The Austin Music Video Festival, a new monthly premiere series leading up to a multi-day festival in the fall, launches Friday at the Waller Ballroom, an event space in the Sixth Street building that used to house the Boiling Pot. The event will include screenings of new music videos by local musicians Bright Light Social Hour, Gretchen Peters, Sorne, Walter Lukens and Night Drive. Also screening: a trailer for "Down Down the Deep River," a short film Austin band Okkervil River built around the 2013 song of the same name.
Okkervil’s film, shot in and centered on the rural New Hampshire town where vocalist Will Scheff grew up, was financed through a successful crowdsourcing campaign last year. It uses variations of the original song to form the narrative structure of the piece. Justin Sherburn, the band’s keyboardist, will be at the event.
In addition to the screenings, there will be a live performance from Sorne, who plays dramatic, cinematic pop, and a session from electronic music collective Exploded Drawings, which also will provide visuals during Sorne’s performance. Hot dog company Frank will provide food, and libations will include Austin EastCiders, beer from Independence Brewing Company and cocktails of Deep Eddy vodka mixed with blends from Juiceland, one of the festival’s sponsors. During the evening’s presentations and performances, festival founders Samantha Gallion and Jeremy Roye will announce the categories and submission process for the fall festival.
The idea for the festival came to Roye, a freelance event specialist, when he was helping out with the Marfa Film Festival. He was struck by the way the festival spliced music videos in between features during the short narrative program. The music videos, he said, were "equally as compelling and a digestible artform among the longer playing film formats." At the time, he was looking for a new project, something that hadn’t been done yet that highlighted local talent.
Concurrently, Gallion, a business development professional who has worked for KUT Radio and Austin Woman magazine, was developing the idea of a music video festival. The two connected through a mutual friend and began to sketch out their ideas roughly a year ago. Both had strong connections to Austin’s music and film scenes, and part of the festival’s aim is to forge alliances between the two. "They’re both really producing awesome content that’s being seen nationwide and being appreciated and celebrated," Gallion said. "Music videos are a combination of both kind of talents."
To reinforce that goal, first year festival submissions will be limited to local production houses and musicians, and the emphasis will not necessarily be on new releases. Planting the seeds for the festival, they came across Tim Hamblin, the creator of the Austin Music Network, a dedicated music television network that broadcast locally from 1994 to 2004. Hamblin, who now works at the Austin History Center, has access to an impressive collection of archival footage of Austin musicians and local performances that inspired Gallion and Roye to include a vintage or retro category in the festival, celebrating Austin’s rich musical heritage
As Roye and Gallion fleshed out the idea for the festival and screening series, they were met with broad support, but also a degree of skepticism. "People asked us does anyone even make music videos anymore?" Roye said.
It’s a fair question. Even MTV, the network that popularized the form, has largely abandoned it in favor of reality television shows. But the festival founders have faith in the enduring value of videos as a music discovery service for fans and a powerful marketing tool for artists.
"It’s hard to get out of Texas if you’re a musician," Roye said. "It’s a long drive or a long flight so the music video can really travel for you and promote in ways that nothing else can."