INTO THE WOODS is a Portland-made web series that documents Pacific Northwest bands journeying to a cabin in the wilderness with a vanload of friends for a night of merriment capped by a concert. And lest we think it's merely a new addition to the already well-established live-music-on-location trend initiated by France's Take Away Show and repped locally by The Penny Jam, Jordan Kinley has done some thinking of his own. As one member of the team of five filmmakers who produce Into the Woods and maintain the site that hosts it—intothewoods.tv—Kinley is quick to point out what distinguishes his series from the rest of the mobile pack:
"Seeing the bands eating and driving and sleeping offers an intimate portrait. The people who end up going to the cabin are the band's close friends, so they become indicators of the band's personality as well. I personally think that the most interesting music documentaries are the ones where you see the personality of the band. The best moments in Don't Look Back aren't where Dylan is playing but when he's walking around whacked out on speed."
Judging by the inaugural episode of Into the Woods, which debuted publicly at Holocene last month and is now viewable online, Kinley's got a point. The first installment features electro-pop outfit Wampire cooking stew, lounging in a sauna, playing Jenga, altering moods, and, of course, playing music with a cadre of 15 or so buddies at a cabin on Mt. Hood. The lush, largely nocturnal, snowbound footage is visually breathtaking, and with it cut into a narratively ambitious, fluidly nonlinear 18 minutes, one gets a sense of the impressive resumes (work with Michel Gondry, Spin) trailing behind the crew.
The curiously moving vibe of Into the Woods is most reminiscent of that of the undeniably impressive Wieden + Kennedy-crafted, Whitman-appropriating "Go Forth" Levi's ads, and as with those spots, given Into the Woods' abundant Pabst, underwear, and neon sunglasses, questioning whether it's lifestyle porn can't be entirely ignored. However, Into the Woods actually captures the authentic energy and warm spirit of a house show more fully than any documentary I've seen, and—perhaps due to the fact that Wampire and Into the Woods' producers are friends—all the chit-chat, camera smiles, and most importantly, musical performances have the air of un-staged, genuine fun.
Even with the cabin donated, the budget for the first episode of Into the Woods ran to $1,200, and though there are plenty of big-name acts slated for future months' fare, the Woods crew is still debating the merit of various funding models, from ads to sponsors. Meanwhile, the grand vision that Kinley and crew have for their site—a West Coast answer to music-centric web-series hubs like those of Pitchfork and Vice—requires consistent programming, a need met by three smaller-in-scope weekly series that just debuted on the site. Don't Quit Your Day Job, a work-visit show, begins with a trip to the Potato Champion fryers with starch-master and Reporter drummer Mike McKinnon, while Feels Like Home, showcasing bands playing at their own residences, launches with a set at Dekum Manor by Leather Tom and the Dirty Dudes. Most promising is Learning Curve, which presents musicians teaching a musical lesson and kicks off with Zack Osterlund of Breakfast Mountain taking viewers behind his electronic curtain to explain how to sculpt a suitably blown-out synth sound. Stay tuned.