Echo Chamber: Karl Hendricks

[Echo Chamber (′ek·ō ′chām·bər): noun, 1. a dedicated space for the purposes of transmission and repetition of sound 2. a video segment that features your favorite bands playing your favorite songs 3. a video segment where your favorite bands blow your mind].

Words by Jim

Artist / Karl Hendricks
Songs / “You’re A Bigger Jerk Than Me” & “Dreams Ha”
Location / Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
Time / Sunday March 6

It was a cold and rainy Sunday evening when I picked up Justin at his apartment. He was feeling under the weather. Weren’t we all. Spring was still busy napping under blankets of fallen leaves and twigs and wanted nothing to do with Pittsburgh. We raced down Penn Avenue with his gear in tow, through The Strip, across the 16th Street Bridge, through the Allegheny Center, and to The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. What an amazing place. We’d been trying to do a shoot at the the museum for a little while now, but things just hadn’t been working out. Schedules can be a nasty animal. Todd and Ailene had already arrived and I spied them taking b-roll footage outside the museum. We lugged our equipment inside and past the front desk crew. Our destination? – The Art Studio. Museum hours were just winding down so kids zig zagged every which way. Tired parents corralled them into winter coats and hats. Art projects were drying in the studio as we dropped out stuff near the coat room and let the volunteers finish cleaning up. Blake arrived shortly thereafter with a big grin and starry eyes – his first time in the museum. Waiting for the place to clear out, we followed Justin down to the Saturday Light Brigade Studio to get a few more things. Huge globe lights greeted us in the cafe. An empty theater pleaded with us for just one last pretend play as we walked downstairs. Grabbing some gear we ran back upstairs to catch the Merge Records legend, Karl Hendricks, walking through the front door. A beat-up guitar case accompanied him. An amp was carried in through the back door. We chatted about the nights events and thanked him for being great. As the last remaining children had left Neverland with their parents, Mr. Hendricks began to warm up, honestly stating he wasn’t sure which songs he’d play yet. He’d figure it out. Blake and I quickly moved art tables, trash cans, drying racks, stools, chairs, and rags out of the shot. Justin hid behind a partition among empty coat hangers. With a nod and a look down at his black Les Paul, we jumped into “You’re A Bigger Jerk Than Me”.

Echo Chamber: Karl Hendricks / You’re A Bigger Jerk Than Me from Draw Us Lines on Vimeo.

With pink streamers a million miles long hanging from the ceiling, we decided to slightly move our location. A beautiful balcony surrounded the Art Studio and with a little help from friendly janitorial staff, we switched on the lights. Karl was happy to try something different, so we turned up his amp and let it fill the entire room with fuzzy, warm distortion. Spotlights were rearranged. A beautifully random blue gate was incorporated in the shot. So far, this was turning out to be our quickest shoot and first ever solo performance. Things were uncomplicated. A lonely phone rang in a locked office. We weren’t watching the clock. During takes, Blake and I sat and enjoyed the music and surroundings. This is how Sundays should be. Karl mentioned how he remembered the Museum before the big expansion – we were standing in The Post Office. Memories surrounded us. Fittingly, after a few warm-ups, and tunings, Mr. Hendricks led us into “Dreams Ha”.

Echo Chamber: Karl Hendricks / Dreams Ha from Draw Us Lines on Vimeo.

This song in particular floored me. I sat staring up at the jungle of pink streamers as Marshall amp-grunge washed over me. It was amazing how Mr. Hendricks’ un-amplified voice filled the entire studio. We watched him step in and out of the spot light from across the pink mess, rippling as the heat cycled on and off. After one final take, Karl was happy with his performance and we decided to call it a wrap. Tables were wheeled back in place. Tiny chairs unstacked and one million garbage cans returned to their homes around the studio. Like little kids, we ran through the hallways to take gear back to the recording studio downstairs. The wonderful and pleasant security staff inquired as to how it turned out and I had almost forgotten that we weren’t the only ones in the museum for those few hours. With the doors shut and Karl Hendricks coaxing distorted chords from his guitar, it was like we were transported to a whole different place. Time slowed down or maybe even stopped. Perhaps, this is exactly how children feel when they visit the museum – a different time and a different world and when they leave, they just want to come right back. Yeah, that sounds about right. We carried Karl’s equipment out through the parking lot, watching our breath puff and die away. With shaking hands and appreciative smiles, we thanked Karl Hendricks for transporting us to another place.

We can’t thank The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh enough for being so generous and letting us shoot after hours. It’s a beautiful museum and really can’t be explained in words, only in laughter and smiles. If you have kids and you haven’t been there, well don’t wait any longer. Have some fun.


11 Responses to “Echo Chamber: Karl Hendricks”

  1. ah, this is so great!

  2. Great stuff. one suggestion, try using a tripod. shaky hand held camera work doesn’t really work on the wide shots especially considering the mellow vibe of the music.

  3. @Kevin – using a tripod wouldn’t give us the freedom to move around within the space, especially with a solo performance and one camera shot. When we do two camera shoots (like the Big Hurry E.C.), the tripod worked great for us.

    Thanks for watching!

  4. These performances blew my mind. I am a KHT fan from the early days and what is so great about these 2 songs is that they showcase what an amazing singer/songwriter Karl is and how he can take a simple song structure and turn it into something magical. Just beautiful. I don’t own “Dreams Ha…” what album is it from or is it just a single? Any idea where I could get my hands on it? And I hear Karl singing “Thank God We Have Limes” at the end of that video…any chance a hardcore KHT fan could get her hands on that gem? Thanks so much for this walk down a beautiful memory lane…

  5. @Alicia: Awesome, glad you liked them! I couldn’t find any info about “Dreams Ha” on the web, so maybe it’s a newer song or one Karl never released.
    Good catch on “Thank God We Have Limes” too. That’s Track 6 on The Jerks Win Again, but it was also issued as a 7″ by the Surplus Anxiety label via Merge back in 2001. I spotted one at a local record store awhile back and snatched it up.

  6. Thanks Brendan, I figured “Dreams Ha” must be unreleased…here’s hoping one day I can get my hands on it. I have the Jerks Win Again but I would love the stripped down version of “Thank God We Have Limes” that Karl is playing here…
    Just curious, what other songs did he consider performing for this?

  7. [...] ownership will be changing hands to current employee (and indie rock legend) Karl Hendricks (who we shot a music video with!) starting next year, and we’re totally looking forward to what he has in mind for the shop. [...]

  8. “Dreams, Ha” will be on the new Karl Hendricks Trio album “The Adult Section,” which I’d expect out in the first half of 2012 on Comedy Minus One.

  9. Awesome! Thanks for the tip, Jon.

  10. The record is out! If you guys need a review copy, just let me know. – JS

  11. Hey Jon, that would be perfect! I’ve been meaning to stop by Sound Cat and pick up a vinyl, just haven’t got around to it. Perhaps this weekend is the time!

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