A crowd packed Diana Wortham Theatre April 29, watching nearly two hours of continual videos from 29 contestants. Many musicians teamed with filmmakers; some award winners used friends.
Festivities sparkled with a red carpet arrival, wine-beer reception, music professional panel discussion, the screening, awards and after-party in Asheville Music Hall.
This was the eighth annual video awards show, and second in acoustically-sharp Wortham — boosting attendance and screening quality.
Musical genres varied. Some videos were serious, somber. Others light, comical. Budgets typically vary from hundreds to thousands, some filmmakers said. One entry was shot on an iPhone.
Visual styles differed. Some keyed on the band, others on symbols or animation. Imagery included tribal trance, lawnmower racing, crashing cars, and roller skating in Pritchard Park.
Indigo De Souza puts her arm around her video maker, Hannah Sommer, in gathering with video-helping friends.
Family photos was a winning idea, as Betaplane proved everything old is new again. The group’s self-produced debut video “Friday” won the prestigious Judge’s Award, and a free recording day in local Echo Mountain Recording Studios.
This video also won for Best Editing. It blended current shots with the band’s 8mm family film from several generations and decades, briefly in split-screen showing four images at once. They added footage of a girl alone in a field, on a beach and walking on a pier with a father figure. Watery wrinkles further reflected these childhood memories.
The few vocals mostly asked the girl about her aspiration. These voices were from a band member’s parents recording on a cassette tape in 1978, the group noted. Their flowing, surrealistic techno melody is mostly instrumental. It resonated with flashes and swirls of light, color and other visual effects.
The packed audience texted votes for a favorite. The winner of $500 is stephanie’s id, for the soulful ballad “Lonely in Manhattan.” Singer and lyricist Stephanie Morgan, a popular local club performer in this New Millennium, simply told The Tribune it felt “great” to win.
Morgan directed the video. There mostly were close-ups of her, in a stirring live studio recording. But in a special effect, a bandmate’s young daughter instantly took her place. This symbolized her lifelong musical aspiration. That stand-in is Grace Geoffrey, 9, who also sings beside Morgan. It took 10 takes. Cinematographer Michael Oppenheimer mixed four camera angles.
Indigo Blue De Souza’s “Let Me Heal You” won as Best Soundtrack/Song in a Video, for the second consecutive year. Premier singers packed this category. Two won other awards that night. One is stephanie’s id. Crazyhorse and Colston’s “Soul Driven” took home Best Cinematography honors. Nominee The Broadcast’s classic-styled rocker “Every Step” features soulful Caitlin Krisko’s vibrant vocals and personality.
De Souza’s angelic voice coos to a slow, hypnotic electro beat with her lyrical refrain “We only give love around here; we only have good times here.” At 17, she exudes joyful innocence yet is poised beyond her years. Her friend Hannah Sommer shot the video in two days, including at a cold river.
There are closeups of De Souza’s lipsticked-drenched red lips. She is cosmically still, then sways and dances. She playfully knocks aside a male acrobat and a female dancer. De Souza said her face paint made her feel like a “tribal goddess,”with healing power. One dancer wore an oversized mask. Mysticism also evolved from the sun backlighting some dance scenes.
Challenging but Pivotal
De Souza plays at LEAF in Black Mountain this Saturday, 5:30 p.m. in the outlaying barn. Krisko, whose band played Downtown After 5 last summer, said videos help land bigger gigs.
Krisko cautioned video-making can be “grueling. It can take four and a half hours, to get 15 seconds of footage.” But she said the result can be “magical,” and career-boosting.
“The goal is to reach as many people as possible,” Krisko, 30, said. She added that “music is inseparable from the visual.” Another panelist, contest judge Brian Adam Smith, agreed how “two senses are better than one.” Smith said “every band should have a video (link) on its home page, and premiere a video at a live performance.” The Goodies’ Holiday Childress, also a panelist, urges a band to “create a brand” identity via videos.
A video should compel interest —catch and sustain it, Smith and fellow judge Paul Bonesteel emphasized. A video “needs to be conceptual, to tell a story,” Bonesteel said, but cannot rescue a weak song. Smith said “I want to be surprised” and if it clicks then “to see it again — right now.” Hendersonville native Bonesteel, a noted biographer, does videos. Smith’s PhD thesis at Emory was on history of music videos. He has done videos for bluegrass stars Steep Canyon Rangers.
In other awards, Best Set/Visual Design went to rapping Foul Mouth Jerk for “Opium Den.” There was silly stop-action, of drug-dealing dolls in a tiny indoor set. Best Costume Design was awarded to Americana band Moon and You, for a mermaid and mustached (lady) in the oceanic “The Rolling Baby Blanket of the Blue.”
Rising talent among video contestants includes Joe Lasher, Jr. He is 18, newly-graduating from North Buncombe High. At 6-foot-3, he played football until focusing on music. He has vocal depth, and mature presence singing country and R&B originals. His video is of “Eyes.”
Another contestant who periodically plays in the Poe House in Hendersonville is singer-songwriter Sean Bendula, 27. His simple video of “The Light,” above all, “showcases me as a live musician.”