Brave Julius

Brave Julius — the moniker of musician Glenn Alexander — returns to the Whiteside Theatre for a concert and video premiere at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 16. (Santiago Uceda | Contributed image)

Brave Julius premieres music video ‘The Wind Kept’ at the film’s location — the Whiteside Theatre

With its arresting architecture and decades of stage- and cinema-soaked memories, the Whiteside Theatre has sparked inspiration for almost a century now. And although it famously aged into disrepair, decrepitude and life-threatening inertia, the august Corvallis venue is returning to its storied brio.

Exactly a week before its 90th birthday (it opened Nov. 10, 1922), a musician named Glenn Alexander — nursing a cold, guitar case in hand — passed beneath the landmark’s marquee. “BRAVE JULIUS,” it read, the moniker under which Alexander performs and records. (“I pulled it out of the ether, to be honest,” he said in a telephone interview last week. “The name could mean whatever you want.”) Fantasy had crossed reality on the latter’s tangible terms.

Behind the Whiteside’s doors, a film crew — animator/director Santiago Uceda, producer/editor David Baker, director of photography Justin Smith and additional cinematographers Kegan Sims and Oliver Day, plus two actors, Matthew Joel Flood and Dominique Valdovinos — had crafted a metaphorical universe, a choreographed extension of the artist’s id. So when Alexander entered the theater, he was inside his own head — or, more precisely, the video for “The Wind Kept,” a song from Brave Julius’ self-titled 2012 EP.

“Kept” wasn’t ready at the time this story was written — Uceda was still completing the animation — but here’s the gist: Two lovers drift apart in a scenario concocted by Alexander’s imagination and fueled by the gorgeous track. “We try in a couple of minutes to show what happens in a lot of relationships,” Baker said.

Four months later, Baker, Uceda and I, joined by Whiteside Theatre Foundation board member Jaime Williams, convened at the location, four rows back from the heartbreak-laden stage. The video itself is now part of the odeum’s legacy — not just as a newsworthy curio, but as a document of its restoration, a fantasy-flecked moment in time.

A theater by its very nature makes an ideal setting for explorations of the creative process. “It’s an empty space used for the imagination,” Baker reflected. “The video’s representative of what the musician’s imagining while he’s writing or playing the song. A theater is a place where that stuff comes to life, where it takes form and becomes real.”

“It was a unique opportunity for them to do what they’re doing, for us to be in a position to allow it to happen and for the space to lend itself to the process,” Williams added. “It’s all transitioning at once: the production of the film, the production of the space.”

A third production takes shape when “The Wind Kept” premieres during an evening of live music beginning at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at the theater, 361 S.W. Madison Ave., Corvallis. (By design it’s a nightcap for the Rhapsody in the Vineyard wine walk, the perfect after-dinner destination.) Brave Julius performs in the flesh as well (past Glenn/present Glenn sharing the same realm), armed with acoustic guitar and loop pedal. Also on the flavorful bill: Americana battalion Kory Quinn and the Comrades and troubadour Luke Redfield. Admission is $7.

“It’s exciting for us,” Baker said. “Usually, you make a video and maybe release it on the web. But to show it in the space where it was created — how often do you get to do that? With an audience?”

While regarding the historic panorama before us, Uceda smiled and contributed yet another surreal layer. “When we screen the video,” he observed, “it will have shots of the stage, so you can see the stage on the screen and also as a backdrop.” Dig it: a crowd bearing witness to theater of the mind — from inside the actual theater of the mind.

Alexander and Uceda initially met through another medium: art. Uceda lives in Corvallis, but the illustrator enjoys a global reputation. Alexander, based in Portland (by way of Athens and Austin, Texas), saw Uceda’s eye-catching PDX Pop Now 2011 posters and hired him to design the “Brave Julius” cover. “Santiago’s work is fantastical and kind of mysterious,” he said. “It’s not of this world, yet it has this emotional impact. I hadn’t seen an artist with that kind of style. It drew me in immediately.”

Alexander was pleased with the final piece and Uceda liked the music, often enjoying it while working in Oregon State University’s Web Communications Office, where he’s collaborated on various marketing and video projects with friend and department director David Baker.

At the time, Baker was also producing “Vino Veritas,” a feature-length wine documentary, through the Three Crows Media independent-film collective. (“The goal,” he said, “is to have something by this summer to screen at festivals.”) The movie needed music; perhaps a mutually beneficial arrangement could be made.

“Santiago had been talking about doing a music video for a while,” Baker said. “He started playing some of Glenn’s songs, saying, ‘What do you think of these?’ We were motivated to do an exchange: If we did video work with Glenn, we could use his music.”

Alexander was game, so the trio began meeting via Skype to discuss storylines and details. Of the six “Brave Julius” candidates, they chose “The Wind Kept,” which brings the EP to a dreamily ethereal and eidolon close. “I could picture a soundtrack to that one,” Uceda offered. “Even though there are no lyrics, you can make up your own story as you listen.”

“The song is instrumental, as all my songs are,” Alexander said. “When I’m writing music, I try and just let it come to me. I don’t really think about it too much. It’s a wave of emotions. I’ll find a certain line or melody and let the song guide me wherever it wants to go.

“‘The Wind Kept’ is cinematic. It has a lot of legato phrasing, and it’s slow and pretty, yet it’s slightly psychedelic in how we treat some of the instrumentation. Whenever we listen to music, whether it has lyrics or not, it taps into certain thoughts and memories that we have.”

The initial concept involved a dancing couple in an empty hall, a sequence that, of course, required such a room. They found it, interestingly enough, during last year’s Rhapsody in the Vineyard. Family in tow, Baker strolled past the Whiteside, then hosting an Irish dance performance in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

“I’d been under the impression that it was closed for business,” Baker said. “I didn’t know what to expect inside, having moved here after it was closed (in 2001). But it was like lightning striking: What about this place?”

“You could see all the history as you walked around,” Uceda added. “It was perfect.”

“The building is beautiful,” Alexander concurred. “The theater itself is this omnipresent, silent character in the video. I like it.”

Having secured the location’s blessing and involvement, Baker and Uceda assembled a crew and shot “The Wind Kept” over a single day, Nov. 3, 2012. They were joined by Alexander and his costars, Matthew Joel Flood and Dominique Valdovinos, selected from a field of several dozen hopefuls. “We were trying to figure out who would fit together,” Baker said of casting the couple. “It’s interesting how you have the characters ahead of time, but after you have the actors, it’s them. They own it. They become those people completely.”

“The Wind Kept” marks Uceda’s live-action directorial debut. “I studied art and animation (he graduated from CSU Fullerton), so I’m used to dealing with pencils and screens, not people,” he said. “It was a challenge, but I think I pulled it off. Dave gave me some pointers. Everyone was great, easy to work with. There were no divas here.”

According to Baker, no divas existed in any aspect of the production.

“Jaime gave us a tour, showed up to let us in, checked in on us, showed us how to run the lights and gave us free reign,” he explained. “That’s a great thing about a small community: You have this level of trust and willingness to collaborate. If you’re going to film in a big city, you’re looking at thousands of dollars in permits. Here we wanted to shoot from across the street, so Jaime suggested we get some parking signs. We got parking permits for free by the next day. Folks are excited about creative projects and want to support this.”

That support extended even online, when Three Crows launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the video’s completion and pay expenses associated with the Whiteside event. Posted on Jan. 18, the project had surpassed its $650 goal within a month. Ultimately, however, its true rewards have nothing to do with money.

“It’ll be great to see Glenn play — that’s the biggest thing,” Baker said. “I’ve heard his music over and over again. He came down recently and we watched the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies at the Whiteside. I sat next to him and he talked about the theater and how great it is. To see him onstage will be a nice completion of the process.”

“I’m excited about seeing the video on a big screen,” Santiago added. “I’ll probably never get to see it on anything that size.”

“I’m just very thankful for whole chain of events, and I’m excited to share it with everyone,” Alexander said. “This was my first music video. It turned out wonderfully and was a really cool creative experience. I was there doing my job, playing guitar.”

“The most exciting thing is that all this hard work is coming into the finale,” Williams said. “It’s also another opportunity to make the space available to another demographic in town. Regardless of age or income, we should all be able to fall in love with this space. That’s what’s going to keep it alive.” •

Cory Frye is a calendar editor and Entertainer reporter for the Corvallis Gazette-Times. He can be reached at 541-758-9514 or by email at cory.frye@lee.net.

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