Roots Music: Jamming with the Plants at the Greenhouse Sessions

photo illustration courtesy of The Greenhouse Sessions

Rain clouds gathered overhead as I navigated my boat-like Ford SUV into a forgotten sliver of Lakeview. Upon arrival, the camera was rolling as August Cuny, armed solely with his acoustic guitar, began serenading an intimate audience of potted plants. I was relieved from the engulfing humidity as my eyes wandered around  to absorb the inhabitants of the tiny space. Light speckled through neighboring trees and the missing roof panels, filling the greenhouse with a soft glow. Adjacent to Cuny as he performed was a sink repurposed from filling watering cans to icing down PBRs for the equally tiny film crew. Woven through the plants, a single string of globe lights framed the door adorned with the hand-painted logo reading simply, “The Greenhouse.” With a minimal setup of a DSLR camera and a well-placed microphone to run sound, the crew danced around the space as they worked to capture the best that Jacobs had to offer. They worked quickly to avoid the disruption of the impending summer storm and once Cuny finished his set and their last session of the summer, the ambitious independent filmmakers sat down with me in the greenhouse to talk about their experience thus far.

The space was not always so pristine, according to director Maria DiRosa. The backyard greenhouse barely survived Hurricane Katrina; but the potential to double as a workable set to record and capture sessions was actualized with a DIY mentality and an eye for detail. DiRosa, whose father owns the property, works alongside co-director Eric Long and assistant director Jennifer Teachworth. DiRosa and Long are graduates of UNO’s film program and after seeing NPR’s series of “Tiny Desk Concerts,” pooled together to create the aptly-named “Greenhouse Sessions.” The first installment of the series was captured in May with a friend’s group called Youth Sounds. Since then, they have released eight sessions total (with Jacobs’ forthcoming), including a stripped-down set from the Lovey Dovies and a special edition night time session featuring Sirens.

Another session that stands out features local group, Mahayla. After speaking with front man Dave Fera, it’s clear the Greenhouse made an impression on him, too. “I don’t know why this hasn’t really happened here before. It’s impressive that these young kids have asserted themselves into doing this. I found out about them after seeing the Lovey Dovies session. One thing that stood out was that they have one rule: no power. We have a keyboardist so we worked it out so that the keyboard would run off of a battery-powered amp. The simplified setup really makes the songs pop in a different way. On top of that, the audio and video quality is great. Why move to Portland? New Orleans is the new Portland, anyways.”

Unfortunately, the New Orleans-based sessions are to be put on hold as DiRosa and Long relocate to Portland to explore post-graduate opportunity and Teachworth continues working towards her degrees in sociology and creative writing. Although their efforts remained under the radar until after they had already moved, it’s what they left behind that counts. When talking with them about the difficulties they originally had booking artist to do the sessions, it reminded me that in our delicate ecosystem of musicians we often forget how getting involved is half the battle. I anticipate their return over the holidays and again in the spring with hope to see many more Greenhouse Sessions in the future.

View the Greenhouse Sessions at vimeo.com/greenhousesessions.

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