May Adventures Past and Present: Cannes and daring recordings in an alley, on air, and onstage

May has turned out to be a momentous month for The 78 Project, each year it brings opportunities and joys we can hardly imagine.  This year May finds us in France!  Thanks to our fiscal sponsors and wonderful supporters at IFP we are participating in the first year of the Cannes Cross Media Corner, taking place during this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Thinking back to last May, we realized we were on a similarly adventurous bent, as in just one week we had the chance to record with The Wandering in a New York City alleyway at night, to appear live on WNYC Soundcheck recording with Justin Townes Earle, and to share an incredible evening of music at City Winery with our friends and supporters, culminating in a live onstage recording with Marshall Crenshaw.

In anticipation of the exciting week to come, a look back at this exciting week from one year ago:



Must Come Down: Hear Timmy Mislock’s 78

Our second day in our week of giving thanks recalls another week not too long ago when we felt very fortunate. Just after returning from our first recording trip to the South, The 78 Project was invited to participate in IFP’s Independent Film Week in New York as part of the Spotlight on Documentaries. We were so honored, and we wanted to do something special as a way of showing our appreciation. So we invited our dear friend Timmy Mislock (The Antlers, Abandoned Lighthouse) to record a 78 with us during our screening time at the conference. Timmy sang “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down” for a rapt audience of filmmakers and industry and a few invited friends. And we played it back for everyone right there in the room!


Folk, Family and Thwarted Failure: Our first week on the road

Nothing less than a wild start would do for any trip The 78 Project takes. Within hours of our Kia Soul zipping through the Holland Tunnel, we were careening through the Philadelphia Folk Fest site on a vehicle of a different kind. An electric shuttle with our friend Joshua behind the wheel took us behind the sleepy stages and through the campground that had already, before the festival even began, turned into a bustling tent town. Site scout complete, we moved in with our very accommodating family in Philadelphia. And when we say moved in, we mean it. We have a lot of stuff.

Our first recording of the trip was on Friday afternoon. Mary Chapin Carpenter invited us onto her tour bus, and generously offered to go without air conditioning for two hours so that the sound of the generator wouldn’t interfere with the recording. She performed a beautiful version of “The Water is Wide” and told us stories about learning to play folk songs on her mother’s ukulele.


Saturday morning we stopped in at Joe’s Spring Mount Hotel to ask if we might borrow their leafy porch for an afternoon shoot. The owners, Ben and Cindy, were the kindest of hosts, letting us plug our Presto in to their building to capture Arborea on lacquer and serving us Pennsylvania-brewed beer. The band’s “When I Was on Horseback” was haunting on a cicada-filled summer afternoon. And not only was the record subtle and perfect, not a single bee stung Shanti, and only one passing motorcycle made its way into the song.

Sunday morning we arrived on site bright and early to record some gospel with the Holmes Brothers on the campground stage. We were honored to meet them and moved by their performance. It seemed a little funny to put them on a 78, they thought, who wants to go back in time?   But hearing themselves perform “Amazing Grace” as we played back their record, they agreed it was something rather special.


Some old and new friends were on hand to say hello during the weekend, including XPN and the curators of the Rigby Mansion. And our gratitude goes out to Rodney Wittenberg for letting us turn his beautiful farmhouse and studio into our command center. Back with family, cozy and well taken care of, we recharged and repacked.



Tuesday afternoon we headed into the Northern Liberties home of Philadelphia artist Aldo Buffone to meet Honus Honus and his accomplice Kara Nelson. It was a glorious and harrowing afternoon. Presto #1 malfunctioned, but Honus and Kara didn’t. They sang a wicked streak through “Down in the Willow Garden.” We brought out Presto #2 to scare Presto #1 into shape, and our plan worked (with the added ingenuity of the Alex Steyermark Masking Tape Fix™). A 78 was made.

Late at night we bade Honus goodbye and staggered down to DC, greeted with open arms by our dear friend Vandaveer and his beautiful family.  They fed us and wined us and when we brought in the Presto, their two-year old knew exactly what needed to be done.  He walked straight to the mic and sang “The ABC Song.”  Like father like son.


The 78 Project and the Open Road…

Our journey to make The 78 Project Feature-length documentary film starts today.  This morning the Presto will be packed in snugly with a stash of blank discs and new needles, our Canons with a cache of memory cards and lenses.  There will be no room left for anything else, so we might need to borrow your socks.

We are headed to Philadelphia, PA, Washington, DC, Durham, NC, Nashville and Memphis, TN, and points in between.  This leg of the journey goes until early September, but we’ll be traveling for the film shoots for the rest of 2012, so we’ll be visiting many, many more places.

There will be photos every day, we promise.  They’ll go straight to our Facebook, so “like” us there to see ’em!  Also follow us on Twitter for daily news.  If you’re on our Email list, we’ll catch you up each week on events and stories, and send you sounds and clips that we’ve captured.  If you’re not signed up for our list yet, enter your email in the field on our homepage sidebar.

We’ve never been so excited as we are at this moment, preparing to meet new people, hear new songs, visit hometowns and hometown haunts and seek out music where it lives. We’re grateful to have you along for this adventure!

Thank you to our amazing new friends at Stumptown Coffee Roasters for fueling our mornings on the road!


Marshall Crenshaw “More Pretty Girls Than One” Live at City Winery

Beneath the hot stage lights at City Winery the Presto (and its operator!) sweated, but Marshall Crenshaw was totally cool.  He avoided hypnosis and kept everyone at ease by telling stories.  And when the Presto was running he performed with mesmerizing intensity and delightful serenity.

We posted Marshall’s digitized acetates, “More Pretty Girls Than One” and his original Flipside “Passing Through” just after he recorded them at our live music revue in May.  If you haven’t heard them yet, listen now.   Marshall’s performances that evening were magical.

Buy the music on iTunes.

On a Jenny Jenkins Roll: Valerie June’s happy hour “Wildwood Flower”

The elation at the end of a long day of recording mixed with the sweet burn of a 78 Sour as the bar moved into happy hour and we moved into the bar.

Some of the gathered crowd knew what would happen, some wondered what we were doing. They lingered nearby, craning their necks to get a better look at the mesmerizing Valerie and the strange old machine on the table in front of her.

Valerie was a pro by this time. “Wildwood Flower” was the fourth side she’d sung in one day, the fourth time she’d watched our needle drop, the fourth wild mass of chip she’d displaced with her wild voice. And she kicked off of that momentum, straight into a final song so spirited that it hushed and entranced an entire Brooklyn bar.


Buy it on iTunes.

Thanks again to Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn, NY, for letting us in, and inventing our new signature drink.

Every Town I Ramble Around: Hear Marshall Crenshaw’s 78

Thanks to all who were able to join us at City Winery on Sunday, May 20.  It was beautiful to see our New York Series artists take the stage together to celebrate the shared experience of field recording. And we couldn’t have been more honored to have Marshall Crenshaw join us onstage to record a 78 acetate live with the stage monitors silenced and the eyes of the audience upon him.  It was a most moving moment in a night filled with many a momentous feeling.

We’ve posted photos from the show on our Facebook here.  And you can listen to the digitized versions of Marshall’s acetates, “More Pretty Girls Than One,” and “Passing Through” below.

Buy it on iTunes.



Happening: Watch footage from our secret New York hootenanny on the 7 Train

Last Friday night, December 2, at 9:02pm, forty New Yorkers piled onto a 7 Train bound for Flushing, Queens. Not an unusual occurrence in and of itself, except that these particular New Yorkers had more than commuting in mind. As the subway sped out of Grand Central Station, guitars, drums, banjos, mandolins, accordions, and even a mbira came out and a hootenanny began.

7 musicians and bands each played a cover song in honor of the borough of Queens, and a song of their own, and The 78 Project cameras caught it all.

Starting tonight, we’ll be posting a video from The 7 Train Happening every day for a week on our Vimeo channel. It’s a musical advent with a lucky number of surprises to open; our gift to you.

Check our Twitter for daily updates and for invitations to future hootenannies.

Special thanks to James and Amy of The 7 Train Sessions, a beautiful regular gathering of musicians in Long Island City, our partners in crime and planning.

And thank you to the 7 artists whose spirited song and singing made the 7 Train the most Happening party on a Friday night in New York City.

The Mercantillers
Chris Morrissey
Kara Suzanne
Luke Reynolds
Katie Mullins
Austin McCutchen
The Reverend John DeLore

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