for what it’s worth

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BLACK CAB SESSIONS: THE ULTIMATE IN INTIMATE GIGS

blackcabsessionsI’ve written before about the growing love for intimate venues heralding ideas like theatre in your home and gigs in your living room, but the Observer this weekend highlights the most extreme version of these – a performance with an audience of one. The Black Cab Sessions are live gigs recorded in the back of a black cab where the invited artist is challenged to record one song in one take, with the resulting video uploaded for all to see.

The brilliantly simple idea, conceived and produced by Just So Films and Hidden Fruit is explained on the site: “the sessions are all about great music and the venue strips this to its essence. We aren’t picky about genre and will happily open the cab door to anyone who blows us away”.
The videos, also uploaded to YouTube, are gaining considerable interest- with the recent performance by Benjamin Zephaniah receiving over 200,000 hits. BBC Radio One Online has heaped praise on the sessions, saying “A challenge has been laid down. Forget chart positions, forget ticket sales, or brand-extending toiletries or MySpace friends or any other measure of success. From here on in, it’s all about how well you can rock the back of a cab.”

The Observer article reports from an exalted position inside the cab:

‘ last Tuesday, as I sat on a jump seat nervously clutching a boom mike for the 31st Black Cab Session, I began to realise what a splendid arena a Hackney carriage is. Opposite me, Britt Daniel, the lanky lead singer of US indie stars Spoon, was leaning forward on the banquette tuning his guitar. Although Daniel had an audience of three – Johnny the cameraman, Terry the cab driver and me – this was a one-take deal and, if he faltered, the gig would be scratched. So there was tension in the air as he began strumming and we began driving.’

‘ The Black Cab Sessions have emerged as the music industry is struggling to cope with its dramatic loss of power to the internet: EMI is responding by laying off 2,000 staff, while Radiohead recently released their album online and fans decided what they wanted to pay for it. The Black Cab Sessions provide a small answer. ‘The gig is the cost of a cab fare,’ said Will Evans of Just So. ‘We offer a lift to a touring band from their hotel to the venue, so they can always fit it into their schedule. But I think it’s the stripped-down situation and the challenge of a single take that tempt the bands’. ‘

‘Watching the final product online, the perfect marriage of medium and message hits home. Whereas a music video or venue gig can look and sound strange viewed on a computer screen, the Black Cab Sessions’ single audio track and intimate performances translate well. Without make-up, lights, amplification, post-production, packaging or a large audience, and with their evident joy at the challenge, the varied artists rise to the occasion.’

The Black Cab Sessions

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