While visions of sugarplums danced in children’s heads worldwide this past Dec. 24, Asheville steel pannist Jonathan Scales sat at his in-laws’ house, entranced by a video of his trio’s performance six days prior. Three months of intense work later, those initial glimpses have evolved into the band’s stellar debut DVD Alive at Rex Theater. It will be released at The Altamont Theatre on Saturday, March 28.
A few weeks before the Jonathan Scales Fourcestra’s Dec. 18 show at Pittsburgh’s Rex Theater, Scales received an email from Louis Barr offering to film the event. Scales declined for budgetary reasons, but somewhere between five and six hours before the set’s downbeat, he changed his mind. Swaying him was a desire to have video of the current lineup. In addition to bassist Cody Wright, it now features drummer Chaisaray “Chais” Schenck, who took over in August after Phill Bronson amicably parted ways with the band after nearly five years.
Scales’ responsibilities as band manager — which he says leads to frequent moments of “running around like a crazy person” — occasionally means that set list creation falls to Wright. But considering what was at stake for the Rex performance, Scales took it upon himself to craft the show and feature what he felt were the Fourchestra’s strongest tunes at that point.
Barr had to cancel prior commitments to make the filming happen and called his local camera friends to help out. Once they arrived, Scales requested constantly moving cameras and an array of angles, but otherwise left the work up to them. Due to the endeavor’s last-minute nature and minimal planning, Scales wasn’t sure how the footage would turn out. When Barr sent him the raw footage and a preliminary edit on Christmas Eve, however, Scales was amazed at how well it came out and instantly wanted to release a DVD of the entire show.
Upon receiving the go-ahead from his bandmates and record label, Scales — an experienced video editor — spent nearly every waking moment on tour (and at home between travel) working with the clips. Along the way, he had to get permission from pop-singer Seal to include a beautiful cover of “Kiss From a Rose.” This, Scales says, is a far more complex process when dealing with video as opposed to audio. Having received that blessing and with the project coming together, he then decided to enhance the overall experience with band interviews, a nod to Béla Fleck and the Flecktones’ DVD Live at The Quick.
“I remember how big of an influence that was on me in becoming a fan of the band and watching the DVD, not just to see the show, but seeing the in-depth interviews and hearing them talk about things you wouldn’t hear on CDs,” Scales says.
For maximum efficiency and to ensure smooth transitions between the show and interviews, Scales wrote all of the questions — allowing for some improvisation — and got Caitlin Krisko, lead singer of the Asheville rock band The Broadcast, to serve as the prompter. He also hired a camera crew led by Taylor Hellhake that filmed the chats upstairs at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall between sound checks of Jim Arrendell preparing for his Bob Marley show downstairs. That competing use of space led to a few humorous clashes that, along with outtakes from the session and several other goodies, are included in Alive at Rex Theater as a bonus feature.
WHO: Jonathan Scales Fourchestra
WHERE: The Altamont Theater, thealtamont.com
WHEN: Saturday, March 28, at 8 p.m. $10 advance/$15 day of show