David Byrne & St. Vincent @ Williamsburg Park, 9.29 Photography: Chris La Putt, courtesy of Brooklyn VeganRecently, Collective Next headquarters hosted an “onsite offsite” in which far-flung members of our team came together for a few days to figure out where we are and where we’re going. One of the topics that came up over and over was how to optimize, or control, an environment that is not our own and make it work best for a client. When we host sessions in our Boston office or in rooms we’ve designed and built for clients, it’s easy to make sure a space conveys everything we want it to. When you’re in someone else’s room, you have more constraints and less control. But you also have different opportunities to improvise.

One evening during the all-hands get-together, some of us drove to New Bedford to see David Byrne and St. Vincent play. The show was awfully good, but, probably because we had this in mind before we got there, what impressed us most was how the band took control of the room long before anyone showed up onstage. The stage setup was dramatic — horns strewn across the floor, bright white lights punctuating the spaces between the instruments, prerecorded rain sounds getting louder and louder as showtime approached– and when it came time for the obligatory “switch off your mobile phones” message, it was Byrne’s sardonic voice that implored us to turn ’em off. In an anonymous theater, Byrne successfully took control of how we saw and how we listened before he, St. Vincent, and their band arrived onstage. They set the stage even though it wasn’t their stage. It was a good lesson for us in how we might turn a generic space into our room. If you’re clever, there’s almost always a way in. Think hard enough and you can make any room your room.