do it. We want people to be a part of every bit of it."
Supper Studio's mission, it seems, is to challenge diners by asking them to drop their guard and have a mega sensory experience together. The audience is small--for the upcoming show, that means only about 70 people. Together, they share a thoughtful series of courses (with introductions) sandwiched between stripped-down performances and (hopefully) thoughtful conversation.
It's a refreshing pace for the performing band, too, apparently. "It's not only a special moment for us, but we hope it is a special moment for someone who has never heard our music before," Pearl's Emily Hope Price writes of her band's run. Leebove says the audience was a pretty even split of folks interested in mostly the band and folks interested in mostly the food.
Sunday's diners can expect a lavish menu including lamb tacos, blue potato hash and curried pumpkin and mushroom soup (Tracy: "...the music is psychedelia."). However, Supper Studios offers alternatives as needed per dietary restrictions.
Diners can also expect captivating sets from TEEN, food lovers/creators of their own making. At least that's how the band's leader, Teeny Lieberson thinks it might go. "[I expect the audience to react] with complete joy and satisfaction. Or with impatience because they just want to keep eating. No but seriously, with complete joy and satisfaction."
Find more info on slurping seasonal soup with TEEN Sunday night on Supper Studio's website.