What do you get when you cross an urban explorer with a videographer? Live From Nowhere, a music video series that features local musicians performing in abandoned spaces in Massachusetts. Co-created by filmmaker Emily Graham-Handley and urban explorer/musician Nico Rivers, the duo combined forces to reawaken ruinous structures in Massachusetts and capture artists as they perform for nothing but a camera and a slice of long-forgotten civilization.
“Abandoned spaces don’t stay around for very long, so when we shoot these little pieces of history, it’s like we’re immortalizing them,” Graham-Handley said.
Trekking sometimes hours to get to a desired location, this advanced urban exploring is not for the faint of heart. Graham-Handley recalls a time when they were filming in a marsh during a rising tide – “We thought we might have to call the coast guard.”
“It’s always an adventure. There’s a lot of breath-holding and hoping no one falls,” she said light-heartedly, “We try to choose places where no one’s going to get arrested.”
Boston-based rapper and LFN participant Latrell James concurs when explaining his own experience: “It was (laughs) risky, but beautiful at the same time.” The LFN video of him performing his new, unrecorded song “Prayer Emoji” took place on the roof of an abandoned prison where, as Graham-Handley explained, “we had to hoist ourselves up through jagged holes in the ceiling.”
James thinks every musician should experience something like this – “It’s so serene, like you’re the only person in the world, and when you’re performing, you’re not thinking about the fans, it’s just the music.”
Initially, there’s something jarring about James’ video. (Am I missing something? Why is this person rapping on top of this decrepit building?) But the concept makes more sense when James and Graham-Handley explain their personal interpretations of live performance.
“Performance doesn’t just take place in a venue – it’s an experience that travels with you, and this project really enforces that. People are inspired by the experience, not just the music alone,” James said.
Graham-Handley had a similar take on the experience aspect of her project – “People want to see a one-of-a-kind performance,” which is exactly what the project achieves.
On Sept. 22, LFN will host a show at The Rockwell (previously Davis Square Theatre) in Somerville to showcase performances by local musicians who have been involved in the series: Bent Knee, American Echoes, Molly Pinto Madigan, Kate Diaz, Rivers, and James. “The goal of the series is really to celebrate the community,” Graham-Handley said.
Goal accomplished. LFN’s elegant videos of local musicians performing in secret niches of their state’s history are truly a celebration of Massachusetts’ art culture.