Taylor Mac's 24-Decade History of Popular Music (2023)

Taylor Mac's 24-Decade History of Popular Music (2023)

A rapturous musical celebration that challenges how we remember our history and how we connect with each other

The Very Best



United States of America
Documentary, Music
Anastasia Durasova, Machine Dazzle Flower, Matt Ray
106 min

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If they release the actual 24-hour recording, we're bumping our rating up to an 11/10.

What it's about

Performance artist Taylor Mac stages a one-time 24-hour concert that traces America's history in song, filtered through a queer lens.

The take

A 100-minute highlight reel of the audacious 24-hour performance staged by artist Taylor Mac in 2016, this concert film succeeds not only in capturing the show's eclectic mix of songs, drag costumes, and interactive audience segments, but in capturing the emotional atmosphere conjured up in that Brooklyn warehouse. The very premise of the performance is ripe for analysis: a history of America starting from 1776, progressing one decade every hour, represented by selections of popular music of the time—which Mac questions at every turn, reinterpreting and reclaiming them for a contemporary queer audience. It begins as a creatively educational exercise, but gradually becomes more and more personal, until the audience is fully involved in the performances themselves.

Even the 24-hour format transcends its gimmick. That the show becomes an endurance test is deliberate, with bonds forming in real time and the exhaustion of this ever-changing drag performance conveying the weight of all this history on the most vulnerable and misrepresented sectors—who've already endured continuous losses decade after decade. And still there is cause for celebration, and genuine warmth among the people slowly becoming more vulnerable with each other over 24 hours. It's a beautiful, intelligent, frequently funny, and ultimately moving experience in a class all its own.

What stands out

Mac's showmanship, vocal sturdiness, and generosity towards the audience are all obviously key to having the performance work at all, but the most stunning moments throughout this marathon actually come from the audience's willingness to put down their walls and share moments with each other. Mac has them sing along, dance, roleplay, throw ping-pong balls, pretend-fight, and slow-dance in each other's arms. And directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (together with cinematographer Buddy Squires) capture these moments with so much tenderness, transforming this warehouse into a ballroom, a playground, and a truly safe space for everybody.

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