by Jeff Milo
It shouldn't have to always come down to who's too cool for that school or who's cut themselves too deeply into the cutting edge underground to even poke their heads out -vs- other working-class bands who get voted on by boards and receive prized "hardware" to commemorate their work as being better than the rest...
Regardless - what we should all take seriously is the preservation of the music video - how both artforms, musical and visual, can augment each other. Last night, as part of the Michigan Film Industry-propping Uptown Film Festival, the Detroit Music Awards Foundation (America's only not-for-profit local-awards foundation) got a slot to screen about a dozen music videos featuring nominated bands.
The stars of the screening were, ostensibly, the directors. As DMAF Board Member and music writer Gary Graff underlined, the idea is to forge a bridge between the two art forms in our state's creative community - one window at the Music Awards to open and shed some light upon up-and-coming directors, editors and cinematographers. If the Motor City Music Foundation's initial goal was to help foster a stronger music community - this is one modest step into fostering an even stronger arts community, overall - music and film.
That's what I'll take seriously.
And still, I saw some faces on the screen last night that I could recognize from my more-hipster-leaning cliques - like the Juliets - with their video of "Loon" (from the Perfect Season LP) - But then, watching these videos in a series, there's the slight cringe to see said-baroque-pop quintet traipsing their way through the art-splattered lawn of the Heidelberg Project just one clip ahead of loungey-jazz-pop singer Megyn Hermez' "Anxiety" dancing, bending and roiling her way through the same setting... (And, on an un-nominated note, didn't Alex Winston just go through there with her "Choice Notes"?)
I'm sure to the rest of the world, the ones not driving around the city every week, it's the go-to exotic/fantastical setting to show off how wonderfully weird we can be around here - but there's plenty of other environments that could serve to tell a story - just skim through Julia Reyes Taubman's staggering photography book Detroit: 138 Square Miles.
But I'm getting off the point. The value of honoring these videos and streaming them all together at the film festival is to give encouraging nods to the working class filmographers in town. Judged against shoestring budgets, just-barely-wrangled-together schedules of bandmembers on random Sunday afternoons where no one can wait for some idyllic "magic stime" Hollywood sunset glow for lighting, and the fact that you're not working with professional actors - well, hell, then these are all great starts, substantial signs of signature styles that should get the chance to flourish into something grander.
But, sure, at the same time, some of these are clunky and awkward - shots linger too long here or there's confusing concepts or the lighting is complete crap. But this shouldn't be a time for pot-shots, we shouldn't name names - because, frankly, I'm just glad that music videos are still surviving.
If I had to go on directing/editing and overall look of a video - I have to give a nod to the glossy, cinematic swirls of Infinity Hour's "She Finally Knows Why..."
And I can see hints of a Michel-Gondry-via-his-Bjork era in the dazzle (and fine utilization of a confined space) of Flashclash' "Spiraling" -
And Stereo Boyz "Circus Act" displays some fine examples of visceral editing - and it's just cool - and, dig the dedication of Some Velvet Evening affecting a straight-faced, glittery-tied, hay-stack flanked Hee-Haw vibe for "Shooting the Breeze."
The 21st Annual Detroit Music Awards are April 27th at the Fillmore. Voting has ended - so now it's just a countdown to the show - which will feature performances from Planet D Nonet, Gorevette, Amy Gore and her Valentines, Suzi Quatro, the Pleasure Seekers, Ben Sharkey, Paulina Jayne and Black Milk.