Rock legend Sting, Death Cab for Cutie front man Ben Gibbard and Hamilton star Daveed Diggs are among the artists slated to perform in tonight’s “Space Songs: Through the Distance,” a free virtual concert hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Airing on YouTube at 8 p.m. Eastern time, the event will feature musical musings on space and isolation, shared in celebration of extreme circumstances’ capacity to bring out the best in humanity.
Katie Moyer, the museum’s program manager for new strategies, teamed up with colleague Nick Partridge to plan the concert in response to the Smithsonian Institution’s temporary closure of its 19 museums, galleries, gardens and National Zoo, reports Nathan Diller for DCist.
“There’s so many great songs about space,” Moyer tells DCist. “This felt like the perfect opportunity to bring together music and space flight, which are both kind of extraordinary expressions of humanity.”
The event—produced in collaboration with BYT Media and designer Lawrence Azerrad—was recorded ahead of time, with contributors filming their segments from home. In addition to performances by musicians including Best Coast vocalist Bethany Cosentino, singer-songwriter Grace Potter, hip-hop group Clipping (made up of Diggs and producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes), rocker Lukas Nelson, folk-blues singer Valerie June, singer and guitarist John Roderick, electronic musician Dan Deacon, and one-woman studio band Vagabon, “Space Songs” will feature appearances by a NASA engineer and Battlestar Galactica actor Edward James Olmos. Special effects designer and former “MythBusters” host Adam Savage is set to host the night’s festivities.
Writing on Twitter, Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch described the concert as a “musical reminder that there’s no challenge we can’t face together.”
Our #SpaceSongs virtual concert is almost here! Tune in Thursday, April 30 at 8 pm EDT for our musical exploration of how space inspires us to face challenges together. Watch on YouTube: https://t.co/uHO7afP3Kd pic.twitter.com/xsvpDkC8a8— National Air and Space Museum (@airandspace) April 27, 2020
The Air and Space Museum’s director, Ellen Stofan, shared a similar sentiment in a statement, saying, “Space exploration is an extraordinary expression of humanity and an illustration of how extreme circumstances can bring out the very best in us all, as individuals and as a community. Although our locations … are temporarily closed, we wanted to continue our mission to engage the public with stories of people doing their very best work, wherever they are on Earth—or off of it.”
Songs inspired by space abound: Space.com, for instance, highlights classics like Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” R.E.M.’s “Man on the Moon,” the Police’s “Walking On the Moon” and Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” as well as lesser-known tracks including Modest Mouse’s “Dark Center of the Universe,” Belle & Sebastian’s “A Space Boy Dream,” Snow Patrol’s “The Planets Bend Between Us,” and David Bowie’s “I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship.”
Moyer and Partridge declined to name any of the songs scheduled to be performed during tonight’s event, but told DCist that one of the tracks has never previously been released. And though details on the concert’s lineup are sparse, some information has trickled out on performers’ social media accounts: Death Cab for Cutie announced Gibbard’s set via Twitter, writing, “He’ll play a special version of his new song ‘Proxima B’ on acoustic guitar.’” Best Coast said Cosentino will “be playing ‘Sleep Won’t Ever Come’ from my living room.” And, as the museum announced Tuesday, Sting—perhaps best known as the former front man for rock band the Police—will perform the concert’s “grand finale.”
“I hope that we demonstrate how the inspiration that comes from space can be a part of your lives in the most unexpected ways,” Moyer tells DCist. “But at the end of the day, I just hope people enjoy it.”