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Portsmouth concert series departs from singles and offers a full-length album experience

A photo of musician Stu Dias
provided by Stu Dias
New Hampshire musician Stu Dias has created a concert series called Diaspora Radio, where he a others play an entire album from start to finish.

New Hampshire musician Stu Dias has noticed a trend. He says that people are moving away from listening to albums in their entirety.

Dias, a member of the Dover-based band theSoggy Po’ Boys, says for him, a full listening experience means hearing the whole album, not just a single.

So, Dias started a concert series called Diaspora Radio, where he and a revolving group of musicians play a new album each month from start to finish with no breaks in between songs.

He says the idea came to him when he was listening to music on a car ride with a friend.

“I realized that while the song was playing, all we were doing was searching for the next song to listen to, and I thought, 'This is madness,” Dias said. “And so I wanted to do something where the unit of listening wasn't a single song, the unit of listening was the album.”

Dias says Diaspora Radio is about creating an immersive experience that appreciates the work it takes to put together an album and acknowledges the intentionality behind the order and themes of each song that makes up the album.

“People who make albums spend a lot of time to make sure that finally what you hand people is a fully realized, cohesive thing,” Dias said.

Dias says the albums he’s picked so far are all ones he deems iconic. Diaspora Radio has performed “Stand!” by Sly and the Family Stone and “What’s Going On” by Marivn Gaye, among several others.

For Dias, an iconic album is one that’s still listened to today, and has cultural resonance and commentary that remains relevant. He said Gaye’s commentary on the Vietnam War still strikes a chord.

“The things that he's discussing on that album, they're still very relevant today. A society essentially thinking about how it wants to deal with the criminal justice system, whether we're too hawkish when it comes to war,” Dias said. “That album matters today, as it did back then.”

Dias and Diaspora Radiowill perform “Speaking in Tongues'' by the Talking Heads this Thursday at 9 p.m. at the Press Room in Portsmouth.

All Things Considered interim host Julia Furukawa sat down with Dias to talk about the concert series. Below is a transcript of their conversation.

Julia Furukawa: Stu, if someone listening goes to one of your concerts, what can they expect?

Stu Dias: The goal for the series is essentially to present an album as an album and not a collection of singles. So, each show starts with a little bit of a discussion by my friend Zach Foote, who gives some sort of temporal context around the album. And then the band comes on and we play the album seamlessly. And we update the arrangements so it feels honest to me and I feel like I'm delivering something that people could sink their teeth into. And there's no encores. It's just meant to be immersive, a singular experience.

Julia Furukawa: So, why a whole album and not just a single? What does an album-length listening experience give you?

Stu Dias: The idea for this came to me when I was in the car last year. I was in the car with a friend and I realized that while the song was playing, all we were doing was searching for the next song to listen to. And I thought, 'This is madness.' And so I wanted to do something where the unit of listening wasn't a single song, the unit of listening was the album. People who make albums spend a lot of time to make sure that finally what you hand people is a fully realized, cohesive thing. And it is a little bit weird that now an album is, 'Oh, that's the thing that has this song.'

Julia Furukawa: You've described each of the albums you're performing as 'iconic.' What makes an album iconic, and how did you choose which ones to play?

Stu Dias: I said iconic, but I meant iconic to me. But to me, what makes an album iconic is how long it lasts and whether it makes sense mapped onto the time that it was released and makes sense in any other time. Like, for example, the second album in the series that we did was 'What's Going On' by Marvin Gaye. And that album was essentially developed as a series of letters between him and his brother, who was in Vietnam, because it's not ‘what’s going on’ the question mark, it's ‘what’s going on’ the exclamation point. The things that he's discussing on that album, they're still very relevant today, a society essentially thinking about how it wants to deal with the criminal justice system, whether we're too hawkish when it comes to war. That album matters today, as it did back then. So, I think of these albums and when you're listening to them now, do they still mean something? That's what makes it iconic to me.

Julia Furukawa is the host of All Things Considered at NHPR. She joined the NHPR team in 2021 as a fellow producing ATC after working as a reporter and editor for The Paris News in Texas and a freelancer for KNKX Public Radio in Seattle.

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