Sam Bush wanted to take what was cool about The Garage, the improbably small music venue in downtown Charlottesville for which he books acts, and smear it all over the city.
He wanted to take the great bands he was attracting, and make something in addition to the quirky little concerts they were playing to audiences across the street at Lee Park. He wanted to produce high-quality videos—something artsy but more pro than his skill would allow—of the bands in other odd settings.
“I wanted to curate it a little more,” Bush said. “When the music is in a place you don’t usually hear music, you hear it with fresh ears.”
A couple of blocks away, two videographers happened on the same idea. The husband and wife team of Forrest and Zaynah Pando, who produce highly sought after art house wedding videos through their business Pando Creative and Citrus Ceremonies, were working in their office above the Downtown Mall when they heard a busker out their window. Nothing unusual there. But there was something about the musician that caught their attention. They took some equipment downstairs, captured video and audio and shared it online and with the musician Rebekah Todd.
The North Carolina-based songstress, it turned out, was playing The Garage that night. And when she next spoke with Bush, she shared the video with him.
“Aha,” thought Bush. This is exactly the vision he had for his videos but was unable to pull off.
And so went the birth of The Garage Video Sessions, a concept that has to date produced 20 short films of accomplished indie musicians doing their thing in odd locations around Charlottesville. Bush and Pando Creative have 15 other videos in the works, waiting to be uploaded to their newly launched website.
April 30 will be the next important milestone for The Garage Video Sessions —its coming out party as it were, to be held at Champion Brewing Company. Between sets by Devon Sproule, The Hill and Wood, Klauss and Gallatin Canyon, attendees will be treated to a handful of the videos on a projection screen inside the Belmont brew pub.
And what exactly will they see? Perhaps they’ll see a quartet of hipsters—The Extraordinaires—around a table at the Blue Moon Diner making music with nothing but ukuleles, flatware, coffee cups and the table itself. The song? “Blue Moon” of course.
Perhaps they’ll see one of the earliest videos in the collection, the husband and wife duet of Daniel and Lauren Goans performing “Twine” as Lowland Hum.
“It was the second session, and right off the bat Forrest and Zaynah were the ones brainstorming—top of the Christ Church bell tower at 6 in the morning at sunrise,” Bush said. “You wouldn’t suggest that unless you believed in the project, too. From the get-go, everyone was on the same page to make this work.”
Or perhaps attendees of the launch party will see the latest release, a video that brings with it the first hint of the success to come for the Sessions. In this one, singer-songwriter Christopher Paul Stelling fingerpicks his way through “Warm Enemy” from inside Patrick Dougherty’s “On the Fly” stick sculpture at UVA’s Betsy and John Casteen Arts Grounds. The piece was effective enough to catch the ear of NYC’s Village Voice, which premiered the video on its website on April 9.
So how exactly do the Pandos and Bush pair the Sessions musicians with the appropriate C’ville locations?
“We ask the musician for the song, then we pick the place,” Forrest Pando said. “Christopher Paul Stelling considers himself a troubadour, and he’s raspy and dark and bluesy. So we came up with the idea of the huts.”
Bush and the Pandos admit that inspiration comes from a variety of places. Vincent Moon has shot Arcade Fire in an elevator and crammed Grizzly Bear into a bathroom. Even NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts draw on the idea of having a full band pull off a performance in an unlikely location.
What makes the Garage Video Sessions different, they figure, is their link to the locale. The idea is not only to show off great music, but to show it in beautiful locations dear to each of them.
“We want it to be an online resource for music but also music that is connected to our community,” Bush said.
Will The Garage Video Sessions ever be the Tiny Desk Concerts? Maybe not. Heck, at this point a couple hundred visitors to the fledgling website would suit Bush and the Pandos just fine. But it’s already stretched beyond the confines of The Garage itself, attracting acts coming to town to play larger local venues. And being picked up by the Village Voice and website Nerdist has given them a welcome jolt.
Still, Forrest Pando said huge commercial success probably isn’t in The Garage Video Sessions’ near future.
“So far this has been a labor of love,” he said. “We love doing them, and we enjoy meeting these bands and forming relationships. It’s been rewarding for us just as people.”
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