Fastback Studios Presents Fastback Sessions #4: Daniel G. Harmann
When I got the invitation to see my friend Daniel G. Harmann play at Fastback Studios a week ago (March 19) I arrived half-expecting a mega-cool rock n’ roll clubhouse run by the fevered-genius of legendary Fastbacks’ guitarist and man-about-town Kurt Bloch (now axing with Thee Sgt Major III). It’s not.
But to say I still came away impressed is an understatement.
It works like this: Brian Jackson, who works in Public Relations at The Awareness Group, books musicians for a session at Fastback Studios in North Seattle – in rooms upstairs in a large building adjoining, I think, a church. Excellent church parking lot downstairs – with two parking attendants!
The band, if I understand this right, invites a bunch of friends who fill a large recording studio with the artist just a few feet away. (I think the capacity is around 30, there were about 20 to see Daniel G.) The show is recorded live on very nice gear.
The studios, run by Chief Engineer Jason Lackie, are staffed for the show by mostly interns, drawn from the ranks of students at audio classes they teach. Also in the mix are at least three people with cameras, at least one is obviously for video. These interns are working with Jamie Wheeler of BB Wheeler Creative. They’re producing video that will be edited into a package for the artist to use as they see fit. It includes two or three of the songs performed as well as footage from an interview conducted at the studios earlier in the day. Essentially, the artist is getting a free, well-produced Electronic Press Kit. Handy! The audio recording, of course, also goes to the artist.
A key moment in the evening, I thought, happened during the performance. Daniel G Harmann was excellent, by the way, joined by Bill Nordwall of Seattle band Exohxo on piano. Dan had smartly parked a tall glass of water along with a plastic cup and a bottle of whiskey on a stool nearby. Near the end of the set, he offered the bottle to Bill, who declined. But the offer received the attention of friendly audience members at the side of the room. Dan and Bill passed the bottle across, and the empty seat next to this happy guy was quickly filled. Cue knowing laugh from the audience and… yep. This setting is right up my alley.
From 1993 to 2002 I was intimately involved in a similar endeavor, The Live Room from Jack Straw Productions, which aired live on KCMU (later KEXP). I hosted this hour-long live performance with a crew of fellow volunteers training through the Jack Straw program. The bands were encouraged to make the large recording studio their own, and some went as far as bringing an open bar. It was, on good nights, a fantastic hang.
That’s what The Fastback Sessions are, and without the tension of live radio. And they have free beer.
I bet you’d dig it, too. Although, you probably caught this part: it’s invite only. I get the impression, though, that if you simply contacted Brian or Jason or Jamie, they’d love to have you come by and check the place out. The Fastback Sessions are, “all about community,” Brian told me as he wrapped a concert-style wristband around me and handed me a handy informational pamphlet about tonight’s show. And that’s just how it feels.
It’s a perfect win, win, win for musicians, fans, future and current members of the music business in the Northwest, an emphasis on the art as well as the infrastructure. With an expected schedule of one session each month, this could become one of the hottest “tickets” in town.
(Abe Beeson is the host of Evening Jazz weeknights from 7:30-midnight on 88.5fm KPLU. He’s infrequently also heard on fellow public radio station KEXP, where he hosted The Live Room live local show from 1993 to 2002.)