In a hallway, in front of elaborate iron-worked windows and two green trash bins, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon leads his band in an acapella version of “For Emma,” off his debut album “For Emma, Forever Ago
,” clapping rhythm like a human metronome. Vernon tries and fails to open the door for building residents, vocalist/pianist Sean Carey then buzzes them in, bassist Mike Noyce smirks at Vernon’s ineptitude, Carey stoops to pet a friendly dog that runs over; throughout all of which the band never pauses in their acapella serenade. The long hallway, lit by a soft pink glow that seems to radiate off every surface, fills with beautiful three-part harmony. As the song winds down the camera pans to the other end of the entrance-way where a crowd has gathered to listen, and the same dog jumps playfully, looking to be pet.
No. 93 in an ongoing series of Les Concerts A Emporter or ‘Take Away Shows,’ this Bon Iver performance is one of my favorites. Produced by La Blogothèque, brainchild of Chryde and French indie filmmaker Vincent Moon, the artistically filmed live performances take music out of the concert halls and into the streets, literally. Bands play acoustic and/or acapella sets walking down the street, in parks, bars, apartments and even elevators!
The groups, with guitars strapped to their backs, portable percussion (maraca’s, a single drum) and vertically carried keyboards travel through quaint city backdrops and everyday soundscapes (birds, rushing traffic, surprised screaming fans a la The Kooks video) like bands of roving troubadours. In an I’m From Barcelona video, lead singer Emanuel Lundgren leads an unprompted ever-growing pedestrian chorus that follows behind him, like a pied piper of indie rock.
On Parisian boulevards lined with trees and in the interiors of architecturally aesthetic buildings an honest, clean sound is captured in continuous, single-takes, through a lens that makes the images appear to have been sepia-toned and then filled in with water colors. The minimalistic performances paired with facial close-ups, lends an authentic experience to online viewers, granting intimate access to your favorite bands. The only audience is the omniscient camera, or occasionally impromptu crowds of curious locals drawn in (as are we), by the music.
Started in Paris in April 2006, the project has now spread globally and involves other directors in addition to Moon, who shoot bands in locations around the world such as Jerusalem, Montreal and Austin, TX. Lykke Li, The National, Cold War Kids, Fleet Foxes, Bloc Party, Beirut, Margot and The Nuclear So & So’s, The Shins, Andrew Bird and many others have performed for the web outfit. For a full listing of bands and videos go here.
“Our goal is to try and capture instants, film the music just like it happens, without preparation, without tricks. Spontaneity is the key word.”
Other Favorite Performances (in no particular order):
Squeezed into an elevator, the 8-piece outfit still manages to churn out a heartfelt rendition of “Neon Bible,” off their album of the same title. The jigsaw puzzle of guitars, violins, brass instruments and bodies are fitted together in a claustrophobically tight space, making for an intimate performance venue. Band members bang on the ceiling and rip magazines, while bowing violins swell in a tide of emotion, producing a sound that the small space cannot contain. Or if that doesn’t do it for you, the sheer fact that the whole band with instruments fit in that elevator is a feat in itself!
The camera encircles the foursome in a gated courtyard/parking lot as they play acoustic guitars, a keyboard laid down on the concrete, and use dumpsters as a drum set. Surrounded on two-sides by the windows of high-walled apartment buildings, Ezra Koenig’s squeaky voice echoes and amplifies around the courtyard. Something about the open space and stripped down rendition of “The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance” with big drum sounds and a simple guitar riff just works. Then almost like an afterthought the video cuts to the band walking single file down the street playing a minimalistic guitars/vocals/maracas version of “Oxford Comma.” The band’s sparse song stylings echo Moon’s single takes and shaky panning shots, the marriage of which is a match made in heaven . . . or maybe Cape Cod by way of Paris.
You don’t need to do much to make Fleet Foxes look and sound good. With their beautiful, ethereal harmonies and signature Pacific Northwestern flannel outfitting, the group was one of the best to break out 2008. What makes this video great is that Moon in fact doesn’t do much, using subtle filming techniques such as an enhanced dark/light color contrast, and strategically picked locations to compliment the band’s sound and image. A slowed, acapella version of the “Sun Giant” on a park lawn brings to the foreground the naturalistic imagery abundant in the lyrics, and the epic “Blue Ridge Mountains” is performed in a deserted, high-ceilinged area of the Grand Palais, an old palace that fills and echoes with their brazen saccharine voices.