Friday, March 7, 2014

"Holiday in Oakland": New Music Video Gets Great Press, Goes Semi-Viral

Just before Christmas 2013, I knuckled down and made a slide-show-style music video over the course of two days for my original tune, "Holiday in Oakland," which had been released two years before. I believed that the video would reach into the ears and hearts of my fellow Oaklanders.

And that's what happened  sparked by some minimal tweeting on my part. Still, the enthusiastic, semi-viral reception was a shock.

"Holiday in Oakland" celebrates the Town's vibrancy all year long, on every holiday. But it was delightful to debut the video during the winter holidays, like unveiling a special gift.  

I posted the video just before 4 a.m. on December 23. That night, I sent a tweet about it to Mayor Jean Quan and her spokesman Sean Maher. In the next hours, Mayor Quan not only retweeted the link to the video, but also presented it on her Facebook page as her holiday greeting "from my family to yours" and a couple of days later, sent it out to thousands of folks via her personal newsletter.

As this was unfolding, on Christmas Eve day I sent a tweet about the new video to KTVU Channel 2 reporter Eric Rasmussen, emboldened by his Twitter bio statement that he was not only an investigative reporter but also a hip-hop DJ. I was knee-deep in cleaning my house, since my parents were to come up from Santa Cruz County the next day for dinner. Dusty, and tired from staying up all night the past two nights, not to mention from vacuuming up a lot of dog hair, I took little breaks at my computer to send out a few tweets about the video.

Lo and behold, the next day, just before 11:00 a.m., my doorbell rang  It was Eric Rasmussen and camerawoman Erica Hintergardt. They had arrived like Santa and one of his elves on my doorstep. I was still in my pajamas. (I wear this particular pair often throughout the year, but today they were appropriate: red with little Santas.) I had just gotten out of bed. At that moment I had been listening to a voice message from Rasmussen on my ancient Radio Shack answering machine and its tiny dictaphone-like tape cassette.

(While I record music in a sophisticated recording studio with state-of-the-art equipment, I not only don't have a current voicemail system, I also lack a smart phone, cable TV, movie streaming, and even movie delivery from Netflix. Not that I'm proud of any of this, but there it is.)

So in the blinding Oakland Christmas morning sun stood Eric in a suit and tie and Erica dressed more casually, with my black German Shepherd barking her head off at them through the living room window. I managed to get them inside and rather dumbfoundedly listened as Eric explained that he wanted to film an interview with me about the new video and song. He was seeking a positive story for Christmas about our much-maligned city. And since the video was taking off...

Eric had tweeted, emailed, and phoned in the previous hour, but since I am a night person, as most musicians and poets are, I hadn't of course received any of these communiques at the time. It seems obvious now, but stunning then, that reporters think nothing of chasing down the private residential address of a newsy quarry and just showing up there.

KTVU broadcasts one of the Bay Area's top-rated news shows. Coincidentally, its Jack London Square office is a stone's throw from Pajama Studios, where I recorded "Holiday in Oakland" with my co-composer, producer, and engineer, Jim Gardiner. Everything, when you get down to it, is local. And get down we do, in this video, which pays homage not only to Oakland but also to some of the great musicians who come from or spent formative time in the Town.

Eric and Erica agreed to return in an hour. I threw on makeup and clothes, hampered not only by exhaustion and excitement but also by a coincidental episode of low blood-sugar, a not-unserious matter for a type 1 diabetic and a state that produces heightened adrenaline  as if I needed more  muddy thinking, and moodiness. Still, I got it together. My makeup approach was based on my experience with photo shoots, but it suffered from the lack of an actual makeup artist, and it didn't suit what turned out to be high-definition TV filming. Doh! At least my house was clean. 

Well, what was more important was that in the intervening hour, Eric and Erica walked around Lake Merritt playing excerpts of the "Holiday in Oakland" video to passersby, to approving nods and gratifying testimonials.

The segment was shown on the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. news that night. The video, the news piece, the accompanying print story, and various Facebook posts and tweets about them by not only me, but other people, were shared over and over in the subsequent days. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of times, given that more than 50 other publications picked up the story online and in print. What a thrill.

I mean, the next week, I went to pick up a pair of orthotics from their manufacturer near the Oakland Airport, and the guy who had measured them told me he had seen the TV news story. In my little universe, that's fame.

The video depends on the wonderful photography and artwork of some stellar Oaklanders, who are thanked in the credits. Thanks to them again.

Here's the story accompanying KTVU's coverage: 

And here's my post about the song, including lyrics, from when I first released it:

Finally, help a girl out (and delight yourself) by downloading the tune: 

or iTunes:

Let's take a holiday in Oakland, all year round!

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Thanks for adding your voice!