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Video Fri Apr 12 2013
For anyone living in a city, the view from above is humbling. There's a vastness to the urban landscape that's easy to forget on the ground level.
Rooftop Sessions is a web series that takes independent and up-and-coming bands above the Grid for an intimate, unplugged-style performance.
"Bands get used to playing at Sub T and Double Door and it becomes very rote for them; but when you make them strip down and put them up on a roof you inspire a whole different performance," said Joel Hoover, one of the series' producers.
It all began three years ago when producer Daniel Panol realized that there was prime real estate just waiting to be used on top of his apartment building.
His affection for rooftops began at an early age. Growing up in the projects in Poland, Panol would climb to the roof of the apartment complex and get above the world. To him, Rooftop Sessions are a way to build a music community from the top down.
"I want Chicago to become the next Seattle of the '90s -- not necessarily the same kind of music, but I want to help create the kind of scene where people come to Chicago to see the music from here," Panol said.
The city is as much a character in these videos as the bands -- with sessions taking place not just on rooftops but also in random places around Chicago, like a pedestrian tunnel on Lake Shore Drive, the Chicago River Taxi, and the Ferris Wheel on Navy Pier.
"For us its all about promoting local artists and promoting Chicago -- that comes first," said producer Mikel Pickett.
Hoover, Panol, and Pickett all work as "A/V geeks" to pay the bills, producing each session in their free time or after the kids go to bed.
And while they would love for Rooftop Sessions to be their full-time jobs, getting enough views online to support them is difficult and would probably require them to concentrate on big-name national acts. For now, their focus is much more local.
"Historically it was always the nobles and the wealthy that were patrons of the arts -- I think it's cool that we as broke-ass working stiffs can get involved and be patrons of the arts, help people's careers and help them gain some visibility," said Hoover.