Posted by: Bill Jones | April 7, 2008

This Old House Meets Austin City Limits

We were slinking around the interweb this past weekend when we stumbled upon the Burn To Shine DVD series. We actually caught one on the Sundance Channel on a recent Virgin America flight back to NYC for the holidays. So it combines two things that I myself am interested in: cool old buildings with great architecture slated for destruction, and great bands, performing their songs within the soon to be exploded walls. The cameras roll for the band alone, and by the time the movie is finally released, the building is a parking lot.

This series is a project of Fugazi dummer Brendan Canty and filmmaker Christoph Green (the pair also directed the Wilco Sunken Treasure DVD). Musicians representing the region’s “scene” are selected by local “curators,” including Ben Gibbard in the Seattle film and Chris Funk of The Decemberists in Portland. The musicians set up shop in the condemned building, each performing one song, one take, on one day. Then the local fire department will receive the property and it will be destroyed by fire for training exercises.

What makes these films hauntingly pleasant is this feeling of absolute present tense, the everlasting nowness documented in a space that no longer exists. Whether you like the music being performed or not, you can tell the artist is trying to somehow tribute this forlorn space with their own soundtrack. Kinda like after the National Anthem when they ask for a moment of silence for the death of somebody. Whether you are familiar with them or not, you still stay quite, as does everyone else, until we are told not to. Out of respect. That’s the feeling you get from this series.

Here are some audio samples of said series:

WILCO: Muzzle of Bees
(Burn to Shine Chicago, 2002)

Muzzle of Bees (Burn to Shine version) – Wilco

(Burn to Shine Portland, 2003)

Modern Girl (Burn to Shine version) – Sleater-Kinney

(Burn to Shine Seattle, 2005)

Can’t Keep (Burn to Shine version) – Eddie Vedder

Read the excellent full listing of who has played for this series, and if you are into it, you must listen to the podcast interview with Brendan Canty about the series. Canty talks about how the concept got started during a period when Fugazi was , yet again, undergoing a time of flux and dissolution, and how he wanted to capture that feeling somehow through this old building that fell into his lap. I think that the concept is very cool indeed, and a series well worth your time.

Buy Them here.

Vol 1: Washington DC (2001)
Vol 2: Chicago (2002)
Vol 3: Portland (2003)
Vol 4: Louisville (not yet released)
Vol 5: Seattle (2005)

Burn to Shine 4-DVD complete set

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