It's about time to recognize some videographers hard at work capturing the Indiana music scene. The folks at Laundromatinee have been around the longest, taping live-in-studio sessions by touring indie rock bands (often those booked through MOKB Presents) as well as the cream of the local crop. MonkeyEatsMonkey has made a name for itself in the past year, becoming a nigh-ubiquitous presence at local shows. And Midwest Underground is going the public access route in Bloomington, where citizens still have access to the airwaves.
MonkeyEatsMonkey: guerilla music video
Last month Christina Reid and Derik Savage arrived at the Melody Inn with video cameras in hand, excited to record the Atlanta band Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun. They were blown away by the heart and soul of the performance, but shocked that only a handful of people were there to see it.
And it's those kinds of nights that push the two concert videographers, together known as MonkeyEatsMonkey, to the front of venues across Indy each week. Since March 2010, they've taken it upon themselves to capture bands they believe in and share the resulting videos with the masses.
"How many times have you been out to a good show and been like, 'Man I wish that I could show someone that I know what they are missing?'" Savage said. "That's what keeps us going with this."
The duo's work has a guerilla feel that captures the two key elements of live performance — the energy of a given band and the interaction between musician and audience.
MonkeyEatsMonkey has turned its eclectic eye on Brooklyn art-rap trio Das Racist, Bloomington emcee Andy D, Chicago-based singer-songwriter Cameron McGill, local orchestral folk band Slothpop and, most recently, the goofily-named local punk act Mr. Clit and the Pink Cigarettes. White Rabbit Cabaret has been a recent stomping ground, though the duo has filmed in just about every venue that features original local music.
The young filmmakers say they've dedicated thousands of hours to their craft.They put in 40 hours each week filming, mixing and editing footage, in addition to their day jobs. It's that drive that has had the duo sleeping in shifts to complete videos.
They strive to upload content to their Vimeo site, the current home for their 30-plus performances, at least once a week. Reid and Savage say the next step is to launch an expansive website, which they anticipate going live within the next two months.
The long-term objective for MonkeyEatsMonkey is to become a professional videography company. But they aren't willing to compromise the quality of their product for a paycheck. At this point, they are "just really happy to be there to be able to capture it all."
Laundromatinee: In-studio and across town
When the band White Rabbits walked in to the Pendleton High School radio station with their own videographer in early 2008, Craig "Dodge" Lile and Jeff DuPont realized they ought to be doing the same thing.
Lile, the founder of the indie-rock-focused My Old Kentucky Blog, and DuPont, then the faculty station manager for the student-run radio station, had already been recording in-studio performances for two years. But the two hadn't yet committed to adding video to the equation.
"When we saw the video, the light bulb kind of went on," DuPont said. "And Dodge, being the entrepreneurial type, was motivated to move it to a video session organization."
Their first video session was three weeks later, with the then-obscure Bon Iver. Three years later Laundromatinee is Indy's leading source for live session music videos.
Laundromatinee's catalog now features over 100 sessions by prominent indie artists (The Avett Brothers, Dr. Dog, and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes) as well as some of the area's strongest local talent (We Are Hex and Beta Male).
Lile credits the project's heaviest lifting to chief videographer Doug Fellegy, task manager Jessica Clark and DuPont, who works as audio engineer. They record in venues across Indianapolis, some of them likely suspects (recording studios The Pop Machine, Snapjoint and Lovebird; record stores LUNA Music and Vibes Music), others a bit more out of the way (the Indianapolis Museum of Art and French Pharmacie).
The team is not without other commitments — full-time jobs, graduate programs and personal lives. "We have not made it profitable yet," Dupont said of the project. "It's purely enthusiasm and passion motivating it. It's the love to discover that artist who will remind you what you love about music again."
"For me, part of it is just the love of music and just wanting to be connecting with that," Fellegy explained. "The other part is the love for creating."
Midwest Underground: public access from the basement
"House show," "basement show," "kegger" — call it what you want, but it's underground concerts that drive the Bloomington music scene. Midwest Underground, a new public access/webisode series, brings that authentic basement concert experience straight to the comfort of your own home.
Each episode features performances by two Midwest bands recorded at a real-life house show complete with audience, cheap beer and illuminated Christmas lights. The gigs are hosted in celebratory fashion at Midwest Underground's headquarters, aka Andy Bergie's basement.
For years Bergie, a drummer in the bands You're A Liar and The Calumet Reel, watched peers create music, art and short films, only to see their content get lost in the vastness of the Internet. Bergie decided to create an online home for low budget, nomadic art. After consulting friend and professional videographer Kevin Winkler six months back, his idea has developed into a half-hour web-based show.
As team cinematographer, Winkler wants each performance to hold the grit of an underground show. Shallow depth of field and split-screen camera angles have a rugged yet polished feel. Bergie, a Protools certified audio engineer, takes a similar approach to the audio.
"Most TV shows that do live performance are closed set, and bands take a performance three times or until they get a good take," he said. "Ours is a basement show. It just so happens to be taped very well. But it doesn't have to be perfect; I don't want it to be perfect."
The first two Midwest Underground episodes have covered an eclectic range of genres — hardcore, indie folk and math rock. Bergie hopes to include hip-hop and electronic sets in the future.
With music comes comedy, and a small cast contributes sketches between the live performances, artist spotlights and submitted videos. These interludes give Midwest Underground a public access appeal. Archibald Progers, the show's mustachioed host, leads the shenanigans in a creepy Mr. Rogers-inspired manner.
Winkler says their goals are to produce one episode a month and to post original and submitted content online in the meantime. The long-term objective is to create six to 12 episodes, with the possibility of releasing a Midwest Underground compilation CD in the future.
"I love doing it because it's just something different," Bergie said. "People like the house party scene, and I wanted to keep that vibe, and I wanted bands to be able to walk away from a house show with a great live recording and a live tape."