Andrew Bucket, Self-Proclaimed Music-Video Historian, On His Live Version of Pop Up Video
Conventional wisdom says the age of music-video television is dead and buried, crushed by a shaky business model, reality TV, YouTube, and nudity-friendly Vimeo. But what about Pop Up Video? VH1's long-running series, which originally ran from 1996 to 2002, was revived last year, and started a new season this summer. That's telling: It means we still love music videos, but mostly, we love them with snarky commentary.
Tomorrow, Artisphere brings that concept to the stage. The Rosslyn arts center is hosting the first edition of performer Andrew Bucket's "Popped-Up Videos Live," a music-video showcase with live commentary from comedian Jenn Tisdale, storyteller Jennifer Tress, "professor of MTV history" Brian Stanford, and "expert AV nerd" Matthew Nahmias.
A second event is booked for Oct. 20, with former City Paper contributor Brandon Wetherbee (host of You, Me, Them, Everybody) and Sockets Records founder Sean Peoples. "If all goes well with these two," says Bucket, "hopefully this will be a monthly thing." We chatted about the event and some of his favorite music videos.
Washington City Paper: The Artisphere website says you're a "music-video historian." Do you have any credentials for that?
Andrew Bucket: Yeah, yeah, I do. I have a degree in music-video history, as well as an honorary doctorate in music-video history.
WCP: Where did you get those degrees?
AB: I got them from a university in New York.
WCP: Any names?
AB: [Dodging the question] My name is Andrew Bucket and my co-host... So, it’s going to be very exciting. The pop-up video experience is going to be everything that everybody remembers from the TV show, except brought to you in a live atmosphere. And when I say that Brian is a professor of MTV history, he's gonna be the one that interjects with all the punchy facts and figures and did-you-know sort of moments about the music videos. When we need some factual info about these music videos, he's gonna take over. I’m there to offer a more contextual, historical bent, like, I'm going to put things into the context of the history of music videos. And Jenn will be there offering witticisms and criticisms.
WCP: Is it going to be sort of like Mystery Science Theater?
AB: Yeah, that show is a huge influence on this show. We're in 2012 now, so we have a lot more audio-visual technology to work with. Mystery Science Theater was a TV show and this is gonna be a live experience. They can expect trivia and games and prizes and audience participation.
WCP: Are there still going to be bubbles of texts on the screen?
AB: In the live experience, those bubbles of text and fun facts and figures come to you live and so, we are transcending the digital and all of us are going to be taking on the function of some of those bubbles on the TV screen.
WCP: And if these Artisphere events go well, do you want to keep it at Artisphere, or do you have plans to bring it elsewhere?
AB: I love Artisphere. I’ve done a couple of shows there, I was guest on a couple of other shows that have been there. I've only had a good experience with Artisphere. And it's a beautiful facility. We're in a 200-seat theater with a cinema-quality movie screen. It's an amazing complex and it's everything we could hope for in a venue. We would love to keep it there.
WCP: You're going to screen the videos and while those are going on, you and your guests are going to chime in about them?
AB: Here's how it works: We've got a theme every month. Pertaining to the theme, we'll choose what we think are the most salient videos of that theme. This month's theme is '90s statement videos—videos that make a statement—political, philosophical, or just plain idiotic. As we explore that theme—we have music videos from TLC, Van Halen, Billy Joel, R.E.M., Arrested Development, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony—we're going to be chiming in with all the facts and figures, like on the TV show, but also chiming in with jokes and just having a good time.
WCP: Can you tell me a little bit about the guests you have on Sept. 22?
AB: Absolutely. Jenn Tisdale is becoming one of the most well-known comedians in D.C. She is appearing two or three times a week on stage. She performs in clubs in Baltimore, D.C., all the surrounding suburban areas. She's been working on some tour plans for other cities. She recently just performed on the Millennium Stage at Kennedy Center. She's a real rock star in the comedy scene.
Brian Stanford, as I said, is one of the most accredited professors of MTV history that I know of and, y'know, I'm an academic as well, so that's exciting.
And Matthew Nahmias is our audio-visual expert. This guy comes from the bowels of the AV department and we just found him down there, rifling through a bunch of cables and all these miscellaneous pieces of electronic equipment and we just asked him if he would help us out and he sort of begrudgingly said yes.
WCP: The website also lists Jennifer Tress, is she still going to be there?
AB: Jennifer Tress is also a guest on Sept. 22, she is a very well-known storyteller who has performed in every major storytelling room in the city—Story League, SpeakeasyDC—she has a monthly in New York City at Piano's. She is a total rock star and champion. She's won a couple storytelling competitions. So, she's a real rock star and she's very, very funny, too.
WCP: As a music video historian, do you have any interesting bits of music video history you can share to preview the show?
AB: Yes, absolutely. So, here's a bit of history—we won’t be doing it this time around, but we’ll probably be screening it, I hope, in October. But my favorite piece of music video history is that when Meatloaf was coming out with his album Bat Out of Hell II, he had recorded what he thought was his opus. It was gonna be the biggest song that he'd done to date. And that song was "It's All Coming Back To Me Now." Now, at the same time, Celine Dion was recording an album and she managed to hear an early cut of Meatloaf's version and she said that she had to have this song. And so, she pulled some strings, some very diva-ish strings— she was a bit bigger than Meatloaf at this point. And she stole the song and recorded it herself as a single for her album. Meatloaf was distraught, but God closes one window and another, however the thing goes… He decided to go with the alternate single for his album, which was "I Would Do Anything For Love," which proved to be Meatloaf's biggest single to date. But they had absolutely no plan to make a music video for that song, but that also turned out to be the biggest music video that he ever did.
WCP: Have you had the chance to meet Meatloaf?
AB: I have never met Meatloaf, but I have a friend whose mother was his nurse. In Bridgeport, Conn.
WCP: There are going to be prizes at the event?
AB: Tons of prizes for local businesses and it will be very cool stuff, like bar tabs and free food and all kinds of cool gift certificates and stuff that the audience can win if they can chime in with some answers to trivia and stuff at certain points during the show.
WCP: So, the theme of the night is '90s statement videos. Can you explain that a bit more?
AB: Sure. So, it's '90s statement videos with the parenthetical explanation: videos that make a statement—political, philosophical, or just plain idiotic. In the '90s, there was a very common thread throughout a lot of the videos that they were out to make a big statement. And a lot of them have this funny sort of video editing nuance that there's a lot of scrolling script of different oblique messages about life and society. One that comes to mind first is Van Halen's "Right Now." So, we're just exploring that, as well as some sort of funnier ones, videos that sort of fail in their attempt to make a statement.
WCP: You must have been a fan of the Pop Up Video TV show?
AB: I loved that show, loved it. I loved it so much that I wanted to transcend the digital and bring it—I thought it would be a great premise for a live show. And hopefully one day we'll actually be able to get to work with VH1 and they'll give us access to their library.
WCP: Have you noticed it's been brought back and they're airing new shows?
AB: Right, yeah, I did. And the ad came up on my Pandora that they were bringing it back, which is amazing. However, I don't have a TV any more so I don’t know if I'll be able to watch it.
WCP: Can we count on you and the professor to have 100 percent accurate information about these videos?
AB: Yes, I think as far as anyone will be able to tell, we will be 100 percent accurate. However, in this age of the Smartphone, maybe somebody can call us out in the middle of the show if we've actually misspoke. So that can be an exciting thing. But no, we're being very diligent about our research and trying to maintain academic integrity.
Andrew Bucket's favorite music videos:
AB: Aerosmith's "Crying" follows this sprawling road story of a young girl just trying to find herself again after a failed relationship. A great, great story. Featuring one of the biggest babes ever, Alicia Silverstone.
Spin Doctors, "What Time Is It?"
AB: Well, the Spin Doctors have some of the best fashion ever. And it's demonstrated most quintessentially in the video for "What Time Is It?" off their album Pocket Full of Kryptonite.
The Jesus and Mary Chain, "April Skies"
"Popped-Up Videos Live" will take place in the Dome Theatre at Artisphere on September 22 at 8 p.m. $10.