The backyard of Carrollton Station — which serves as a de facto green room in the Uptown music hub — is a flurry of panicked last-minute preparation. Debates over gear usage take place next to vocal harmony tweaking and chord memorizations. This would normally be a cause for concern in the final minutes before a show, but the Plus One showcase is not an ordinary show. Founded by local musicians Skyler Stroup and Amanda Wuerstlin, the show — which takes place on the first Thursday of every month — features four artists each performing a five-song set. The first song is played alone, and a musician is added for each subsequent song, culminating in a five-piece ad hoc “band” on stage for the fifth song. The stage then resets for the next performer, which often demands an entirely different instrument setup.
“We talked about doing a ‘round-robin’ singer-songwriter showcase,” says Stroup, “but those are usually boring, so we wanted to make it more engaging.” The result is a show that is musically and visually compelling as each set evolves over five songs. The unique approach allows local musicians — not all of whom are singer-songwriters — to step out of the comfort zones of their regular gigs. “It gives people who don’t normally take the center stage the opportunity to front a band,” says Stroup, “and it also gives singer-songwriters the chance to play covers or new songs not in their normal sets.” While Stroup and Wuerstlin concede that the show can be a challenge for musicians, they also recognize such challenges as necessary for greater musical development. “If you’re not challenging yourself,” says Wuerstlin, “you’re going to lose your edge.”
If such an approach to a show seems chaotic, that’s because it is. But Stroup and Wuerstlin quickly learned to relinquish control and let the show develop organically. “At first, we had our notions of how it was going to go,” says Stroup, “and we were wrong, but the show then became something new.” Due to this “anything goes” mentality, the Plus One show provides an unpredictability and spontaneity not often seen in more rehearsed indie rock/pop/folk/whatever bands. This human element defines the Plus One show in its drive to break the boundaries of routine that hold many working musicians. “We don’t want to put people in a box,” says Stroup. “Every month, we just let the show become its own thing.”