But first let me provide some context. The volunteer committee that helms the Detroit JCC's Stephen Gottlieb Music Fest is about the best gang of folks you could hope to work with. And two weeks ago we were in rare form. After going through some general planning discussions about the upcoming Adat Cohen (last week), Mandy Patinkin (September) and Chava Alberstein shows (January), we started in on next March's full festival lineup. Since I'm a helpful guy (see definition of helpful above), I was prepared with a pile of videos that I'd collected and that had been suggested by others on the committee. We had a great discussion and I remember leaving it wishing that all those bands hoping to play festival gigs could have been a fly on the wall. Oh yeah. I write a blog. They can be.
To simplifying things, I'm not going to talk through all the videos we watched. I'm just going to use some video's by some great regional klezmer bands as my examples. I've never seen any of them play live (shame on me), but know band members from each. I personally enjoyed each of the videos and hope that I can book each of them either this coming festival or a future one. I hope none of them mind using them as examples.
First up was the Michigan State Klezmorim.
Good stuff. Lyrical, stately, lovely. Easy to imagine them playing a private party or small club or restaurant. What happened when I played the video? I was immediately asked if they could play uptempo. You see, we're a big festival with a big stage and are envisioning a more uptempo affair, possibly with dancing. This video just didn't match the committee's vision of the event. Unfortunately, this is the only MSK video I could find.
Observation #1. I know videos take time and effort to put together; but if you want more than one kind of gig you need to have more than one video available. Make sure that there are enough videos that one of them will make us say "Yeah..I want them to do that for me!"
Second was the Heartland Klezmorim.
Ok. This was more like it. Good bouncy klezmer. The band was up on stage, obviously playing a festival gig. But iffy sound quality didn't help show off the band's musical ability and the band's tight, straight up playing didn't show off their stage presence. There is more than one Heartland video, but this was pretty representative...good band, but based solely on this video, are they good enough?
Observation #2. Just because the musicians are good, doesn't mean the video will be a winner. I'm not sure if the video was commissioned by the band or shot by a fan at the show, but either way this video didn't do Heartland justice. Having videos of your band playing gigs in front of happy fans is a good thing. But also make sure there are some videos with good sound and good camera work that really show off your musicianship and stage presence.
Last was the Chicago's Maxwell Street Klezmer
So to recap... bands, your videos are your audition performances. Even if you don't intended them to be. So put some thought into them, make sure you're showcasing your variety and musicianship and ability to entertain.