Five years ago, Johnny Gray, creative director of the multimedia company Parallellogram, devised the concept behind Cucalorus’ program Visual/Sound/Walls (a.k.a. VS Dubs). While watching music videos late-night and getting completely lost in the “music-video rabbit hole,” as he puts it, the idea took form.
“I thought, How cool would it be if all the music videos were projected in a room, all around, surrounding people?” Gray remembers—“one long stream of music videos that intertwine with one another, like a DJ does with a playlist of songs.”
His concept allows viewers to feel as though they are trapped inside a virtual reality. With screens upon screens surrounding them, they are immersed in a nonstop, sense-stimulating, social-interactive experience.
Gray brought the idea to Dan Brawley, Cucalorus director, who took to the idea instantly as a great addition to Wilmington’s independent film festival. Gray took the reins of responsibility and established a selection process he would use each year to decipher which songs and bands worked best for the showcase.
“I like songs that are gonna be basically upbeat,” Gray explains. “They need to get people moving. My favorite are the ones that sound like something different—something that I haven’t heard before. Either that or they sound like they should be really popular, and they’re just not.”
Three qualities he looks for when curating Visual/Sound/Walls are: 1) The song has to be good; 2) The video needs to intrigue the audience and grasp their attention; and 3) The video has to have that little something extra, which Gray admits he discovers along the way.
Once the songs are selected, the editing process begins. Gray designs an order where either concepts or styles connect in a way that allows each song to transition smoothly into the next.
“For example, there might be a character exiting out of a door at the end of one music video,” Gray explains. “That could be a good opportunity to have, inside that doorway, the next music video appear.”
This year Visual/Sound/Walls consists of 34 music videos. Opening with Camboi Smif’s “Cambizzle Too Dope,” and ranging in assortment from Ryan Adams’ “Gimme Something Good” and Free Clinic’s “Off My Rocker,” to Alt-J’s “Left Hand Free,” the sound walls will close with Soft Spot’s “Pickup Lines.” It will coincide with a live performance from the band, as well.
The “Pickup Lines” music video represents the exploration of alienation in the landscape of corporate America. Sarah Kinlaw (lead singer/songwriter) of Soft Spot is dressed as an alien character in the video and will mimic that attire as she performs live onstage, alongside the rest of the band’s members, Bryan W. Keller Jr. (singer/guitar/video production), Blaze Bateh (drums), and Jonathan Campolo (synths). Kinlaw’s influence in storytelling and Keller’s knack for filmmaking collide for one incredible performance where the band will play songs from their latest album, “MASS” (2014).
The Visual/Sound/Walls official party will be held at Bourgie Nights on Thursday, November 13 at 10 p.m. Wherein previous years the party was held at Ziggy’s by the Sea or the now-defunct Soapbox, this year Gray is moving it to a more intimate setting. “We decided to get a smaller space, so that the videos are right in your face,” he says, “surrounding you and immersing you.”
When he started the program, it was only a one-day event; this year he continues to expand it over multiple days. Gray also has upped the ante on making it more interactive than in previous years. “I definitely think people have had fun in the past,” he says. “That gives me motivation to keep doing it, to keep trying to find ways to make it into more of a music-video party.”
While live performances from featured sound walls bands are planned, there also will be characters that appear sporadically throughout the playlist to interact with guests. “One of the characters is Internet Carl,” Gray says. “He was a normal human being, but through freak happenstance, his consciousness got stuck inside the Internet.”
During the program, Carl is going to tap into the World Wide Web and appear on all the screens. Plus, audience members will be able to take turns using Oculus Rift Device, a new virtual reality helmet that New York director Ryan Staake will bring. Recognized for several music videos—Booka Shade’s “Crossing Borders,” Alt-J’s “Left Hand Free,” The Asteroids Galaxy Tour’s “My Club,” Major Lazer’s “Sweat,” and Route 94’s “My Love”—it’s Staake’s fourth time featured in Visual/Sound/Walls. “He’s very diverse with his filmmaking skills,” Gray says. “He’s very technologically awake.”
Guests have the opportunity to converse with Staake at both the official party and the Director’s Cut, also held at Bourgie Nights, on Saturday, November 15 at 7 p.m. The Director’s Cut allows all directors in attendance to showcase their videos and discuss them with the audience afterward with a Q&A session. Staake will be accompanied by an array of other directors, such as Cameron Smith who directed Camboi Smif’s video “Cambizzle Too Dope,” Reid Clark, who directed his own video “Don’t Funk with Me,” John Manning, who directed Mountain Thrower’s video “Ununpentium,” and T. Jones Wortham, who directed Distinguished Gents’ video “Word Transfussion.”
After the Director’s Cut on Saturday, the DJs & VJs BFs 4 Evs event takes place at 10 p.m. This will host disc and video jockeys to form a civil union and collaborate on one performance. Performers include Free Clinic and VJ Matty Matt, Reid Clark and VJ MXL PXL, and Mountain Thrower and VJ Normal TV.
The concept behind Visual/Sound/Walls remains focused on the combining two great art forms. It has continued to grow in recognition both locally and internationally, as well.
“I think it’d be really cool if the party became this kind of rave where people feel drunk off the whole experience, as an effect from the overwhelming, visual and audio sensations, and the community together type of vibes,” Gray admits. “My dream is to one day get some serious bands involved, bands that people really get excited about. Even though the bands we have now are amazing!”
Tickets to the official Visual/Sound/Walls party on Thursday night are $15 and can be purchased from the Cucalorus website. Pegasorus, Megasorus, and Digasorus passholders receive free entry to non-ticketed events such as the Director’s Cut, DJs & VJs BFs 4 Evs hosted at Bourgie Nights. Ticket prices vary for each event; passholders are admitted for free.
Kickoff party: Fri., Nov. 13, 10 p.m.
Tickets: $15 for non-passholders
Director’s Cut: Sat., Nov. 14, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $5 for non-passholders
DJs & VJs BFs 4 EVs: Sat., Nov. 14, 10 p.m.
Tickets: $5 for non-passholders