It's that time of year again when local ace videographer Django Greenblatt-Seay (G-S for short) and his band of merry volunteers climb aboard a shiny rental van and drive across these great United States of America to capture through unblinking lenses the best and brightest rock 'n' roll bands that you and I never heard of.
They're calling it the Love Drunk 2012 Tour.
In a nutshell: Over the next two weeks beginning May 4, G-S and his eight-person crew use high-tech video and sound gear to record musicians performing in odd and everyday places -- from Laundromats to spacious warehouses to the roofs of urban apartment buildings to the streets of Philly. They edit, mix, then upload to lovedrunkstudio.com for the world to see and hear. To accomplish this, they'll drive all night, shoot all day, dine on cheap food and even cheaper booze, and sleep and poop and pee in strange places, all for the sake of art.
And what did you do on your last vacation?
Because like a lot of us involved in the local music scene, G-S doesn't do this for a living. In fact, he's never made a dime from his Love Drunk project, and never wanted to. Instead, he makes a living as a digital media coordinator at OPPD, where he writes and shoots video for the power company's internal audience. G-S spent a good chunk of last summer at the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant, shooting flood footage to pass along to the media.
Yeah, he loves his job, but we all need some time off. "It would be nice to fly someplace and spend a week at a beach and relax and drink lemonade," G-S said, "but I'm not passionate about that. I'm passionate about rolling around in a van with my best friends, making jokes and mixing audio and video and coming up with a piece of work that everyone can be proud of."
When last I wrote about the Love Drunk project back in May 2011, G-S and his team had shot 43 live, one-take music videos. Today, his website hosts 73 mini-masterpieces, which have been viewed nearly 18,000 times per month so far this year. Viewership is skyrocketing. In an era when new bands have no chance of getting on local corporate radio (if they ever did), online outlets like Love Drunk are among the few options available to get their music heard.
Here's something you may or may not know about your typical up-and-coming indie rock band: They're broke. Most are barely getting by with the instruments they're playing. They're lucky if they can make a few bucks playing local shows, and any money they can scratch together goes either to their tour fund or toward their "recording budget" to cover studio costs for their next record that very few beyond their friends and family will likely hear. Hardly the rock 'n' roll lifestyle that you see in the movies.
The last thing a band has money for is to make a rock video. That's where Love Drunk comes in.
So who are these bands they're going to shoot? You've probably never heard of any of them unless you're entrenched in the indie music underground. For this year's tour, which spans from Ames, Iowa, to Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, New York, Boston, Philly, Chapel Hill, Knoxville, Nashville and St. Louis, G-S stumbled across most of the bands via friends or friends of friends or friends of bands or online suggestions or what he calls Facebook trolling.
Among the acts: Driftless Pony Club, Donora, Nelsonvillians, Mandolin Orange, Hammer No More the Fingers, Diarrhea Planet and Sleepy Kitty. See, I told you you've never heard of them. A couple are more well-known, including Cymbals Eat Guitars, who just toured with local heroes Cursive, and the Spinto Band, who opened for national singer/songwriter Basia Bulat at Slowdown a couple years ago, but you probably never heard of them, either.
It doesn’t matter. They're good. Trust me. Or trust G-S, who's rooting that one of them will break through, like The Menzingers, a band he recorded during last year's tour that signed a record deal with Epitaph -- an important indie label -- the day of the video shoot in Philadelphia.
"Our video instantly became the best promo tool the band and label had," G-S said. It stands as the most popular video Love Drunk ever shot, viewed more than 27,000 times.
G-S depends on that sort of breakthrough to get viewers to watch videos by other Love Drunk bands, which are listed on the right side of whatever media channel you're watching from, such as YouTube. It also gives Love Drunk much needed cred with record labels and influential websites such as punknews.org, altpress.org and Urban Outfitters blog, who hopefully will link back to his website.
Anyway, total cost for Love Drunk's 2012 tour: Somewhere north of $5,000. But G-S isn't paying for it out of his pocket. This year the tour is being sponsored by local web auction house Proxibid and Old Market cigar lounge/mojito bar/hangout The Havana Garage, who were connected to Love Drunk through ad agency/art gallery/think tank The New BLK.
It's one big happy circle, and you can be part of it. This Thursday, May 3, The Sydney in Benson is hosting a fundraiser for this year's tour. Drop down at 9, catch some fine local music, drop some money into the hat and be part of the Love Drunk movement. You'll be glad you did.
Beyond Lazy-i is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on arts, culture, society and the media. Email Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.