By Richard Barnstein: Farmer’s Tan Productions
(Above: 9/14/06: My brother, Mikey and I with the band, backstage at the 8×10 before the video shoot. Clockwise from the left: Bryan Dondero, Rich Barnstein, Grace Potter, Scott Tournet, Matt Burr, and Mikey Barnstein)
This coming September 14th will mark 5 years since my brother and I were fortunate enough to have filmed, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, at the legendary 8×10 in Baltimore. Since then, they’ve blown up on the national music scene. (Not because of us…we were fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to do 2 live concert video productions with them!) We produced 4 videos from this show that together are approaching 1 million viewings.
“TREAT ME RIGHT”
WHAT MADE THIS SHOW SO SPECIAL?
Anyone that either catches a lot of live music or plays a lot, knows that some shows are better than others, and it’s rare when a band hits that precious “magical” performance, where just about everything’s working. (From the performance itself, to the band chemistry, vocals, sound, venue, crowd, atmosphere, and vibe, to name a few.) This by no means was “the perfect show.” There’s no such thing when it comes to live music performances. The band themselves loved this sellout show. They even said it was one of the best, if not best shows of the year for them. This show was at a period where they’d recently been signed by Hollywood Records (Disney), and were about to go into the studio for the 1st time with a major record label. I’d bet that, if the band wanted to show a video production of a Grace Potter and the Nocturnals performance in their early years up to when they went into the studio with Disney/a major record label, this would be it. One can hear and see the raw energy that emanates from the performance. This show is definitely a great one for those influenced by the blues. (Which the” Mystery Train” and “Treat Me Right” video show.)
(Above: 23 year old Grace Potter: 7/15/06: All Good Music Festival: Masontown, WVA: Photo by Jake Krolick)
HOW DID WE FIRST HEAR ABOUT GRACE POTTER? HOW DID WE GET THE OPPORTUNITY TO PRODUCE A VIDEO FOR THE BAND?
We were honored to have filmed a band like this, in their young hungry days. My brother and I started FarmersTan.com a few years prior, out of a passion for live music. (I’m actually an optometrist in private practice with Professional Vision.) We were inspired and mentored by our good friend, Andy Monfried, who had produced a DVD for Steve Kimock. We’d filmed other national bands like the Bridge, and the Benevento/Russo Duo. Most of these were 6-8 camera shoots, with multitrack audio. In July 2006, I had a bunch of friends that attended All Good Music Festival in Masontown, WV. (One of the best music festivals out there!!!) When my friends got back from the festival, I asked them who they thought stood out the most. Numerous friends said that Grace Potter and the Nocturnals had ROCKED the side stage. I checked out their music and videos on youtube. (There’s a great one of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at the Boston Area Music Awards 2006 for the song, “Nothing But the Water.) A few months prior, we produced a video for a local Baltimore band, Fools and Horses. The video was also filmed at the 8×10, and won “Best Video” at the Washington Area Music Awards. I sent an email to the manager with the video, saying that we’d love to have the opportunity to film them when they came through the Baltimore/Washington area. He was nice enough to reply with something along the lines of “Hey thanks!” (Where it didn’t really address the question, but I was still excited that he replied.) I also found out that they were playing at Artscape in Baltimore that upcoming weekend. I caught them at Artscape and was pretty blown away!
While at the Artscape show, I received a flyer that listed Grace Potter and the Nocturnals playing at the 8×10 on Sept 14th. I immediately called the manager of the band, and left him a message, citing that we’d love to film them there on that date, with a 6-7 camera shoot, and that we’d do it for free. (I knew we’d never have a chance to film them otherwise.) The next day their manager called me back, and said that the Fools and Horses video that we’d produced, was at that point, better than anything that had been produced for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and that they’d love to have us film the show in September. (I can’t describe how psyched I was to hear this!!!) He’d said that, even at this early point in their career, someone had wanted to film the band in just about every city the band played in.
WHAT KIND OF VIDEO SHOOT SHOULD WE DO? (THE BAND’S “LAST WALTZ”)
Of course we then had to prepare for the shoot, which wound up being a 7 camera shoot with 24 track multitrack audio. Over the next many weeks, I collaborated with the management (I never spoke to the band directly until the day of the show) to find out exactly what kind of production the band was interested in having. The main feedback I received was that they wanted something similar to the vibe of the Band’s “Last Waltz” (Which is considered by many to be the best rock concert movie of all time…directed by Martin Scorsese.) The management had said the band wanted something with loooong, slow cuts…which was much different from the way most shows were filmed then and now. (where there are much more rapid cuts….hardly ever staying on one angle for long at all.) No laser lights…no fancy decor…plain and simple…all about the band, and the music. Even on the day of the show, the drummer, Matt Burr, said they wanted it to have the feel of “A 70’s rock concert.” When we interviewed the band, they said that one of their biggest musical influences was the Band’s “Last Waltz”. Of course, the next step for us was carefully watching “The Last Waltz” to find out what made it so special and to try to learn from it to apply towards the 9/14/06 video shoot. There are numerous reason’s for the movie’s success. The foundation of it is the music of the Band. (Although many guests sit in and play some of their own originals…that too adds to the movies effect.) Back stage interviews interlaced through the show also help. (We did an excellent interview of the band prior to the show, but it hasn’t been released.) We also made a strong effort to involve the entire band in the video production. Yes, Grace was the main focus, but we made sure that we filmed lots of footage of the rest of the band, and also edited the footage with a priority on showing the whole band, especially the on-stage band chemistry between the band members. Amongst the many reasons for what made “The Last Waltz” so special, here are some big ones that I thought we could try to duplicate and learn from the most:
1. As the band and management suggested, the Band’s “Last Waltz” was edited with long, slow cuts. (No rapid/herky jerky video cuts) With this style, one can really appreciate the performance itself, rather than the video effects trying to make the production stand out more than the performance itself. True…quick cuts can keep the viewer’s attention longer, but the long slow cuts give a feel more like the viewer is actually, in some ways, at the show itself. When we planned for the shoot, we went over and over with the crew about staying on one angle for a long time, with VERY SLOW zooms in and out, if at all. If they could stay on one angle without hardly moving the camera…staying on it for what seemed like forever….that would be AWESOME! This shoot would have no special effects…no jibs and dollies…no laser lights (As a matter of fact we just kept a black background, and used the colored house can lights…that’s it! The band’s lighting engineer at the time, Kavin, did a FANTASTIC job of keeping it simple, with beautiful light coloring throughout the show.) Simple…all attention on the band, and their music. I’m a huge fan of crowd shots, and we did have one camera on the balcony level that was specifically used for crowd shots, but the lighting was generally too dark on the crowd, which worked out for the better anyway. In the Band’s “Last Waltz,” Robbie Robertson discusses how they avoided crowd shots because they didn’t want drunk fans yelling and screaming at the camera. (Personally I think it was really because they didn’t have enough cameras to do it…just my opinion.) Like the Band’s “Last Waltz,” the 9/14/06 show has very few crowd shots.
2. What else made the Band’s “Last Waltz, such a special movie? As I watched the movie over and over again, I noticed that, while they didn’t have an extraordinary number of cameras for the shoot, (I think it was around 5-7 or so that I can count) they had a few cameras coming from each side, that caught footage of multiple band members at once on stage, where one can really get a good feel of the on-stage chemistry between the band members. (I think this is one of the most effective things about the entire movie….just classic!!!) Of the 7 cameras that we used (3-chip Sonys and Panasonics), 3 were set on the balcony level, and the other 4 were all at stage level. We found that having more cameras at eye level with the band gives more of a natural feel, where the viewer feels more like they’re actually there. Our wide-angle camera was set up against a post in the middle of the floor on the stage level, where the bottom 1/4 of the screen would have the top of the crowd’s heads from behind. This worked out great because we could have the crowd in camera view, moving and groovin’ to the music, but since it was the back of their heads, we never had shots where fans would look into the camera and make faces or whatever. We made a strong effort to have it where in the videos one can hardly ever see a video camera, which would add to the natural feel of the production. (There are some instances where you can see a video camera on the side of the stage, but it’s rare.) We posted signs up throughout the venue, asking fans not to take pictures, use any flashes, or hold up any cell phones for footage. The fans did a GREAT job with this…giving the filmed performance a much more natural, organic feel. As a matter of fact, if someone didn’t know what year this show was filmed, I really think that, years from now, one could easily believe that this show was in fact filmed in the 70’s.
THE VENUE: THE 8×10: BALTIMORE, MD
I frequent lots of live music, and The 8×10 is by far my favorite venue to see a show. (I also really dig the The 9:30 Club in DC, which is a larger version of the 8×10.) The legendary 8×10 has seen the likes of Phish, Dave Matthews, Nirvana, and Red Hot Chili Peppers to name a few. It’s a small, intimate venue, with a centered, stage, and wrap around balcony/2nd level, and holds ~350-400 max. With a smaller stage, the band’s obviously closer to each other. This can create more chemistry between the band members, where they can feed more off of each other. I’ve always said, that if I could see some of my favorite bands of all time (Like Led Zeppelin) in any venue, I’d like it to be a small intimate venue like the 8×10. This is how, in many ways, that the band can really connect with the fans. We did a total of 9 multi-camera productions with Farmer’s Tan, and 8 of the 9 productions were at the 8X10. This was not by coincidence. The owners of the venue (Abigail and Brian), and promoters (Walther-Productions…now All Good Presents) were wonderful in letting us do the video shoots.
“PUT YOUR HEAD DOWN”
WHAT DID THE BAND THINK? ANYTHING DOWN THE ROAD WITH THE REST OF THE SHOW?
One of my fondest memories about the experience was when we filmed the band again in 2007. This time we were paid by Disney to film the band. Prior to this video shoot, guitarist Scott Tournet came up to me and expressed his admiration with the 9/14/06 video shoot. When we finished editing the 4 videos, we put it onto a DVD and sent 4 copies to the management in LA, and 4 copies to Burlington, Vermont, home of the band. Scott said that when they received the DVDs, they popped them in the player, and watched, not expecting much from it. The 1st song on the DVD was “Mystery Train” (We tracked the 4 songs in the order in which they were played at the show) He said he was blown away! Shortly after they viewed it, the management had some discussions with us regarding a possible DVD, due to everyone in the band loving it so much. But this was right when they were in the studio recording with Hollywood Records for their 1st major label album, “This is Somewhere.” So they thought that it’d be best to focus on the new album. Will there ever be a video production of the entire show for DVD consideration or something else? At this time we’re not planning to do anything more with it. Sure, the band’s matured, and evolved since then. They’ve replaced some band members. (Which is pretty normal for a band that stays around for a while.) They’ve stepped up their attire on stage, and written songs with more of a pop edge to it. If the band cites interests in doing something down the road, to give fans what I’m sure they want, (which is a spectacular “70’s rock concert style” performance that shows the band in their early years, on the brink of going into the studio with a major record label for the 1st time) then we’d certainly be open to that! But if not, we’re still very thankful to have had the chance to work with them! One things for sure though…the sky’s the limit for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals!
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals: 9/14/06
The 8×10: Baltimore, MD
-Here’s to the Meantime ->
-Mystery Train @
-Treat Me Right
-Take It All Away
-Ain’t No Time
-Falling or Flying
-Stop The Bus
-I Ain’t Changin’ $
-Over Again ->
-Nothing But The Water
-Every Mile ->
-Put Your Head Down