FUGAZI'S BRENDAN CANTY has a new project: Dude scouts out a town with a good music scene, buys a house set for demolition, has some local bands play live in its living room, then burns it to the ground the next day. All this is filmed for his Burn to Shine DVD series, and the result is a time capsule on a million different levels. Canty recently set up production in Portland. He's done the same in Chicago, DC, and Louisville.
How did Burn to Shine come about?
Having just watched the Jem Cohen film document of Elliott Smith, Lucky Three, I realized that all one really needs to do is turn on the fucking camera to document history. We spent the day filming, with each band coming every hour on the hour and playing one song each, and documenting the little old out-of-date house, and afterwards realized it was a system that could be applied to other towns.
You work with local curators in each city. Who helped you with the Portland shoot?
My longtime friend John Moen introduced me to Chris Funk, his bandmate in the Decemberists, who just happens to be the most enthusiastic music fan on the planet. He was an immediate source of energy and resource for the project, and delivered a list of bands that was our most diverse yet. This whole project is built on trust and I like to have one degree of separation from all the bands. So the curator becomes the identity of the project. Funk chose the Decemberists (of course), Sleater-Kinney, the Shins, the Planet The, the Gossip, The Thermals, Wet Confetti, Lifesavas, Tom Heinl, Mirah, and the Ready, a band from the girls rock camp who are awesome. The day was fabulous and the house was bizarrely huge and suburban and new. To watch it burn is to be reminded of man's hubris.