Shaking down at the Cedar House Sessions

Brick’s stacked, and that’s a fact.

But cedar sounds clearer on Haida Gwaii.

Playing on YouTube and the islands’ occasional radio broadcast is a new music series called the Cedar House Sessions.

Recorded live at a real cedar house in Skidegate with bare-wood walls and pockets of pink insulation, each session features some Haida Gwaii music talents or a few who are passing through.

The Minstrel Cramps, billed as a greasy-spoon girl band with a token male drummer and some jelly-roll attitude, were the first to rock a five-song, single-take session.

Marcus Alexander, a one-time Observer cartoonist with a voice for radio, is a Cedar House co-host and one of several people credited for first coming up with the idea.

“I think they were a perfect band to have for our first show,” Alexander said of the Cramps.

“They’re hot right now.”

Getting serious for a minute as his breakfast poutine dawned at Island Sunrise, fellow co-host Pete Moore said plenty of radio stations broadcast live-in-studio shows, from the super professional KEXP in Seattle to Smithers’ CICK 93.9 community radio, which records in a repurposed railcar.

Moore said they got advice from people at both ends of the spectrum and settled on one thing — keep the shows live, even if most people wind up streaming the mixed version later.

“The reason we’re so stubborn about keeping it a live thing is because of the energy it brings,” Alexander said.

“You watch that video, and the band made no mistakes,” Moore said of the Minstrel Cramps’ show.

“It’s so impressive.”

In fact, said Evan Amies-Galonski, the sessions’ sound engineer, the people who book bands for festivals like Arts Wells mostly want to see video of live performances.

Asked about the studio set-up, Amies-Golonski said going live off the floor isn’t much different than a studio record. At the Cedar House, they put each instrument on a separate track so even if the live broadcast is a little off — maybe the vocals are a bit soft — he can mix it properly for the video version.

Besides having Amies-Golonski double up to play sound engineer and drums with the Cramps, the session was recorded by three videographers: Elim Sly-Hooton, Benson Hilgemann, and Josiah Fennell.

“For a lot of bands, this is going to be a very valuable piece of media,” said Moore.

The whole effort, which takes the better part of a weekend, plus extra time for mixing and video editing, is done by volunteers — a happy cross-pollination of the Haida Gwaii Radio Society and the Ging Gang Hla tllGad Independent Music & Arts Collective.

Next to take their turn at the Cedar House will be the punks of Dub Jackson Band, whose set will broadcast on the Haida Gwaii Radio Society page starting at 4 p.m. this Sunday, Jan. 27 before turning up in video about a week later on the Cedar House Sessions channel.

Several other bands and solo acts are lining up to play, said Moore, noting that they welcome all genres, from traditional Haida songs to spoken word and everything in between.

No date has been set yet, but one of the monthly sessions is sure to feature punk duo Jason Camp & The Posers, who won’t go to the studio alone.

“They don’t just want to do the mid-afternoon, quiet little thing,” Moore said.

“Those guys want to throw a party.”

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