Spending some time on and off the road with Crystal Stilts, Portishead, Amanda Palmer and more in this week's Small Screen Stories.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - Crystal Stilts changed my life this summer. Since then I've been waiting patiently and sometimes not so patiently for the band to release a music video. The Vivian Girls, who broke at the same time as them back in Brooklyn, already did it weeks ago. So what was keeping my Crystals? Well seems like they decided to document their recent jaunts on tour with a Super 8 ... and as we can all imagine, editing that stuff takes forever. Plus, you have to have lots of fun first and, well, actually make it back home in one piece before a tour documentary is complete. It's funny too, because I recently bought an old Simon and Garfunkel record and this is exactly how I imagine their 1960s beatnik world to have looked like. Oh, timelessness!
Sometimes I get the impression that tour videos are a last resort. We have to release a video for this single, the record label thinks, but the band is so boring! Well, let's just film them on tour and the script will write itself. I'm sure you can think of a few videos like that. But then there are the kind of tour videos that manage to uncover a side of a band you never knew existed, you get a glimpse of them truly behind the scenes and you love them even more. For "Tape Song", Allison Mosshart pretends she's a Beefeater in purple silk pajamas, proves her legs are really the longest in the business and drags her bandmate down a long hallway. And watch out for Jack White fighting the backstage boredoms with Jamie Hince later on. I really want to go on tour with them. Do you think they need a lady-roadie?
I spent a great part of this year's FM4 Frequency behind the Greenstage. Next to our office tent was the short-term backstage tent, for bands just about to go on. It was super late, we were super tired and goofing around in our wet rain jackets, prancing around like idiots. All of a sudden I look up, and Mr. Justice himself is standing in our "doorway", with a slight look of terror on his face. Before I could say anything or ask him if he needed anything, he scampered off. So much for my brush with fame. From what we heard, tent to tent, Justice are one of the quietest and most boring bands. If you knew what other bands get up to before hitting the stage ... Justice are angels. So where does all this debauchery come from? Are Justice just crazy in the US? Do they just party well if the weather is perfect and Kanye West is in the audience? If they ever come back to our parts, I want a second chance with them and a pillow-fight party sponsored by a Los-Angeles based clothing manufacturer.
"Magic Doors" by Portishead is kind of a hidden tour video - through edited we footage we catch glimpses out of a tour bus and through different landscape. Among many other snippets of imagery. I am fascinated by this layered look, there's always at least three images piled on top of each other and it creates such a unique atmosphere. Judging from one of the short crowd shots, I think this was all filmed while Portishead were in the US earlier this year, and that one shot comes from their big comeback performance at Coachella Festival. A beautiful testament to the turmoils of travel.
Before I get too philosophical now, let's face the facts. Life on the road is not nearly as romantic as someone like me might think. Behind every good artist is a team of highly skilled professionals, making it happen night after night. These unsung heroes, the lighting desigern, the roadie, the tour manager, the driver, they never get a thank you. They lurk in the shadows and yet pull all the strings. Well, Amanda Palmer, being one of the coolest women in music anyway, has decided to pay tribute to her crew and have a filmmaker friend create a truly interesting documentary on life on the Who Killed Amanda Palmer Tour 2008. Pens, paper, get them ready, this is where you take notes if you're looking to get in the biz.