Not that many years ago,
Inan era when many popular musical acts are completely pre-packaged byrecord companies and their publicity machines, often seemingly with noapparent thought toward the audience’s wants, Jackson and Kane likedthe idea of having a direct hand in how their music is presented. “It’sbeen easy and it’s been fun,” says Kane. “Everyone’s very laid-back andvery cool and receptive to ideas. That’s exactly the atmosphere youwant to work in.” “Besides, it sounded like fun to make our own musicvideo,” adds Jackson. And, although it may sound corny, theconcept of artists supporting other artists has added an extra layer ofgood vibrations to the endeavor. “I feel that Sean is onto somethingreally special here,” says Jackson. “I can’t see this not being a goodexperience for everyone.” The one rhetorical question thatcontinues to pop up surrounding the Dot Matrix Project is why somebodydidn’t think of it sooner. In some places, the competition isso intense that a cooperative might not hold together, but this regionseems to take a friendlier, more laid-back approach to collaboration —one in which every participant involved gets a chance to shine: Themusicians, the filmmakers, the photographers, the technicians… each isan important component. That’s one of the reasons that the DotMatrix Project seemed like such a good idea to Coon and the otherparticipants. Tanya Peterson, of Lillyspad Photography, is a veritablevirtuoso of the camera — specializing in portraits, weddings, “allsorts of different pets” and the occasional bar mitzvah. She enjoysthem all, but she also enjoys “breaking up the monotony” and snappingaway for the Dot Matrix Project. “I love live music,” she says.“There’s absolutely nothing else like it, and I’ll try to take anyopportunity to work a live show.” Peterson calls herself a “candidshooter” and particularly revels in capturing the live musicexperience: The audience, the tech work, the behind-the-scenes…. “Youwon’t know where I’m coming from,” she says, “but I’ll get you.” Infact, Peterson even captured the sight of this reporter’s hands (infull close-up) scribbling notes during an interview with one of themusicians. And I never saw her coming.
On the other hand, andbehind another camera, photographer Stephen Charles tends to aim hislens at the bands performing, all the better to recreate the energy andintensity of musicians at full throttle. “I enjoy working withdifferent techniques, and I’ve enjoyed working with the otherphotographers and filmmakers,” he says. “It’s really quite unique… andSean is the ringmaster who brought us all together.” Thepresence of filmmakers and photographers doesn’t appear to diminish theperformance, or lessen the audience’s enthusiasm or appreciation. TheDot Matrix team members expertly — and stealthily — weave in and out ofthe crowd, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible while also recordingonce-in-a-lifetime documents of the performances. PhotographerMichael Dunn had worked with Coon on the ConvergeSouth music festivallast year and admitted it may not have been his finest hour behind thecamera. “It was,” he says dryly, “an eye-opening experience.” That’s precisely why he wanted to take another
crackat it. Coon also confessed that ConvergeSouth wasn’t quite his pinnacleeither. “Quite frankly, I’d never tried anything like it ever before,”he says, so he sympathized with and liked Dunn’s attitude — to do itagain, and do it better. “After a show, I put the camera downfor a couple of days,” Dunn relates with a laugh. “I don’t even want tolook at my camera. I’m lucky if I can use ten percent of the photos.” That’sbecause he’s shooting so quickly to capture that one, definingsplit-second shot that captures the experience. “One in ten,” he muses,“but that one makes it all worthwhile.” “This is still verymuch a learning experience,” Coon says. But, he says, they’re having anawful lot of fun learning. “I love the music and I love putting thisstuff together. It’s very hard and it’s very time-consuming, but we arehaving a great time. We’re turning out professional quality albums andmusic videos, and we’re showcasing the talents of the artisticcommunity here in the area. That’s really what it’s all about.” Growingup in Montclair, NJ, Coon has always loved music. He may be reluctantto admit to some of the bands that he loved as a kid — a situation withwhich
thiswriter can easily identify — but he does admit that his own musicalaspirations didn’t go very far. “I played in the orchestra in schoolwhen I was a kid,” he recalls with a laugh, “and my coolness quotientwent way down!” Nevertheless, he’s always had an appreciation for allgenres of music and the live music experience. He also knows his wayaround computers. Those two loves would eventually converge and blossominto what has become the Dot Matrix Project. When Coon begandating actress/singer Molly McGinn, he met and befriended many of hermusician friends, and the pieces of the Dot Matrix puzzle began to fallinto place. Coon loves music. “I’m always listening to anddigging new stuff,” he says. But he doesn’t always love the musicindustry, and he wanted to showcase the region’s music scene, which hasoften been neglected once it ventures beyond state lines (or fails tomake the “American Idol” audition). Sean’s brother Andy frequently works with All Aces Media, the independent, Greensboro-based production team that made Dogs of Chinatown last year, so Sean
was also acquainted with the region’s burgeoning filmmaking scene. Therewas talent. There was ambition. But there weren’t always opportunities.So, Sean created one of his own — and brought into it a group of peoplewho shared in the vision. “The whole idea is to get the musicout there and to draw an eye to what we’re doing here,” he says. “If wecan bring a focus to the cultural side — to the diversity that we havehere — and see what comes of it, that would be great. It’s all aboutmaking a real music scene, and working to understand all the differentcommunities involved, then going from there to build a social network.” Examples of the project’s work will soon be seen on the bigscreen at the Carousel Cinemas on Battleground Ave., where trailers andmusic videos will run before the main feature on some screens. “Wewere looking for a crossover incentive,” Coon says, “and that’s prettydamned incentizing! “There are a lot of bands that don’t get this kindof concentrated promotion,” he continues. And Coon would liketo spread that promotion around. He’s already discussing a possiblegallery exhibition of the still photos taken at Dot Matrix events. Livealbums, music videos, still photographs. All clear indicators of thelevel of talent at work (and at play) in the region. Promoting theproject is good, Coon attests, and promoting the participants is evenbetter. The technical aspects of producing a music video or alive album, Coon knows about. But there’s more to learn, such as“studying copyright issues — which has not been my favorite thing todo,” Coon says, “but it’s all a part of the process. It’s alwaysgrowing and changing, and we’ve got to build the community around it.It all ties together.” The next Dot Matrix Project event willbe held July 31 at the Green Burro, and will feature Possum Jenkins andTom Beardslee. On Aug. 28, the Raving Knaves and Project Tritium are onthe bill. And if you don’t make the live shows, you can see the musicvideos or listen to the albums… literally hours after the shows takeplace.
Formore information about the Dot Matrix Project, or to see examples ofthe work being done there, see dotmatrixproject.com. To comment on thisstory e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.