Best Music Blog
Created by Aviv Rubinstien and husband and wife Kelly and Rob Ribera, SLEEPOVER SHOWS is a video blog (à la blogotheque.net) devoted to their favorite troubadours traveling through Boston. Regularly updated with new acts, the site has a treasure trove of videos remarkable for their ability to capture the intimacy of great live shows. Making creative use of the city’s more unassuming spaces, many of the acoustic sessions take place in the backseats of cars and atop playground equipment, in stairways and windowsills, empty gallery spaces, and even bathtubs — all offering an unalloyed look and listen at musicians outside the confines of the studio.SLEEPOVER SHOWS | sleepovershows.com
By MICHAEL MAROTTA | February 23, 2011
DRESSING FOR SUCCESS The Sleepovers no longer involve pajamas.
It’s just after 7 pm on February 15, and I find myself alone, locked in, trapped after hours at Jamaica Plain vintage-clothing store 40 South Street. I do not work here.Minutes earlier, trusting owner Hilken Mancini offered to let me wait inside. She locked up and left, and now here I am, waiting for Rob and Kelly Ribera of Sleepover Shows, who will soon film Banditas and transform the shop into the latest set for their live-music-series website. After a good 15 minutes, just as I entertain the idea of trying on some threads, 40 South Street employee and lead Bandita Haley Thompson-King unlocks the door, walks in, and laughs at my situation.
Twenty minutes later, Banditas are performing, with guitarist Thompson-King and singer Molly Maltezos each tucked inside an orange-painted dressing room and belting out an unnamed new song, wearing clothes pulled right off mannequins. An hour later, it’s a wrap.
No one’s sleeping over at 40 South Street, but that’s no longer the point. Two years ago, the Riberas teamed with Pray for Polanski’s Aviv Rubenstein for sleepovershows.com, shooting video of stripped-down three-song sets from touring bands who were in Boston for the night. Rubinstein made a habit of crashing with friends while on tour, and to return the favor, he’d let bands in town crash at his Brookline pad. “And that quickly turned to us playing music in the middle of the night.” Now, the trio are branching out, shooting locals and touring bands in various locations around the city, retaining the project’s personality and intimacy but no longer requiring pajamas. Two days after the Banditas shoot, Sleepover was nominated for Best Music Blog in our annual “Best” poll alongside Boston Band Crush, Bradley’s Almanac, Playground Boston, Ryan’s Smashing Life, and Clicky Clicky.
The site already features the David Wax Museum, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, and OK Go. And more are on the way, including Destry, Amanda Palmer, and Melissa Nadler. “We’ve shot enough bands to put out one a week until September,” says Rob. “It started as a little blog, ‘we’ll film a few bands and hang out,’ but it’s getting bigger.
‘Sleepover Shows’ get intimate — and invite the whole Internet
Boston University film student Rob Ribera figured he had nothing to lose when, in October 2008, he e-mailed David Byrne’s manager asking to film the ex-Talking Heads singer for his (at that time) non-existent video site. It was a shot in the dark, and it was promptly shot down.
Flash forward to less than two years later: Rob, his wife, Kelly, and Aviv Rubinstien are proudly brandishing press passes at the Life is good Festival in Canton and schmoozing with viral rockers OK Go in Guster’s trailer, which they have just commandeered without the group’s knowledge in order to shoot a private show with OK Go. At one point, the trio of videographers exchange mischievous, if nervous, glances with one another, and the looks say it all: “What, exactly, have we gotten ourselves into?’’
The guerrilla Life is good shoot was part of “Sleepover Shows,’’ a Web series founded by the three former BU classmates in which they invite bands to sleep over at Rubinstien’s Somerville apartment and record a stripped-down mini-concert, often in an unorthodox location or with an offbeat thematic twist. Atlanta surf-rockers the Howlies went for a drive through Brooklyn, the tambourine-wielding drummer steering their van with one hand while his three bandmates banged away on guitars in the backseat. Harry and the Potters brought more than a couple dozen Facebook fans, passed out costumes and homemade pancakes, and played a few numbers from Rubinstien’s kitchen.
According to Kelly, it is this spontaneity — this unwavering sense that, literally, anything could happen — that continues to propel the project forward. “It’s amazing to be able to film a performance that you know will never occur the same way again,’’ she says. “There’s something really special about having these intimate interactions with the artists.’’
The Sleepover Shows site (www.sleepovershows.com) isn’t drowning in hits just yet — its top clip, of Ohio folk outfit Saintseneca in a tiny closet, had notched about 1,700 YouTube views as of last week. But after releasing 12 videos over the last year, the crew has suddenly amped up its output, shooting more than 20 acts in the past month and securing big names like Amanda Palmer, former Hold Steady keyboardist Franz Nicolay, and OK Go, whose show went live on Thursday.
The project formally began in July 2009, with New York band Rocko Dorsey performing a scrappy blues-rock number outside an Allston laundromat. The first few participants were friends who simply needed somewhere to crash. Rubinstien, who sings and plays guitar in the punk-folk band Pray for Polanski, says that he has always felt a strong desire to reciprocate the generosity he has experienced on the road. “You’d feel so close with these groups [you stay with] because you’ve shared this weird, beautiful, fleeting thing,’’ he says. “With the Sleepover Shows I knew that I wanted to be on the giving end, too.’’
While the concept may recall Web series like the Black Cab Sessions and French director Vincent Moon’s “Take-Away Shows,’’ Rob maintains that the site isn’t meant to be “just another indie video blog.’’ The three auteurs boast eclectic tastes, having enlisted country singers, classical ensembles, and uncategorizable outfits like the Boston Typewriter Orchestra. The focus of the cinematography rests in the smallest of details: a shoe absent-mindedly tapping out the rhythm against a table leg, or a brief glimpse of a violinist’s blissful face as she admires a bandmate’s solo. “Our hope is that it doesn’t come off as a ‘performance,’ ’’ Rob says. “We’re trying to capture a moment of a group completely at ease with itself.’’
The filmmakers produce just one Sleepover Show a week, partly to give each artist their proper spotlight, and partly due to the crew’s other obligations — Rob is finishing up an American Studies PhD at BU, Kelly works at a production house in Newton, and Rubinstien is a part-time teacher. Their recent string of shoots, though, has given them enough material for the next six months, and they plan to eventually sell advertising so they can purchase better equipment. They also wouldn’t mind checking a few more names off of a three-page wish list that includes the Avett Brothers, Tom Waits, and even actor John C. Reilly (as Dewey Cox from “Walk Hard’’).
While the practice of actually hosting bands has grown less central to the mission — “OK Go can afford a hotel,’’ Rubinstien deadpans — the trio insists that the spirit of helping out under-the-radar artists remains. “We’ve been able to get a lot of the groups we want, but that doesn’t mean we are going to jump ship and only do the top acts rolling into town,’’ Rob says. “We want to make sure local musicians who deserve to be more popular get their due.’’
Adam Conner-Simons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
WERW, Syracuse, NY
Bring Your Sleeping Bags: Sleepover Shows
Oh jeez, a month without a post! That’s okay, I hope you all had a safe and wonderful winter break, wherever you may have gone.
As for WERW, the whole gang is back in Syracuse and we are getting ready to kick off our Spring 2011 programming in the next few weeks! Get pumped, y’all, Real College Radio will be back soon!
But that’s not what I want to talk to you about. Not yet, anyway. Over the past week, a series of events has caused me to stumble over and fall in love with the folks over at Sleepover Shows. They’re a group out of Boston, much like La Blogotheque’s Take Away Shows, who film bands and artists traveling through the Boston area. Bands looking for a place to crash would usually stay at the Sleepover Shows compound and then they would film some stripped down performances.
Here’s how I came to love Sleepover Shows:
I purchased Math the Band’s Don’t Worry earlier this January, and proceeded to see if there was a possibility I could see this wonderful band. Lo and behold, Math the Band will be hitting up Ithaca’s Community School for Music and Art on Feburary 19th! After a bit more research, I came across their acoustic performance of “Tour de Friends” for Sleepover Shows.
WERW-blog regulars David Wax Museum were the most recent visitors to Sleepover Shows. Being a fan of them on Facebook (is that still the term?), this video came up on my News Feed. And from there I went to the official website only to discover a goldmine of wonderfully made videos.
Straight out of Portland, ME, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper’s set of songs was the nail in the coffin. I’m a sucker for ukulele and banjo. For real, Sleepover Shows produce some great videos with a homey, DIY feel to them.
On their home page, there is a somewhat lengthy list of future performances. I can honestly say I’m pretty pumped for Middle Brother and Darwin Deez. So bookmark their homepage, “Like” on Facebook, whatever you need to do to keep updated with Sleepover Shows, you should do it.
After receiving Breathe Owl Breathe’s Magic Central in my mailbox, I scurried to review the sensational album in time for the Michigan band’s Club Passim show and posted some of their videos on Facebook. When I catch wind of a band I love, I want the word out ASAP, and let’s be honest: Throwing a link to a band’s website up on a friend’s wall is the easiest way to do that.
It wasn’t my first Facebook band crush, but it was, however, the first time that Facebook, basically, gave back. Aviv Rubinstien, who was starting the new web concert series “Sleepover Shows,” noticed that I was giddy. Turns out, he had scheduled a session with them, and invited me, via Facebook, to crash the taping.
Why all the Facebook chat? Breathe Owl Breathe gave incredible performances, and you bet those pictures are up on Facebook. Also my mind was blown by The Social Network. I went to the screening of the Facebook movie rolling my eyes—and came out completely surprised.
Between The Social Network, Sleepover Shows and hanging with Breathe Owl Breathe … I’m more inclined to “like” stuff than ever before.
Watch: Sarah Jaffe Covers Robyn’s “Hang With Me”
Oh, and if you can still find tickets, go buy yourself a couple to Sarah’s upcoming, Saturday, February 12, performance at the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Wyly Theatre (we’re told they’re close to selling out). Why the push? Ah: We just received word yesterday that this performance will be filmed for future distribution — so, just another Jaffe show this won’t be.