VIA ARCH CITY AUDIO VISUAL
Electric Toothbrush Sisters' set will air on March 21 as part of the I Watched Music on the Internet series.
Matt Stuttler says his experience recording for his band’s upcoming streamed show — one that saw him surrounded by hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stage and lighting equipment on a recent afternoon — was unlike anything he’s ever done before.
As the guitarist and vocalist of St. Louis garage-punk act Shitstorm, as well as the owner of the Carondelet venue the Sinkhole, Stuttler is far more used to performing in the corner of a dimly lit bar or perhaps the basement of a dilapidated punk house than on a top-notch professional soundstage. But thanks to an exceptionally odd confluence of unlikely events — chief among them the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — here he was.
“It was really neat,” Stuttler says. “Personally, I hadn't been on a lighting stage quite like that. We worked with in-ear monitors, which is also a new thing for myself and my bandmates. Everything involved was professional, so we adapted from our usual playing on the floor in a punk bar routine, and we found out that it turned out to be really cool to be able to hear yourself and all that.”
It’s part of an ongoing trend in which DIY St. Louis bands with names like, well, “Shitstorm” are invited to perform shows to be streamed online with the backing and full support of the local Arch City Audio Visual production team — a group that, in normal times, is more used to lending its talents to such huge productions as that of El Monstero and the like. In recent months, St. Louis doom metal act Fister and the similarly local but dissimilar in every other way Le’Ponds have also stepped onto that soundstage for shows that have been professionally lighted, filmed and edited by the group before being put online for fans to view. It’s an incredible twist on the livestreaming model most bands have been relegated to as live events remain on hold — one that breathes new life into the concept by allowing artists to perform with a level of production that would otherwise be unheard of for many of them.
The latest iteration of this is the “I Watched Music on the Internet” series of events, presented by the Sinkhole and ACAV. That series will see four nights of music over the course of the next month: Shitstorm, Glory & Perfection and Electric Toothbrush Sisters on March 21; Choir Vandals, Cara Louise and the River Kittens on March 28; 18andCounting, Shady Bug and Jr. Clooney on April 4; and the Lion’s Daughter’s record release event with Hell Night on April 11.
Stuttler, who curated the lineup, says that one of the members of ACAV’s team contacted him after wrapping up the Le’Ponds show.
“So Chris Keith, member of local punk band Maximum Effort, reached out to me,” he explains. “Maximum Effort, of course, had done record releases and stuff at Sinkhole; I’ve booked their band for years. So him and [ACAV co-owner] Robert Scahill wanted to do a series with a venue to co-promote something, and Chris thought of the Sinkhole first and asked if i’d be down for it. And I was. And then we started putting together the lineup, drawing from bands that have been a part of something that the Sinkhole has done or played shows there, but also bands that we felt would benefit from getting the product of this video, this high-quality professional video that maybe they didn’t have access to prior.”
According to Chris Keith, who says his role at the company is that of event producer — he jokes “it's basically a title that they give you when they like you but you don’t know how to do anything” — ACAV got the idea to host local acts for streams in a professionally produced setting shortly after the pandemic began. It would take a few months of sorting out logistics, many related to pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, before they’d be able to get everything off the ground, but by November the production company had already done three well-received streams with local juggernaut Story of the Year.
From there, they wondered, what next?
“My first thought was Fister, and that turned out to be great,” Keith says. “And from there I wanted to go in the opposite direction, so I found out about this local act Le’Ponds and I thought that would be a perfect followup for Fister. And after that one was done, I suggested maybe just going in a different direction altogether, and instead of working with a band maybe working with a venue. And I spoke with Matt Stuttler and he agreed to do it, so we went to just picking out what it was we were gonna do and kind of piecing it together from there.”
Stuttler got to work putting together a lineup. He says he deliberately chose acts that would complement one another, and many that he thought were on the rise or otherwise worthy of highlighting.
“Night three is 18andCounting, Shady Bug and Jr. Clooney, which have shared bills in the past in some form such as the RFT
fest, or spotlights with KDHX or something,” he says. "I felt like that community of people, bringing those three bands together for one night would be a cool thing to see. And the same thing with night two, Cara Louise, River Kittens and Choir Vandals — all three acts which I think are pretty high-profile, making a name for themselves inside and outside St. Louis. And then night one, my band Shitstorm, which Chris really wanted me to include so I obliged, with Glory & Perfection, which is a new project from members of Bug Chaser, Dracula and Hoonbag Moonswag, which is a hootenanny of sorts, a country Hee Haw
style show with mini skits and stuff. So this will be their debut, this show. And also Electric Toothbrush sisters, which is Nick Zengerling from Maximum Effort and his daughter Nina as a duo that’s really, really cool, and the production for that turned out really awesome, too.”
Following those three nights will be metal act the Lion’s Daughter’s record release, Stuttler explains, and pairing them with longtime cohorts Hell Night just makes sense.
“They’re building a custom setup for that night,” Stuttler says. “But each set has a little bit of variance because of the light show, the color and the moods and stuff.”
That lighting work will come via ACAV’s Kevin Kwater and Gerry Dintelman, the latter of whom was recently profiled
by the trade publication Projection Lights & Stage News
for his work on Fister's event. The rest of the team is rounded out by Keith and co-owners Robert Scahill and Michael Barton.
The production company is in this for the same reason the Sinkhole is: to help local artists during an unprecedented time, and also to get the word out about what they do and how they’ve adapted. According to Keith, ACAV has stayed busy during the pandemic despite the drying up of live events, largely by doing installations for churches and other organizations that are using the downtime to beef up their facilities.
“There’s been enough work to keep everything afloat, and both the bosses have got a good hustle going as far as keeping things going, doing installs here for different places,” Keith says. "When everything calmed down, a lot of venues and places decided they wanted to upgrade things. So they’ve been able to piece together work little by little.”
But even when live events return, Keith doesn’t think the beefed-up streams they’ve come to specialize in will go away.
“I mean, I hope the problem of getting back to where we were happens, because we love what we were doing before,” he says. “But I feel like this is kinda one of those situations where the cat’s out of the bag as far as livestream goes. I think they’re here to stay.”
For tickets and more information about the I Watched Music on the Internet series, visit liveentnow.com.
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