Listening to John Vanderslice’s music with its many figurative narratives and political allusions, I kind of expected to meet a serious and stern person but to my pleasant surprise, he’s the most easygoing and approachable guy! His seemingly endless charisma and charm go a long way when shooting a take-away in a short amount of time. It also helped to learn that he enjoyed La Blogothèque’s site and was happy to contribute.
John was slated for 5:30 on the Main Stage on the second day of The Capitol Hill Block Party in Seattle. I had been in touch with his manager through his label. The plan was to meet a few hours before the gig and go from there. If you’ve heard the term “run-and-gun”, this was it. Time was tight. We had a rough idea of shooting him descending an escalator with the camera in front of him. So I back-pedaled as he followed playing “The Parade”. We didn’t have a plan for when we reached the gates but I thought the song would end before then. Well, it didn’t and I didn’t have a pass yet so we had to stay outside where, ironically, we ended up in front of a police car while John finished the song singing, “…if they catch me, but I’ll be running..” which kind of gave it a little added… significance, I suppose.
Immediately after entering the gates John was consistently approached by fans, radio station reps, media pundits, you name it. He was being pulled in all directions, but it never fazed the man. He simply stayed on task and kindly said, “Sorry, I gotta do this thing.” Standing at the perimeter of the crowd, John asked two teenage fans to accompany him for a song. He launched into “Numbered Lithograph” while the two kids flanked him and the camera swirled around. In the background, there was a sound check on the Main Stage.
For “White Dove” we decided to leave the grounds and head for the quieter surroundings of the park a block away. Again, with limited time, we quickly decided John would walk to the center of the turf field and the camera would track along with him… and so we did just that in one take.
John’s manager, Adam, called and said we had roof access to Neumo’s, a club located directly behind the Main Stage. John was already behind schedule, but we decided to take the opportunity while we could and we all climbed up a latter to the rooftop to get another take of “Numbered Lithograph”. It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t arrange more time on the roof as it made for a great view of the action happening below.
Considering how rushed it all was, the experience was thoroughly enjoyable. Best of all was witnessing John performing his tuneful and catchy songs so nonchalantly in any situation. His enthusiasm is unparalleled and his songwriting is captivating as evident on his latest release, Emerald City. And believe what you read: John is one of the friendliest people you’ll have the pleasure to meet.