Bands on the run

20 Bay Area musical acts + 20 local filmmaking teams = 48 hours of fun, sweat, and music video magic

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Magic Fight, racing
GUARDIAN PHOTO BY CHRIS STEVENS

emilysavage@sfbg.com

MUSIC In an airy third-floor loft in SOMA, not far from the Sightglass Coffee flagship and an antique mall with a pennant flag twisting out front, 20 filmmaking teams shuffle across a makeshift finish line some time before 8pm Sunday evening. Exhausted, they hold in their hands a digital file, the physical evidence of a brand new project — a joint effort between Bay Area bands, directors, producers, and editors. Something of this magnitude would traditionally take weeks or even months to complete, but in this focused case, it was all completed in a thrilling 48-hour period.

Flash back to the start of the weekend; it's Friday night in the lower-level grotto of Sports Basement on the Mission-Potrero border, and everyone is huddled near complimentary Lagunitas beer. There's a buzzy sense of anticipation. The bands and solo artists — truly diverse in sound and geography — are waiting to hear which filmmaking team they'll be paired with for the remainder of the weekend.

For this is the second annual Music Video Race competition, and they'll only have a short time to complete the project. Sure, given modern technology such as iPhones, basic music videos can now be made in a day (see Kitty Pryde, or other web-bred artists), but this is about the competition within the timeframe; the race pits artists against one another to see who can come up with the best concept and execution in the allotted two-day period.

Among the crowd, there's young and quick-tongued Mission rapper A-1, bouncy power-pop act Giggle Party, groovy Ethiopian blues Sun Hop Fat, forest country-folk Whiskerman, dancey electro-pop duo Happy Fangs, vintage jazz crooner Quinn DeVeaux, and dreamy "post-indie" Magic Fight.

The names of filmmaking teams and bands are yelled out, and the room grows loud with introductions. "Have a blast, and thanks for playing!" (The next time they'll be in the same room together will be the screening Sat/15 at Rickshaw Stop.)

Magic Fight gets paired with first-time music video director Cory K. Riley, an eager young filmmaker who says he cashed in just about every favor he had for this production (along with some online donations and money from his own pocket). He has a crew of three or four with him at Sports Basement tonight. "We're definitely the messier one to follow," Riley tells me with a wink. After they're paired, the band and the Riley crew walk outside on this warm weekend evening, and pop the Magic Fight CD into Riley's hatchback. It's the first listen. Until moments before, they were all strangers on the local independent arts scene.

The match up of the bands and filmmakers seems almost up to dumb luck when the pairings are read aloud, a split-second decision and boom! Now there are new teams racing across the Bay with wild costumes and characters. But it's actually months of hard work for co-organizers Tim Lillis and Jacquelyn "Jax" Marker. They pore over submissions, choose the pairings, find the sponsors, and host the happy hours leading up to the weekend.

They came up with the idea for the Music Video Race in 2011, while having drinks at Lucky 13 before a Mister Heavenly show — you know, that band in which Michael Cera intermittently played bass. "It came about talking about our friends that were in bands that needed music videos, and also our filmmaking friends that were either in corporate jobs, not getting as much creative release as they may like, or our filmmaking friends that had been sitting on something for two years that had never seen the light of day," Marker says.

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