A Spark of Creativity: Stingray Sam and The Billy Nayer Show

A Spark of Creativity: Stingray Sam and The Billy Nayer Show

By Seth Tippey

It’s not often that someone does something radically different from the mainstream avenues of entertainment, and it’s even rarer that someone succeeds at producing something that’s both original and wholly enjoyable. And while it can be argued that Cory McAbee hasn’t done anything unique in either the visual or auditory field, he has combined the two into a special kind of show. The event is a combination of two TV shows: the serial show Stingray Sam, which plays out like old TV programs where each one begins “on the last episode of…” and stars McAbee himself, followed by The Billy Nayer Show, McAbee’s two-man band that plays entirely original tunes and features McAbee on electric harp. On their own each part is great, but combined it’s a truly novel and memorable experience.

Stingray Sam is six episodes that follow the titular hero through space as Sam accepts a mission to rescue a small girl. It’s an amazing combination of cowboy-space-western-musical-comedy that isn’t seen too often. Or ever. Each episode features a performed song that’s been weaved into the plot and either explains some of the nuances or backstory of the setting/characters, or moves the plot forward. Every song is amazing, and almost always the highlight of the episode. And while the budget certainly wasn’t large, the quality is stellar throughout, and includes a wide range of artistic flourishes, like still frames of art depicting the actions in one song, and a series of graphs, photographs, and altered images when giving an overview of the state of the government/society on earth and mars. It’s super entertaining, and ends before you get tired of hearing the intro to Stingray Sam, which, by the final episode, will probably be sung by the whole audience.

The second act, The Billy Nayer Show, features McAbee on electric autoharp, and Bobby Lurie on drums/percussion. None of the songs are in any way related to Stingray Sam (despite the fact that the band is responsible for the entire soundtrack), which, depending on how much you loved the movie, might be a good or bad thing, but the music is top-notch regardless. Most of the songs are up-tempo, and many feature dark, morbid imagery, which is kind of surprising considering how heartfelt and charming Stingray Sam is. The lyrics are very creative, McAbee’s voice is excellent, and the sound of the electric autoharp is surprisingly good for such an underutilized instrument in the music world.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard that there are theater screenings that only include Stingray Sam and don’t include The Billy Nayer Show, which is terrible shame. Not that the movie isn’t worth seeing or the band isn’t worth listening to, but if at all possible, find a show that includes both. It’s not often you get to sit down to a great movie and have it followed up by a sweet concert. I saw the combination at the Arcata Theater Lounge (which shows both movies and hosts live music) on the first show of the tour, and the only date to include both movie and music, but I imagine that the two will join forces again. Perhaps Cory McAbee is currently hard at word creating another Stingray Sam serial, or maybe, as one of the most imaginative artists I’ve seen, he’s working on something else altogether.


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  • AMF Mag

    Started in early 2011, AMF Magazine is a collective of post-college writers living in California. AMF was created to provide a forum for discussion of contemporary music and to give praise where praise is due.
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