Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

423012020
1139Hours EST

The Sweet Memory

Photo Credit: David July — Sun starburst in the mature hardwood hammock canopy along the campground nature trail near a marsh overlook at Faver-Dykes State Park, St. Augustine, Florida: 26 May 2013

Sun starburst in the mature hardwood hammock canopy along the campground nature trail near a marsh overlook at Faver-Dykes State Park.

Near 1000 Faver-Dykes Road, St. Augustine, Florida: 26 May 2013

part of the Faver-Dykes State Park album


A little over a year after getting the Canon EOS 550D/Rebel T2i, my building curiosity about its ability to film high definition video led to an experiment. Taking far fewer photos than usual, I instead used my time camping at Faver-Dykes State Park to shoot 114 video clips on Sunday, 26 May 2013.

Using the strap, I figured out a way to hold the camera somewhat steady but it was still difficult. Despite some footage coming out with a nice Steadicam-esque look, it was too easy to knock the camera and produce a jarring bounce.

On the audio side, the built-in microphone is remarkably good at capturing the soundscape. Unfortunately but not terribly surprisingly, noises such as focusing the lens and adjusting my grip are extremely loud and distracting on playback.

Photo Credit: David July — Atlantic marsh fiddler crab (Uca pugnax) at its burrow in the sands near the Pellicer Creek boat launch in Faver-Dykes State Park, St. Augustine, Florida: 26 May 2013

Nevertheless, I wanted to do something with the thirty-three minutes of footage from Faver-Dykes. Although the clips were shot as randomly as I would take pictures, I somehow managed to arrange a visual narrative of sorts and set it all to music by Blow Up Hollywood, naturally.

One of the more eclectic Blow Up Hollywood albums, Collections (2011) ends with one of my favorites, a reserved yet emotional song called "Sweet Memory". The selection of this song helped guide the video editing process and the atmosphere it provided was the perfect accompaniment to the visual style.

A work in progress since August 2013, I recently taught myself to process the video as I would stills for things like color and contrast. Finishing on Saturday, 31 January 2015, I rendered a final cut and then watched it on my television.

Sweet Memory
Blow Up Hollywood
Collections (2011)
Film by David July

 
Download MP4
Download WebM
Download 1080p MP4

 
23.2 MB
41.6 MB
327.1 MB

Considering that there was no planning beforehand, no shot list and it was my first attempt at such a venture, I am actually quite pleased with the result.

The above embed uses HTML5 to stream a 474×268 copy in either MP4 or WebM format to your browser. You can also download one of these smaller files directly if the embed does not work.

These options are faster to download, should suit a casual visitor and help me from burning through my monthly data transfer allocation. That notwithstanding, the full HD 1920×1080p MP4 (327.1 MB) is also available to download and watch.

Enjoy the film and if you like the song, please purchase yourself a copy.

Blow Up Hollywood CD Baby Amazon iTunes

Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Video Credit: David July/Blow Up Hollywood

The Goodbye to Lonely Nights

Photo Credit: David July — Blow Up Hollywood featuring Steve Messina with Harvey Jones and Thad Debrock performing on Stage 3 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City during the premiere show in the 'Blue Sky Blond' album tour, New York, New York: 25 January 2014

Blow Up Hollywood featuring Steve Messina with Harvey Jones and Thad Debrock performing on Stage 3 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City during the premiere show in the 'Blue Sky Blond' album tour.

185 Orchard Street, New York, New York: 25 January 2014

part of the Blow Up Hollywood album


The sun dipping below the horizon, Saturday is quickly morphing into night in the Big Apple. The street lamps' orangish glow illuminates downward, shining through and emphasizing the flakes of snow now gently but increasingly falling.

Stopped on the sidewalk on West 34th Street not far from the Skylight Diner and 9th Avenue, I am holding a Gibson guitar in its case. Beside me sits a medium wheeled suitcase filled with albums and a few T-shirts.

I am on my way to see my favorite band in concert at a venue in the Lower East Side. Looking down 34th at the lighting and snow, I think to myself how cinematic the scene looks and feels. The temperature may only be nineteen degrees, but it is worth it. Finally, a vacant taxi turns toward and pulls over to pick us up.

My travel companion this evening is none other than Steve Messina — vocalist, lyricist, acoustic guitarist and co-founder of Blow Up Hollywood. Having left the pre-show rehearsal at another band member's home, Steve and I are making our way south for a snack, beverage and the show.

Taking place in the intimate downstairs venue at Rockwood Music Hall called Stage 3, Blow Up Hollywood will be performing the first of several gigs in support of their latest album, Blue Sky Blond, and I will have a front row seat.

Photo Credit: David July — Blow Up Hollywood featuring Steve Messina with Harvey Jones and Thad Debrock performing on Stage 3 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City during the premiere show in the 'Blue Sky Blond' album tour, New York, New York: 25 January 2014

Comprised of an eclectic and talented group of musicians, Blow Up Hollywood has been producing a unique, emotional and musically inspiring type of music since 2001 that refuses to pander to the mainstream.

The paradigm of a truly independent music group, Blow Up Hollywood is the best band that you may have never heard. Founded by Steve Messina and Nik Chinboukas and with a roster changing over time, Blow Up Hollywood is as much a collective of friends and collaborators as it is a band.

Their eight thoughtful and creative albums span through genres and each stand alone as unique experiences, while somehow maintaining a signature sound. Ambient, atmospheric, post-rock, progressive rock, folk, experimental, existential… there really is no one descriptor that best describes the Blow Up Hollywood catalogue except for independent.

Photo Credit: David July — Blow Up Hollywood featuring Steve Messina with Thad Debrock, Harvey Jones and Nadia Ackerman performing on Stage 3 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City during the premiere show in the 'Blue Sky Blond' album tour, New York, New York: 25 January 2014

I first discovered Blow Up Hollywood sometime around 15 September 2004 thanks to episode 0437C of Echoes with John Diliberto. The episode featured a live "Living Room Concert" set with five tracks that captured my attention.

After an email I sent about possible 2005 shows resulted in a reply from Steve Messina himself, the two of us have since maintained a casual email friendship. Sometimes they were just short notes and other times more in depth conversations, but it was great to discuss music with and ask questions of an admired artist of mine.

It was during an email exchange in early December 2013 that I floated the idea of coming to New York City before my planned January birthday holiday in Alexandria, Virginia. As luck would have it, the Blue Sky Blond album kick-off show was scheduled for Saturday, 25 January 2014, just days before my Washington, D.C. itinerary started with friends Erik and Lauren.

I booked a flight from KTLH to KLGA, an Amtrak train from NYP to ALX and finally a flight from KDCA back to KTLH. Having been to New York City on at least three prior occasions, it was no trouble for me to find things to visit and photograph. You know, non-Blow Up Hollywood related things.

Photo Credit: David July — Blow Up Hollywood featuring Steve Messina with Thad Debrock, Harvey Jones and Nadia Ackerman performing on Stage 3 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City during the premiere show in the 'Blue Sky Blond' album tour, New York, New York: 25 January 2014

Steve Messina and I first met in person the day before the concert at Prohibition in the Upper West Side. A bar and restaurant known for featuring live music nightly, Prohibition was ironically a place where Steve's earlier band MJ12 performed many years earlier.

My initial nervousness over having dinner with the man responsible for some of my favorite music was quickly tempered by a combination of Steve's easygoing nature, our hitting it off well and whisky. Referencing his instinctive and roguish nature, the Long Island Pulse said that Steve "realizes he can come across as difficult." That may be true in the context of the music industry and popular culture, but I would see that it is not generally so.

It was great fun to talk with and get to know Steve better over the course of two days. The rehearsal and concert were, of course, a special experience for me as well. Playing around eight tracks from across their twelve-year discography, Steve was joined by band mates Harvey Jones on piano and synthesizer; Thad Debrock on electric and pedal steel guitar; and later by vocalist Nadia Ackerman.

Photo Credit: David July — Blow Up Hollywood featuring Steve Messina with Thad Debrock, Harvey Jones and Nadia Ackerman performing on Stage 3 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City during the premiere show in the 'Blue Sky Blond' album tour, New York, New York: 25 January 2014

The set list was already in development when I arrived at the rehearsal hours earlier, but I have to braggingly report that I had a hand in shaping its final form in that a few tracks were present for my benefit. It was something else to then hear this performance in a room filled with seventy people, although at the time everyone else off stage seemed to fade away.

As you can see and probably imagine for yourself substituting your favorite musician, actor, writer or other artist, these two days in New York's exceptional cold of late January 2014 were an amazing experience for me. I have tried to capture some of that magic in my photographs and in this article, though I have left much of the detailed narrative out. Sorry, you had to be there.

Photo Credit: David July — Blow Up Hollywood featuring Steve Messina with Harvey Jones and Thad Debrock performing on Stage 3 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City during the premiere show in the 'Blue Sky Blond' album tour, New York, New York: 25 January 2014

It is difficult for me to believe that the roughly twenty-four hour period of this story took place one year ago. I do not know when I will next visit Steve or see Blow Up Hollywood live in concert, but I am looking forward to both. In the meantime, our electronic chats continue and I await future news about the next album. Each one has delighted and surprised me thus far, so I can only imagine what may be in the works.

Following the show and celebration at Rockwood's Orchard Street bar above Stage 3, I was back in the cold of the night. Standing on the sidewalk between the doors for Rockwood and Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya, a random passerby stops to ask me something. I reply "no" and they move on. I barely register the interaction whilst off in my own world however, preoccupied with my recent experiences.

Photo Credit: David July — Blow Up Hollywood featuring Steve Messina with Thad Debrock, Harvey Jones and Nadia Ackerman performing on Stage 3 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City during the premiere show in the 'Blue Sky Blond' album tour, New York, New York: 25 January 2014

Heading uptown in a taxi, I stare out the windows and watch as bodegas, local stores and street lamps go past. Except for the sounds of the engine and road, it is quiet in the cab. As the orangish glow of the street lamps fades in and out on my face, I cannot help but think about how perfectly everything worked out.

The couple mile ride to 31st Street and Lexington is uneventful. I return to my eighth floor room at the Hotel 31 and quickly realize that attempts to go to sleep now will be hopelessly futile. I leave my camera behind and walk next door to Vezzo Thin Crust Pizza, a place I frequented due to its convenience.

I sit down at the small bar in the front room and am immediately greeted by the friendly waitress who has served me the past few nights. She prepares my usual glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and then takes my order for a personal pizza on nine-grain organic crust.

I take a sip of my wine, put the glass down and stare ahead at nothing… a strange little smile on my face.

Photo Credit: David July — Blow Up Hollywood featuring Steve Messina with Thad Debrock, Harvey Jones and Nadia Ackerman performing on Stage 3 at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City during the premiere show in the 'Blue Sky Blond' album tour, New York, New York: 25 January 2014

Related Mount Sutro Articles

You can learn more about Blow Up Hollywood, listen to samples and purchase their albums on CD and electronically at blowuphollywood.com, as well as iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon and other retailers of independent music.

Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: Blow Up Hollywood

The Unrestrained Possibilities for Adventure

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help

Photo Credit: David July — United States Air Force Reserve 403d Wing 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron 'Hurricane Hunters' WC-130J Hercules 75304 taxiing to Tallahassee Regional Airport Runway 36, Tallahassee, Florida: 22 May 2014

United States Air Force Reserve 403d Wing 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron 'Hurricane Hunters' WC-130J Hercules 75304 taxiing to Tallahassee Regional Airport Runway 36.

Near 3256 Capital Circle Southwest, Tallahassee, Florida: 22 May 2014

part of the NOAA Hurricane Awareness Tour album


An hour and seventeen minutes before the moment pictured above, I was sitting in the captain's seat of this aircraft doing my best to take some photographs and not push any buttons.

Part of the United States Air Force Reserve 403d Wing 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron "Hurricane Hunters" fleet, Lockheed WC-130J Hercules 75304 was one of two storm-penetrating data collection aircraft at Tallahassee Regional Airport for the May 2014 U.S. Gulf Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour.

I have some excellent images as well as a funny story from this event, but for now here is a brief cockpit tour of WC-130J Hercules 75304.

Engine throttle, navigational system input panels and other controls on the cockpit pedestal.

Photo Credit: David July — Engine throttle, navigational system input panels and other controls on the cockpit pedestal aboard United States Air Force Reserve 403d Wing 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron 'Hurricane Hunters' WC-130J Hercules 75304, Tallahassee, Florida: 22 May 2014

Control boost, oil cooler flaps, electrical generators, fire suppression system and other controls on the cockpit overhead panel.

Photo Credit: David July — Control boost, oil cooler flaps, electrical generators, fire suppression system and other controls on the cockpit overhead panel aboard United States Air Force Reserve 403d Wing 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron 'Hurricane Hunters' WC-130J Hercules 75304, Tallahassee, Florida: 22 May 2014

Captain and first officer's seats, control columns, instrument panels and the cockpit pedestal.

Photo Credit: David July — Captain and first officer's seats, control columns, instrument panels and the pedestal in the cockpit aboard United States Air Force Reserve 403d Wing 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron 'Hurricane Hunters' WC-130J Hercules 75304, Tallahassee, Florida: 22 May 2014

Primary control column and instrument panel from the captain's seat.

Photo Credit: David July — Primary control column and instrument panel from the captain's seat in the cockpit aboard United States Air Force Reserve 403d Wing 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron 'Hurricane Hunters' WC-130J Hercules 75304, Tallahassee, Florida: 22 May 2014

Pedestal and instrument panel from the captain's seat.

Photo Credit: David July — Pedestal and instrument panel from the captain's seat in the cockpit aboard United States Air Force Reserve 403d Wing 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron 'Hurricane Hunters' WC-130J Hercules 75304, Tallahassee, Florida: 22 May 2014

Oxygen regulator and radio controls, oxygen mask, lower window and tiller wheel from the captain's seat.

Photo Credit: David July — Oxygen regulator and radio controls, oxygen mask, lower window and tiller wheel from the captain's seat in the cockpit aboard United States Air Force Reserve 403d Wing 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron 'Hurricane Hunters' WC-130J Hercules 75304, Tallahassee, Florida: 22 May 2014

Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July
Photo Credit: David July

The Illusions of Perceptual Organization

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help

Photo Credit: David July — The swinging wooden suspension bridge (1935–1936) reflected in the waters of the Santa Fe River at O'Leno State Park, High Springs, Florida: 29 November 2014

The swinging wooden suspension bridge (1935–1936) reflected in the waters of the Santa Fe River at O'Leno State Park.

Near SE O'Leno Park Road, High Springs, Florida: 29 November 2014

part of the O'Leno State Park Thanksgiving 2014 album


Is the bridge being reflected in water or is the photograph simply upside down?

A Rubin's vase or rabbit–duck illusion it is not, but I am quite pleased with how this image turned out. View it in the gallery to see it larger and get the full effect.

Photo Credit: David July