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THE ACOUSTIC GUITAR PROJECT AUGUST 2014

Have you noticed any of our #EvilJordan pictures on Instagram recently? Believe it or not, those images were photoshopped to make it look like Jordan was in those places, even though he wasn't. The original photo, with Jordan holding a guitar over his back, is from a set we created for the Pittsburgh chapter of The Acoustic Guitar Project (like the photo above). While you've been goofing off all summer, we've been working on this cool acoustic guitar-based project called The Acoustic Guitar Project. This thing was founded by a man named Dave Adams in NYC in 2012 and since then it's expanded to over 25 cities nationwide, from Detroit to Hanoi. The basic premise is this: we give a local musician an acoustic guitar and one week to create a completely original song. When their week is up, they pass it on to the next musician. They each repeat this process until we have ten local musicians with ten new songs, all written and recorded on the same guitar. So...why do that? Because it's fun. Because it's a cool opportunity. Because it's good to be invested in the songwriters in your city. And because, honestly, there's something bizarre and pointless about this project that we really like. That's not an insult. The Acoustic Guitar Project is songwriting for songwriting's sake. No matter what, we knew it was going to be worth it. We first got involved with TAGP after hearing Jenny Owen Youngs' TAGP song from the NYC project and immediately needing to know what the hell the "Acoustic Guitar Project" was. Frankly, it sounded made up. But it wasn't. After a few back-and-forths, AltarTV signed on to curate the Pittsburgh chapter. Soon after, MinorBird sent us a beautiful guitar, D'Addario sent beautiful strings, capos and various guitar knick knacks. Dave sent us a beautiful Zoom handheld recorder. All that was left was choosing the artists. We knew this was a tough task. Pittsburgh's scene sometimes feels very fragmented and we were worried we'd miss out on some gems, or have trouble convincing people to participate, or piss people off with our choices. So we did our best. We asked a lot of people we knew to refer other candidates. We reached out to open-mic hosts and songwriting organizations for their recommendations. In the end, we had a list of ten musicians we were proud to work with. That being said, it's not an end-all list. There are almost certainly wonderful songwriter/guitarists we missed. But we're thrilled with these ten humans and their involvement in the project. It's a brave thing to write a song in a week and share it with the world. Here are the names of those brave folks: 6/11 - 6/18 Roger Harvey of Roger Harvey & The Wild Life. Roger's band makes gritty understated indie-rock (we recorded one such gritty understated track called "City Deer" a few months ago, keep an eye out for the full-length in September). Their bio says Roger Harvey & TWL sound like the music Jeff Mangum would make if he grew up in the 90s. We agree with that on the best of terms. Roger was the first to go Week 1, here's his final product, "Trouble" 6/18 - 6/25 Ricardo Iamuuri Ricardo is an electro-acoustic artist with roots in classic hip-hop. His website shows his electro-acoustic side while his 2012 release 'Conversations w/ Shepherds, Sheep, Guinea Pigs, and Monkeys​.​.​. Nursery Rhymes For The Underfed Minds Vol. 1' displays a more intimate, minimal folk approach. We knew Ricardo would be perfect for TAGP. 6/25 - 7/2 Paul Luc Luc is a solo rock musician. He recently teamed up with Straub to make a short video about his love of beer, music and old bikes and it's pretty rad. Luc recently took on the challenge of composing the music for an indie screwball comedy film, 'All Raccoons Are Bandits'. Pretty cool. 7/2 - 7/9 Andre Costello of Andre Costello and The Cool Minors. They make a sort of indie folk that doesn't get made enough these days: minimal but substantive, weird but not quirky, emotional but not sentimental. Excited to see where they go next. The band is set to release a full length album at the end of the summer at The Andy Warhol Museum. In a recent music video, they set a piano on fire. Yikes. 7/9 - 7/16 Seth Milly Formerly of The Composure, Milly now plays in a six piece rock band called, well, Milly. They just played at the PGH date for Vans Warped Tour. On the Warped site, Milly was described as "The Beach Boys on Steroids" and I have no idea what that means but I love it. From what I've seen, there's only one acoustic song released and it's catchy as hell. Anyways, Seth is a great songwriter and we're looking forward to seeing what he comes up with for TAGP. 7/16 - 7/23 Lianna Ankney Vocalist in Household Stories and Diamond Shapes. Diamond Shapes is Lianna's solo music project in which she plays lead guitar and vocals. (sidenote: it's funny, whenever you type in "band" after the band name, google usually becomes less confused. "Diamond Shapes Band" makes google more confused.) Lianna is also a vocalist for the fabulous group Household Stories based out of Greensburg, PA, but also a standby at PGH music eventery (listen to their tunes ASAP) Check out her finished song, "I'm Headed East" 7/23 - 7/30 Jon Bindley Bindley is a solo, acoustic, Americana musician. He definitely has some country influences. Bindley recently came out with a video for his song "Three Rivers" that has a lot of great Pittsburgh shots. We came to know Jon as the guitarist in Blue Of Colors, but this dude has something about him that makes him stick out. Jon doesn't have much released as of yet (aside from this killer 3-song EP), so we're thrilled to have him contributing a song to TAGP. 7/30 - 8/6 Brooke Annibale Brooke is an earthy, solo singer-songwriter with introspective lyrics with a knack for smoky nostalgia. She's had plays on a few television shows like One Tree Hill and Vampire Diaries, plus a win at the Independent Music Awards in Best Adult Contemporary in 2012, which is pretty damn cool. Brooke is a badass and we're thrilled that she's contributing a song. 8/6 - 8/13 Nathan Zoob of Wreck Loose. Wreck Loose is a soulful, piano-based indie pop band, and a solid staple of Pittsburgh music. He's also in a band called Broken Fences, who falls a little closer to straight-faced folk (check out "Half Asleep" and "Call Of The Zoob" on their bandcamp). 8/13 - 8/20 Morgan Erina of Broken Fences. Morgan is the lead singer of Broken Fences (ever heard of it? are you not paying attention?). Morgan also works as a solo musician, with a knack for haunting, sensitive compositions. Her first album Whatever was released in 2009 and it looks as if she's working on another. In the meantime, we'll have her TAGP contribution. The Acoustic Guitar Project culminates on August 22 at the AltarTV offices in the North Shore, where we'll host/film these folks for a performance/interview about their experience with TAGP. Stay tuned for that video. Thanks to Dave Adams, Roger Harvey, Ricardo Iamuuri, Paul Luc, Seth Milly, Andre Costello, Jon Bindley, Lianna Ankney, Brooke Annibale, Nathan Zoob, Morgan Erina, Jesse Prentiss, Kyle Smith, Phil Atkins, Jordan Tomb, and Alex Gordon.

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YEAR END STAFF PICKS 2013: BEN PERKINS (EDITOR) DECEMBER 2013

2013 has been a pretty fun year at AltarTV. We've been trying new things, starting new shows and branching out from our live/unplugged 2011 roots. For a small crew (six) like us, that means responsibilities shift. Mainly mine. Most recently I took over setting up our local productions and our new partnership with 91.3fm WYEP. Since late Spring, we've been filming their Live & Direct studio sessions and the very first shoot I handled was a session there for the band Night Beds. Even with hundreds of shoots under my belt at AltarTV, it was kind of a jarring experience. When you're the one responsible for setting up the shoot, it's a completely different game. I got the cameras built, set up the lights, assembled the crane, all stuff I've done before. But once I was done with that, I couldn't stop double (or triple)-checking every detail. Are the settings on the camera right? Do the shooters know what needs done? Did I format all the cards? Are the batteries fully charged? I spent the last 15 minutes before the set repeating the same 5 questions to myself over and over just to be sure nothing was forgotten. In general, the WYEP shoots have their own challenges and privileges. It's nice to only be responsible for the visual side, as opposed to AltarTV sessions where the sound, schedule, set and video are all our responsibility. On the other hand, it's nerve-racking to shoot sessions that are going out live on the radio. Which is another way of saying you can't curse or yell, two things I love to do during shoots. It took some getting used to. Despite my anxiety and infinite checklist-checking, the shoot was great and Night Beds was amazing. If you don't know, they're a fantastically mellow indie folk band that, even while sick, put on a great 4-song set. The added pedal steel guitar really made the song stand out more than the album counterpart (especially on the song "22," which I’m excited to release with more WYEP follow-ups). Once they started and it was clear all the cameras were set right and everything was running smoothly, I could finally exhale and enjoy the music. All in all, by the end nothing caught fire or fell apart and nobody cursed or yelled on air, so I'd say my first WYEP shoot was a wild and unprecedented success. __ Ben Perkins is an editor, shooter and Pittsburgh production bossman at AltarTV. He once ate chips in a video for The Composure. He's also known as Beeper, Beeps, Benny CameraHands, Pen Berkins, Perks of being a Benflower, Cool Guy Ben, Sexy Guy Ben, Strong Guy Ben, Bennifer, Bender, Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Ben from AltarTV, and Buffalo Ben.

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YEAR END STAFF PICKS 2013: ALEX GORDON (WEB EDITOR) DECEMBER 2013

As AltarTV’s web editor, most of my work is behind the scenes. But at SXSW this year, I was thrown into the position of Field Producer. Coming from a journalism background I really had no idea what this meant, but it turned out that it meant I helped coordinate the shoots, made sure the crew had everything they needed, found food and did basically anything anybody asked me to do. Our first day of shooting took place at an amazing location called The Cathedral of Junk, on the outskirts of Austin. I can’t do it justice in a paragraph, but basically it’s a fortress made out of trash (or… a cathedral made of junk, it’s actually pretty well-named to begin with). Look it up. The plan was to shoot three bands in the center portion of the “cathedral” and ask nicely that the visiting tourists keep it down while we’re shooting. About halfway through the day, everything was going great. Everything looked good, everything sounded good. Our final band of the day was a group from Brooklyn called Team Spirit. I was already pumped to meet them/see them. I knew of Ayad through Passion Pit and his label Black Bell, plus what I had heard from their EP was right up my alley. AD and I (AD=Alex Drizos, AltarTV is 50% Alexes, so we rely on a lot of shorthand) waited out in front of the Cathedral for the guys to arrive while the camera dudes cleaned up and prepped for the shoot. I was in contact with Ayad, who texted me that the band was en route. We waited around for about 15 minutes, when this massive SUV pulled up in front of the house. At first I thought it was a little strange. It wasn't how I expected Team Spirit to travel, but I guess I didn't really know. The first dude got out of the passenger side and he looks like an NFL tight end, just a massive dude. I thought, “wow, this band keeps a high standard of physical health, good for them.” AD and I approached the SUV. As we welcomed the first guy, another dude got out and he was just as big as the first guy. Like I said, I knew what Ayad looked like (not 6’5) but I figured maybe he'd be the third guy to get out. Which is when the third dude got out and… was also not Ayad or anybody in Team Spirit. They were clearly three athletes of some sort, visiting the Cathedral of Junk on their own accord. They had no idea who we were. They didn’t have instruments (a dead giveaway). This was not Team Spirit. But we were already a few handshakes deep with these guys. I had already welcomed them and thanked them for coming by, told them how excited we were to work with them. So I kinda just played through. I brought them back to the Cathedral area and they were like “Whoa! This is a great setup!” I said thanks (for some reason), then started to regurgitate some of the CoJ bullet-points I had memorized from that morning. “Vince started building this in the 80s! Had to shut down construction in 2010 due to city ordinances… Not-for-profit, all funded by donations…” Phil looked at me quizzically like “who are these dudes?” And I shook my head, as if to say “I don’t know.” Which is when one of them started checking out our cameras and turned to me and said, “so…you guys shooting a music video or something?” Then I got a text from Ayad saying they were pulling up, so I ran away (field producing!). The four of them were stuffed in a taxi cab, up to their ears in gear. A good sign. But after the previous mixup, I took no chances. I waited for everybody to get out, inspected them and their instruments suspiciously, then finally said “Hi! I’m Alex from AltarTV!” Team Spirit was rad. Super friendly, super into the Cathedral and most importantly, super the actual guys we were supposed to meet. Beyond that, they gave us a very cool version of “Jesus, He’s Alright” that I think stands out really well. The song does not seem like it could possibly work on acoustic guitars, or without percussion. It doesn’t seem like the kind of song that would/could/should be played sitting down. And yet, this version works. The electric and acoustic guitar parts meld perfectly and while it doesn’t have the same oomph as the record, or the plugged-in live version, I think it's a cool, (somewhat) subdued take on an already great song. I didn’t mention the whole mistaken identity thing to the band then, but I vowed that I’d write a blog about it 9 months later. But I never did. __ Alex Gordon is the Web Editor at AltarTV and a legendary Field Producer.

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YEAR END STAFF PICKS 2013: ALEX MOHLER (VP) DECEMBER 2013

It’s true: SXSW is an ever-growing, monster gathering of some of the best artists from around the world. For us, it’s difficult enough to shoot all the acts we want to shoot, let alone do everything else we want to do (go to shows, go to parties, put faces to some of the industry names we got to know over the year, eat BBQ and drink beer). So one way we overcome that time-crunch is to offer bands a respite from 6th Street and invite them to come to us. Austin during SXSW is the perfect place to connect with artists that we’ve been eyeing all year. The trick is creating a schedule that doesn’t overload the film crew, which is essentially the biggest challenge of prepping for SXSW any year. In 2013, we constructed what was, in my opinion, one of the absolute best shoots we've ever assembled: The Ballroom Sessions. Taking over an extravagant ballroom just a few minutes from all the action in downtown Austin, we turned the space into a remote studio for artists to visit throughout the day. It was a pretty incredible-looking room to begin with; all we had to do was bring in a dozen cheap lamps, drag over stacks of chairs, then knock all those things over haphazardly and we had our set. It sounded good and it looked good, and we knew that no one at SXSW was hosting sessions in anything that looked like this room. And we were right. We planned an amazing line-up of sessions for the day: The Mowgli’s, The Parlotones, Allison Weiss, The Last Bison, Royal Teeth, American Opera, Emma Louise, Rah Rah, Papa Bear and Blue Of Colors, packed into a single day of shooting. But as things often go in Austin during SXSW, schedules change, artists roam around, they drop in early, they leave late and plans tend to change on the fly. Which is exactly how The End Of America ended up in our Ballroom for one of the most impactful introductions we’ve had to a band since starting AltarTV. A chance meeting with the guys at a party - introduced and emphatically endorsed by mutual friends - led to an on-the-fly invite for the band to stop by the ballroom and play us a few tunes (and for us to see for ourselves what all of the excitement was about). And what an impact they made. TEOA’s “Cemetery” is a brooding harmonic gem that perfectly exemplifies the trio's captivating vocals. Brendon, Trevor and James sound like an entire choir inside the Ballroom. Our entire crew was mesmerized. In the months since SXSW 2013, we’ve stayed in good contact with the dudes and made a point to make every show they play in Pittsburgh. Most recently, we had them by the office for our new studio performance series and I’m happy to report that, six months later, they can still sing. Hopefully they don’t lose it by SXSW 2014. -- Alex Mohler is the VP at AltarTV, currently living in Nashville. He slaps bass on The End Of America's upcoming mixtape 'America: Chapter II, Ending Again.'

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So, what is AltarTV?

AltarTV makes videos about music. We use multiple cameras to shoot live concerts, unplugged sessions, documentary features, interviews and other pieces about music and those who create it. And we’re always developing new show ideas for the future. We also like to promote interesting, worthwhile new bands on our blog and keep our audience in tune with whatever music news is going on.

Who works at AltarTV?

Musicians mostly. We’re also photographers, video editors, journalists and industry people. But we’re musicians mostly, which we think makes sense for the sort of thing we do.

Where are you?

The AltarTV HQ is in Pittsburgh, PA with a second office in Los Angeles. This means we capture a lot of our content in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey and Detroit. But we also travel for things like festivals and conferences.

How long has this been going on?

AltarTV was founded in the Spring of 2011. We started releasing series that summer and our first version website debuted in August 2011.

Do you have internships?

We have internships for Video Editing and Marketing. We’ll make it clear when those applications have to be in, but you can always ask us stuff at that info email (info@altartv.com).

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Although we usually select the bands you see on AltarTV, we still need you to keep us on our toes. Submit your music here.