It’s been known for awhile that Parks And Recreation has been putting together some sort of rock concert for its April 24 season finale, thanks to a trickle of information that’s gradually revealed appearances by Jeff Tweedy and The Decemberists. Now executive producer Michael Schur has confirmed to The A.V. Club that a few other artists will be on that bill as well—some of them making for a few fun callbacks for longtime Parks fans.
“It was really crazy,” said Schur. “We basically threw a rock concert, with a giant stage and a thousand extras. Jeff Tweedy did some songs, as did the Decemberists and Ginuwine. Also, Letters To Cleo played, which makes Ben Wyatt extremely happy.”
“The funny thing is that the guy who’s written all of the songs for Parks And Rec since the beginning, his name is Mark Rivers, and he used to play with Letters To Cleo—but he’s also the drummer in Andy’s band, Mouse Rat,” Schur continued. “So when Letters To Cleo got ready to play, we were like, ‘This is gonna be weird, because eagle-eyed viewers will recognize you as the drummer from Mouser Rat, and it will be very confusing that you’re now playing with Letters To Cleo.’ So we made him wear a baseball cap and he had sunglasses on, to kind of disguise him.”
There’s also another major musical “get” in the episode, though it’s possible that most viewers won’t even realize who they’re watching when the band appears.
“There was a total throwaway joke [in ‘New Slogan’] where Andy discovers Duke Silver and tells Ron, ‘You’re going to play the Unity Concert, I have you on right after Bobby Knight Ranger. It’s a Night Ranger cover band that wears red sweaters,’” said Schur. “One of our writers, Donick Carey, is very good friends with the band Yo La Tengo, who are one of my favorite bands, and he emailed them and said, ‘Hey, do you guys want to play Bobby Knight Ranger?’ And they were, like, ‘Sure!’ So Yo La Tengo makes an appearance as Bobby Knight Ranger, playing ‘Sister Christian.’”
As Schur recalls, “The three of them showed up, they got dressed up in red sweaters, khakis, and white wigs, and they played ‘Sister Christian’ in front of a thousand people, introducing themselves as ‘Bobby Knight Ranger.’ It was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen…and completely delightful. It was just really cool. They were so game and so happy to be there, and it was so cool of them, because…I mean, they’re basically in disguise. Yo La Tengo fans will recognize them, definitely, but most people won’t. They just did it because they like comedy and wanted to be a part of the show. It was super cool. I’m forever in their debt.”