Imagine your perfect concert. It’s not just about the band – it’s the people, the venue, the atmosphere.
If you get all the ingredients right it can result in a quite magical experience. This is what Nokia Lumia Live sessions, produced in collaboration with Blogotheque, are about.
Blogotheque began as a group of writers, designers and video makers who set off on their own adventure in the early days of the web. This was in the pre YouTube and Spotify era. They wore their hearts on their sleeves and got people to sit up and take notice of some precious bands and acts using the medium of video. They helped to kick start the musical journeys of Alt-J, Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver and Vampire Weekend.
Now they’ve got together with Nokia to bring about a whole series of remarkable concerts that really capture the imagination and throw up some genuinely unique moments between those on stage and the audience. Blogotheque selected a diverse range of exciting artists and placed them in some extraordinary spaces to be experienced by a hand-picked crowd. So some lucky people got to see Slow Club on the stage of a crumbling old music hall, Ghost Poet performing in a cemetery, Lianne La Havas in a skate park. Being Blogotheque of course they had to bring along their cameras so we can get to see what unfolds.
We spoke to Christophe Abric, one of the originators of Blogotheque, about his own pioneering career path and the concept for the series. The tour is underway so we also got to ask him about his highlights up to this point.
What did you do before you set up Blogotheque?
I was a tech journalist, specialising in the web and was frustrated that I wasn’t a music journalist. Blogotheque was born from this want to mix my passion (music) with my job (technology and the internet).
What was the original idea behind Blogotheque?
When we first created Blogotheque in 2003, it was just to enjoy the new ways the internet was allowing people to discover new music. The Take Away Shows were born from this idea. In 2006, YouTube was fresh and new, just a few people publishing crappy videos from the audience during live shows. We wanted to film bands in a new and unusual way. The whole idea was to create encounters between music and the city. Having bands playing impromptu shows in the middle of city life, seeing what happened and documenting it all on film.
How has your vision for it changed over the years?
Some things never change. We still think there should be more of those ‘moments’ in our cities. We still think that musicians are never better, or more interesting than when taken out of their comfort zone, when something pushes them to take risks and play their music in a different way. What has changed is how much effort you have to put in to create something different. When we first started making the videos, bands were so taken back by an unknown territory, that it was fresh and captivating. Now bands are so used to this exercise they even prepare acoustic versions of their shows. We now have to double the effort to take them out of their comfort zone.
Why did you decide on the medium of video to make an impact with your audience?
It was natural. I was a tech journalist, so I had many new cameras to test and I could see how much easier it was to make a video. YouTube and Dailymotion were growing so we had to jump on this wagon. And it was exciting! There was so much to reinvent in a music video.
How did it feel in the early days as a pioneer in very new creative territory?
You never really know that you’re a pioneer when it actually happens but what I remember is the excitement and the absolute feeling of liberty we had. We could test, try, be daring or crazy and nobody was telling us how it should be. The best thing about it all is that it worked. When your creativity creates excitement and other artists are willing to play your game, that’s a great feeling.
For the tour you’re curating for Nokia – how did you choose the acts and musicians you wanted to feature?
The purpose was to find new British artists that were representative of all the exciting scenes emerging in the UK. We also tried and find artists that were able to play in unusual locations and to live this experience with us.
There is a varied array of styles on the tour. Was that important to you to reflect such a wide range of talents?
Sure! We’re living in exciting times, when no style dominates, and where boundaries between genres have disappeared somewhat. Today you can love both electronic and folk, or be a band and try to play with every instrument or genre you can find. Each style has its own challenges on film but that’s what makes in exciting- it’s a challenge.
You have some very unique and imaginative venues for each artist. How did you come up with such unusual locations?
We worked closely with Nokia to find places where no one had organised gigs before. We wanted venues where people would feel incredibly lucky to get access to, and to see a show there. We wanted places where bands would have to get out of their comfort zone and try to adapt themselves and their music to it. We wanted places where a special intimacy could be built between the artist and the small audience that was invited.
Did you try to marry up each venue with the style and character of the artist?
More or less. For example, a skate park wouldn’t have been an obvious choice for Lianne La Havas, but we managed to light the bowl in a way that would reinforce the intimacy. We put some huge cushions on the floor and lit the wood in a really stunning way. It was great and made a huge open space feel intimate and cosy.
What has been your own personal highlight of the tour so far?
The encores. When Lianne La Havas went back after her show to sing an a capella song right in the middle of the crowd, inviting people to snap their fingers in rhythm. Or when Slow Club went up the old balcony of the Panopticon, as if they were singing an inverse serenade to the audience who had stayed on the first floor.
The Lumia Live Sessions tour is a series of seven gigs around the UK ‘bringing the essence of Nokia Music to life’. The tour is a collaboration between Nokia and La Blogotheque.