The Cafe Noodle Festival – A Review

Two days, a total of 17 performers, the donation target met – great job, Matt! That was a weekend of great music! But let me start at the beginning…

Following the idea of last year’s Virtual Sound and Vision festival, my friend Matt Stevens volunteered to organize and host a similar event:
A festival bringing together lots of different artists from different continents, playing free of charge via internet video stream to a virtual audience at Matt’s Café Noodle online community.

In comparison to last year’s event, there were a few minor changes. First of all, Matt had extended the time per set to one full hour (as opposed to 30 minutes). Also, any form of presenter role on Matt’s behalf was limited to his presence in the online chat at Café Noodle. And finally, Matt had decided to collect donations for a good cause (more specifically, the Multiple Sclerosis Society). In other words, we, the artists, were officialy performing at a kind-of-charity event. But for the details:

1. Technology etc.

All the artists used streaming portals like UStream.tv or Livestream.com – the artist’s widgets were then included by Matt onto the Café Noodle page. Now today, that technology has already become a commodity, so only two of the total of seventeen artists were facing problems with that streaming technology – which was great.

For both days (Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th), the event started in the afternoon and extended unto midnight British time. For the viewers, registration of any kind was not required to watch the show, but you needed to be registered with Café Noodle to take part in the chat there (which was kind of a slight disadvantage, one might think).

2. The Music

Interestingly, there was a big focus on acoustic music – which may or may not have to do with Matt, an acoustic guitarist himself. The majority of artists were acoustic guitarists (either guitar solo or singer-songwriter style), with only a few (I think it was like three acts) playing truly electric/electronic stuff. Also, with the exception of Usit (the duo of Jeff Duke/USA and pseudoambient/Italy), there were solo artists all the way.

While I didn’t catch all of the artists myself, I’d like to put some comments on at least some of the performances:

Saturday

15:00 – Nick Tann
Vodpod videos no longer available.

Of course, you know Nick Tann already. And if you don’t you quickly need to check out his weekly “Is This Thing On?” podcast, where Nick presents interesting unsigned artists – including yours truly, e.g. in his great “jazz special“.
What you may not know is that Nick is also a singer-songwriter artist, and so he started the festival with his “Pure Acoustica” program.

16:00 – Steve Moyes
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Another Englishman, Steve has been known to me ever since his appearance at the VSV, and lots of other crazy endeavours, like the 24-hour-nonstop performance (also transmitted via internet) for winter solstice last year.
Steve, a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, unfortunately was one of those unfortunate victims of tech troubles in the festival – they are getting fewer, thankfully. And this was sad, because what did work (unfortunately, only a short segment is available online) sounded just like his usual interesting tapestry of guitar loops.

17:00 – Rainer Straschill
Vodpod videos no longer available.

Without any knowledge of what the other artists were up to, I had decided on a purely acoustic approach myself – which meant acoustic grand piano, melodica and some hints of acoustic guitar. Ok, that wasn’t a real acoustic grand, rather Steinberg’s The Grand 3 simulating a Yamaha C7 and being controlled by a Kurzweil K2600XS, but so what?
For added bonus, I decided to include m333l (known as the video/streaming tech guru behind both VSV and Nerdville) for realtime video processing – making use of two cameras and the free Manycam software.

18:00 – Tracy Shaun

Vodpod videos no longer available.

In my set, I had mentioned Tracy as “someone who can’t be found on the internet” – I obviously read past the one hit referring to his own website and then got lost in references to a baseball player (or something) named Shawn Tracy…
Tracy Shaun is also a singer-songwriter, and also a performer who unfortunately didn’t make his performance available online so far, so I’d like to direct you to his website above to check him out – if only for his great singing voice.

[Ed comment: but as of now, it’s finally available – thanks, Tracy!]

19:00 – Chrissie Caulfield

A violinist, whom I missed because it was dinner time…check out her edites highlights on youtube – like this:

[Ed comment: Fortunately, Chrissie did post the full recording in all its live glory]:
Vodpod videos no longer available.
20:00 – Samm Neiland

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Really, I’m not firm in that genre – is that singer-songwriter on a piano? Or acoustic britpop? Whatever it’s called, simply check out his video!

21:00 – Alun Vaughan

I had already heard some tracks by Alun which were retweeted to me in the past. Alun is a solo bass guitarist, and we all know that playing music (especially song-oriented music) on a bass guitar is somewhat like doing Japanese calligraphy with boxing gloves. Sure, it’s impressing that you can do it, but it still looks like done with boxing gloves…
…not so for Alun! In his set, which was more or less evenly split between covers and Alun’s original tunes and improvisations, you really heard a player who used the (unaccompanied and unprocessed) bass guitar as a solo instrument in its very own right. Highlight: a wonderful medley comemorating Hendrix’ obit.

So only one question, Alun: where’s that video?

Ed note: fortunately, James Corachea (see below) did answer that question for us!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

22:00 – James Sera

Yes, I told you, there would be a lot of acoustic guitarists. James is another one, compared to some of those on the second day someone I’d call less classic-y, more folk-y perhaps – and as this is not my area of expertise, I leave it to you to simply check his site (unfortonately, he didn’t leave a video, either).

23:00 – Jim Goodin
Vodpod videos no longer available.

Another acoustic guitarist, although this time performing on oud. I’m still proud that I somehow guided Jim into the internet realtime collaboration area when I invited him to perform at my 2006 kybermusik festival – that’s where he also met his duet partner Daryl Shawn to form Chinapainting.

Sunday

15:00 – Tom Slatter
Vodpod videos no longer available.

I first heard of Tom when he did the project management for The Big Calm. Apart from his very surrealistic videos (check out his website, linked above!), he’s also a singer-songwriter guitarist to open day two.

16:00 – UsIt

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Usit is the duet of electric/electronic guitarists Jeff Duke (USA) and Gaetano Fontenazza aka pseudoambient (Italy), and I’m really proud because Jeff is another artist whom I’ve introduced to realtime music collaborations via the internet. Usit’s performance was the only one in the festival to feature more than one performer, and that the two performers were several thousands of kilometers apart just added to the fun.

17:00 – Ernesto Schnack

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This Panamian/German guitarist (residing in Berlin) was yet another acoustic guitarist in the festival – and a great one at that! Simply check out his playing, clever use of looping technology and all-around great fun.

18:00 – Darrell Nelsen

Vodpod videos no longer available.

In between all those purely acoustic performances, it’s nice to hear distorted guitars, loops, and ambient textures once in a while. And if you’re into their minimalist kind, then Darrell’s solo stuff might be just for you. Emphasis is on the word “solo” here, because Darrell also plays guitar in a The Police cover band – check out his site for details!

19:00 – Matt Stevens

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Matt Stevens is, among those acoustic guitarists and singer-songwriter types, an interesting hybrid: while his compositions feel more like singer-songwriter material to me, he does not sing. No doubt another flawless performance by this pioneer of current internet marketing technologies (which I missed), I have but one request for Matt: would you sing on a song sometime?

20:00 – Pierre Massé

Sadly, Pierre, another singer-songwriter, fell into my supper slot for Sunday – and sadly, no video available from the show.

21:00 – James Corachea

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Among all those singer-songwriters and acoustic guitarists (a total of eight if I counted right), it was really hard to pick a favourite, but my pick would be James. The way he microphoned his guitar surely helped, too (very full and precise low frequency reproduction here), but the main thing were of course James’ compositions. Check it out!

[Ed comment: As James told me, this was a piezo pickup, not a microphone.]

22:00 – Stephen Goodman

Here’s another artist who was facing tech troubles with the connection breaking down perpetually, unfortunately I must say, because what you heard (and saw in his prepared videos – Stephen was the only artist who didn’t only use imagery of himself playing) really made you wanting more. Perhaps check out his website?

23:00 – Diana Armstrong Zook

This one was simply too late for me to enjoy, so I leave you with the links here…

3. Summarizing the Experience

Just like the pioneering event last year, this event showed that this format of virtual music festivals is something which will no doubt increase in relevance in coming years. It will by no means replace traditional festivals, much like virtual concerts won’t replace the real deal, rather it will form a cost-efficient alternative both for performers and audience.

I mentioned this before: Matt had also organized the event as a kind of fundraiser for the cause of the Multiple Sclerosis society. His arbitrary goal of 500 (that’s nearly €600 or $780) was not only met, but actually slightly surpassed.

Attendance for most artists was in the low-to-mid 30ies range (at least when I checked), which I’d neither call disappointing nor phenomenal. What struck me, however, was that in the chat at Café Noodle (which, unfortunately, required you to be a registered member of Café Noodle) a lot of people – both artists and other guests – stayed for a considerable amount of time and possibly would return later, making for some nice chat conversations while the music was happening.

And this, together with the artists, who would also check the chat and comment on it, made this an experience for me which, just like with a real festival, can’t be reproduced simply by watching the videos afterwards. I’ll definitely attend the next event of this kind, and would feel honored if I was asked to perform.

Rainer

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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5 thoughts on “The Cafe Noodle Festival – A Review

  1. Thank you very much for the kind comments about my set. It didn’t show in the video but the microphone was only for talking into. I had the guitar going into an acoustic amp.

    It felt like I was playing to an audience, although if I could do it again I’d change the setup so that I could see my laptop screen better and what people were saying in the chat. That would have made it more interactive.

    Since I don’t get much of a chance to perform in real venues I hope to put on more live streaming gigs in the future. It could be a regular thing.

  2. Brilliant post geezer – can you repost this @ cafenoodle?

    The figures ranged between 12(11-12 in the evening) and 55 (sunday night) which I’m really happy with that :) – I would do more advanced promo next time in – i reckon we could do more(I reckon in the hundreds if we keep it to one day). I wouldn’t do a 2 day festival again – far too stressful and demanding on people’s time. Perhaps 7 acts on one day next time 2 – 11pm.

    Thanks so much to everyone involved – this is what happens when people put music and community before money.

  3. I managed to check out most of the two-day festival and had a great time with it. There were several performers I was already familiar with, but it was also a chance to see and hear some new folks that I’ll be looking forward to hearing more from. The fact that the fundraiser met its goal makes it a success by the accepted standard. However, it was an ever greater success for Matt and the other performers. The technology involved and the planning and execution were almost completely flawless. Cheers to everyone involved!

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