And so we’ve reached that final milestone – just as I promised back in June, we have now completed 26 episodes of Parlour to Parlour, one for each week of the second half of 2009.
When I started this project more than thirteen months ago, I was reacquainting myself with the workings of that nifty device known as the portable video camera. My old buddy Scott was in the middle of a 5-week stay at my place (at that time) in San Francisco’s Lower Haight district, and while he was down on his luck and not up to his usual standards of motivation during his stay, he perked up not just at the prospect of working out with me at the gym, but also to exercise some of his camcorder knowledge by helping me transfer some Hi8 video to Mini DV so I could easily import the footage into my Mac. That footage, which I shot as Scott looked on, eventually became Episode 0 – it was meant only as a practice run to get my feet wet again.
Of course, once I started having serious discussions with Brandon Kane, an independent film director and screenwriter down in the Phoenix area who I have considered a close friend since that fateful bonding moment we had on our second day working together at Brown University – September 11, 2001 – it became clear to me that it would probably be OK to use this footage for the actual project. Brandon knows my eyes are pretty good, but his are infinitely better, and if it weren’t for his feedback, Episode 0 would probably still be sitting in a box underneath my desk.
And the subjects of that pre-episode – Chris Robley and the Fear of Heights – were also friends. Scott and I both knew Chris from our formative days growing up in Rhode Island’s East Greenwich school district. I know a lot of us have differing opinions on what it was like going through that system, but speaking only for myself, I can confidently say that, while it wasn’t perfect, it was worth whatever hassles there were if only for the few lifelong friends who came out of it with me. Even if I could only claim one friend from the experience, it would have been worth it.
And so began the Parlour to Parlour journey, ensconced among friends who were enthusiastic about the idea and excited to see how it would unfold.
In a sense, I knew in some general ways just how it would unfold. Most artists I contacted would be game, some would not, and overall we’d all have a good time putting these episodes together. Given that I chose all these artists based on the fact that I actually liked their music and wanted to give them another unique forum to show it off, it was also hardly surprising that, following sessions where I’d be hearing a song played at least twice as I recorded it, these songs would be stuck in my head for weeks after our sessions had ended, effectively providing part of my soundtrack for the year.
I did have a feeling that, given how much energy I was putting into this project, I’d probably not be in any position to wrap my head around a ‘best of the year’ or ‘best of the decade’ contribution to Popdose. Sure enough, when the call came around, I couldn’t be bothered. Parlour to Parlour was the here, the now, and the sole focus. For once, my love of history was put on the back burner, and aside from a small tinge of guilt in the back of my head, I really didn’t mind.
But even with the amount of planning I put into this project from the outset, some things simply could not be predicted. There were some subjects who went way above and beyond the call of duty in their levels of graciousness and hospitality – they know who they are. And of course, when these folks (and all Parlour to Parlour subjects, for sure) are swingin’ through my neighborhood, they all know that they have a place to stay if they need it.
I took a chance with this one, but it paid off handsomely – given how much has been said over the past year about the demise of MySpace in light of the rise of Facebook and Twitter, who would have thought that MySpace would be the single most effective tool I had in reaching out to these artists? In most cases, tour schedules were more up-to-date on their MySpace profiles than on their regular web sites (for those who still have regular web sites, that is), which made scheduling a lot easier. That they were also checking their mail regularly and actually responding was proof positive to me that, while MySpace may have died as the dominant social networking platform, it’s still very much alive and well as a networking community for independent musicians. Plus, how great is it that you can stream their tunes in full with minimal hassle on a MySpace profile and find out right then and there whether you want to spend more time listening, attending their shows, and keeping up with them in general? Don’t count MySpace out just yet.
And then there were all the other circumstantial unknowns… like the opportunity for me to move to a new apartment just four months into the project. Or the giddy feeling that would pulse through me each time I reviewed the footage of my most recent shoot. Or how much stress I would be feeling during that period where I was both editing final episodes on a regular schedule and making arrangements to shoot the last six, yet too proud/stupid/oblivious to do something about it, and failing to speak up and realize how it was affecting at least one very important person in my life. Or how heavily I would rely on the audio mastering expertise of Popdose’s own Ted Asregadoo, to the point where I ate into his Mix Six schedule. Or that I would grow so close to lighting assistant Rebecca Stewart that many of my highest highs and lowest lows during the course of the project would be attributed to her presence. But of course, that’s just how it works – the lowest lows always happen on account of the highest highs, and I wouldn’t trade back those highs for anything (except perhaps the opportunity for a do-over with newly acquired wisdom – to be more present-minded – to make those highs even higher, and to head off those lows at the pass. But of course, that opportunity will never present itself as long as time travel remains an impossibility).
In the end, many more doors opened up on account of this journey than were open in the beginning, both of a musical and personal nature, and there are plenty more subjects I have discovered through this crop of artists that I could wrap into another season of Parlour to Parlour. But I am not quite ready to commit to announcing a second season just yet. You’ll have to wait to find out whether it will actually happen. If it does, you can expect an announcement here in mid-June. If it doesn’t, well, these videos aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, so keep enjoying them as you see fit, and feel free to comment below on what your favorites were, what you’d like to see more of, what wasn’t so hot in your eyes, or anything else that might be on your mind.
Till then, I’m signing off here for a while. I hate to say it, but it does make me sad to see this project draw to a close. Rebecca saw it before I did – that sadness. But I’ve been so forward thinking all my life that – with some exceptions – I have tended to feel like it’s not worth wasting time on sadness. This time, there was no avoiding it.
- Ted Asregadoo (audio mastering) – you probably had no idea what you were getting into when you offered your help in mastering my audio files. Thanks for being so patient and for never once flinching or losing your cool. Yours is a constitution we should all strive for. And given the varying quality of the sound files I sent you, the results of your work were superb! We are due for a bourbon fest soon.
- Jeff Giles (Popdose editor in chief) – thanks for showing so much enthusiasm for this project and for being so supportive throughout the process. That green light you gave me had huge significance, as you can plainly see. Also, you were right – keeping me on camera was a good call.
- Brandon Kane (Cosmic Control Productions, consultant and moral support) – thanks for cluing me into all the basic tools I needed to get started, for coaching me early on with regard to positioning and lighting, camera and audio equipment, alleviating my fear of shadows, and for plugging these episodes one by one as they were posted. I probably would not have had the courage to move forward with a project of this scope had you not involved me in your own full length feature project, so thanks for that opportunity as well.
- Kelly Low (logo design) – thank you for taking time out of your regular work schedule to collaborate with me on the Parlour to Parlour look and feel. You took my rough pen sketch and turned it into a real brand with a personality all its own, one that reflects both my vision and your own sense of style, which I have always admired. The process was fun, smooth and easy, and I feel a great sense of pride every time I look at our work. And thank you for being so enthusiastic even after the work was done.
- Lila Nelson (camera and lighting assistant – Episodes 1 and 2) – though I knew you would probably not be able to stick around for long due to your own gigs and such, I’m grateful that you took the time to lend your enthusiasm, willingness to learn, and comedic personality to the process of creating some of the first sets of narration inserts. Had you not spoken up and asked for the opportunity, I might have trudged on recording these things alone, essentially robbing the series of a subtle yet noticeable extra spark. …and if you haven’t already, get a Mac!
- Rebecca Stewart (camera and lighting assistant – Episodes 5 through 25) – there’s so much to say, as no one besides me was more involved in this project than you. It’s no exaggeration to say that nobody was more passionate than you when it came to giving 100% to make sure things turned out not just right, but better each time. You thought outside the box every step of the way, continued to innovate your lighting techniques right to the very end, and I will always be grateful for you making the trips out to L.A. and Seattle to film Episodes 20-23 alongside me. You’ll never know just how sad I felt to finally tear down that paper monstrosity you built around the ceiling light in my office.
…and last but certainly not least, thanks to all the artists involved: Chris Robley and the Fear of Heights, Meredith Axelrod, Leopold and his Fiction, Silian Rail, The Aimless Never Miss, The Parson Red Heads, The Happy Hollows, Correatown, Le Switch, The Purrs, Rachel Taylor Brown, Lila Nelson, The New Up, Norfolk & Western, The Spring Heeled Jacks Original Swinging Jass Band, The Dazzling Strangers, Bill Spooner, The Brother Kite, The Cobra Lilies, The Monolators, Half Light, The Tripwires, Steve Taylor, and Cyril Lepizzera. And also, thank you Tim Ryan – not just for giving us a place to stay, but also for introducing me to Jeff Giles in the first place.
Finally, I leave you with a bonus video left over from the Episode 24 sessions with Steve Taylor. After we had finished filming Steve’s performance of “Mystery,” he asked if I wouldn’t mind also getting some footage of him at the piano playing the song “River,” which was one song I had mentioned before ultimately deciding that “Mystery” belonged in Episode 24. The lyrics of “River” felt like they should end the series – something I wouldn’t have realized until just before filming Steve for Episode 24. So I’m including it here as the last word on Parlour to Parlour 2009. Enjoy!