(extended version of article published in Star News, with additional Q&A below)
By Brian Tucker
Last year’s Visual/Sound/Walls event during the Cucalorus Film Festival looked hard to top. Its celebration of artistic and genre-diverse music video immersion through wall to wall video screens was complimented with live performances, costumed characters mingling in the crowd, and audience interaction. The event moves back to Ziggy’s this year for a two night endeavor – the Cucalorus opening night party on Wednesday with live music from Raleigh’s Hot Line plus Friday night’s event where bands and performers take the stage along with videos.
VSW curator John Gray says they’re aiming to take things higher. Citing last year’s dancers and rappers performing along with their videos (that will return) and visiting music acts, there’s likely to be more performance art.
At the end of this article are many of the event’s music videos.
“There are more videos than ever before so we extended the program,” Gray said. “We’re going to make it more epic, the Apocalypse Now Redux of Visual/Sound/Walls. The party is going to be way bigger. We’re trying to get more audience interactive elements, more performance artists from the community – actors and dancers.”
If there’s a theme to VSW its sensory overload. The aim is to surround attendees with visuals, stimulate with ear pleasing songs and numerous interactive elements to make the audience feel involved in the videos. Rappers JK the Reaper and Camboi Smiff will perform along with their videos and singer and dancer Sarah Kinlaw will sing along with hers and give a body movement presentation.
“We want to make the audience feel like they’re trapped in a TV, in a good way. I think my favorite part is putting it together, editing the music videos establishing the transitions between the music videos and making them feel as smooth as possible so the whole program feels like one big, epic, type of music video party,” Gray said. “It takes a bit to wrap your brain around what the order should be because there’s a lot to consider – song, genres, song genres together and video style, similar styles together as well. Thematically as well, what a video is saying or commenting on. I try to use all those elements and make a story in my brain so at least translates on some subconscious level.”
One way is performance art that mimics videos. The synth-y “Carpe Jugular” by The Hidden Cameras (directed by Kai Staenicke) focuses on people in a club setting whose feelings are hurt by someone they’re attracted to being with someone else. In it, they get physically hurt – being punched and kicked.
“We’re hoping to have a bunch of people fake-fighting amongst the audience,” Gray said. “The video (that follows it) involves people making out and we’ll have those people that were just fighting to make out.”
Friday night’s “DJs + VJs BFs 4EVs” event will feature more live performances – local comedic rapper Camboi Smiff, Greensboro rapper JK the Reaper, two-piece rock band Hungry Girl from Charlotte, and Greensboro’s Anti-Americana band Ameriglow.
Cucalorus is the first film fest Ameriglow has participated in. The band had a split-release with Free Clinic this spring along with this year’s personal A Heavy Heaven for Robby from which their “dream Pt. 1” became a visually arresting dream or nightmare video in the festival.
“We are thrilled to be a part of another medium of art that’s doesn’t only entail music,” Ameriglow’s Jacob Darden said. The video concept was Darden’s and directors Ryan Walker and Will Davis shaped his rough draft into finished form.
“As far as imagery goes, I did have my own intention and feeling I wished to invoke. However, much of it was left particularly nuanced and “unanswered” to draw the viewer in to interpret on their own.”
Technology has made it easier for anyone to make a music video, whether on a Smartphone or the best equipment. Tech is readily available and not as expensive as it used to be. People are learning these tools we have and how to use them in amazing ways. You have the entire history right at your fingerprints and eyeballs. You can get a good sense of what has been done and what hasn’t. But Gray has the best advice for anyone looking to create.
“I would recommend it be all about the song, what inspires it. I think it all depends on the song, what it can inspire and what concepts that the song conjures. It’s all about the talent and who can use the tools around them.”
Q&A with Ameriglow’s Jacob Darden
Will you be performing solo or as a full band?
Darden: We will be performing as the full band, currently that’s a five piece but it is always subject to change depending on the event we are playing. Ameriglow can be thinned out to only one or two people performing an intimate set, to six or seven people playing musical chairs through stacks. Cucalorus is actually the first film fest in which we have participated. We are thrilled to be a part of another medium of art that’s doesn’t only entail music.
For the “dream Pt. 1” video, was the concept yours or did you work with filmmakers?
Darden: I delivered the basic concept for the story line and presented the elements I wanted to be focused on to my friends Ryan Walker and Will Davis, the directors of “dream Pt.1”. They run their own independent film company called Mechanical Eye Films out of Greensboro N.C. They are my go-to guys for video production. Ryan and Will brought structure to my rough draft, both were knowledgeable of the best use of our limited resources, added a technical polish, and even scouted out the charming locations. Once we found Abbey Shoaff for the female part, who was an amazing fit for the role we had developed, we were all set.
The weight of the album’s story, is it ever easier to perform? Does it help keep your friend close?
Darden: Even though, and in a ironic fashion which your question just brought to my attention, the title of the album is weighted down with its very own description, aka “a Heavy Heaven for Robby” and for the most part the underlining lyrical content is based on emotional boulders which we inherently carry each time we perform, we feel no sorrow or pain. When we are performing we are remembering, reminding those we sing about and sing to, that they are still in our thoughts. It’s a tremendously joyful experience to be honest. The kind of joy that brings you tears. So yeah, I’d say it keeps us close.
Is it important for each album to feel and sound different or each represent a place and time?
Darden: It’s simpler for me to create in the moment. Being present in the moment and having a clear awareness of your approximate surroundings, will naturally cause each creative endeavor to vary. The more present you are the more uniform and balanced the entirety of the album will become. The individual songs are bonded together due to their sharing of artistic thought space in short intervals of time; they are destined to compliment each other. This will entail that the finished “whole” will be its on distinct creature.
I don’t think I’ve ever purposely approached songwriting or song development with the intention of consciously building a new unique sound. Being “in it” does that chore for you.