During our Foo Fighters adventure last year we had the pleasure of having Mary tagging along to capture the campaign in her radio documentary. As she was new to Tram Sessions we thought it would be interesting if she could write a little piece about the experience. Well, in true Mary style she delivered. Enjoy a text behind the scenes of Tram Sessions:
Taking the ride with Tram Sessions: behind the documentary
© Mary Cruz 2012
I consider it a very good day when an opportunity to document and produce something special walks into your life. Tram Sessions cropped up, unexpectedly, when a friend told me to Google it after my desperate call-out for a documentary subject.
A peek at the website and some quality Vimeo time told me to get in touch with Nick Wallberg. A couple of emails and a phone call later, I received an invitation to meet the Tram Sessions crew over drinks on the first sunny Friday night in September, 2011. In the same week I cried for help on my documentary, I had discovered Tram Sessions and met the people behind it. I was pleasantly surprised to find a young, entrepreneuring and welcoming group who were doing something they loved and believed in. I had no idea how the story was going to unfold. All I knew for sure was that I was at the right place at the right time and how glad I was that I posted that Facebook status!
Nick was gracious enough to let me shadow him, recording face-to-face interviews as well as a TV spot with Channel 31. The real treat came when the opportunity to be present at a tram session came up. UK band Frankie and the Heartstrings opted to play some tunes on a tram between their Melbourne gigs during their Australian visit in October 2011. This was the perfect opportunity to capture a live session and also to put myself in the shoes of an unsuspecting commuter. I was quite blown away. The acoustics in a tram were surprisingly rich, and I was amazed by how the street sounds and the tram bell added to the dynamics of the session. I realised that there is a distinct difference between playing ‘to’ and playing ‘for’ and audience. As I fumbled with the recording equipment, I was torn between focusing my attention on the sound levels or allowing myself to just enjoy the jam. No tram ride can ever compare, after that day.
A tram session has been likened to busking, where live music is played in a public space for the public. I find that’s pretty much where the commonalities end. Tram Sessions is not about gettingyour coin donation, it’s about giving you the tunes. For free. While you travel to your next appointment, or to school, or to meet your friend. When you get to your destination, the first thing you say after hey how’s it going is guess what happened on my way here. I’d say that was a more interesting way to start a conversation.
After I had a clear idea of what Tram Sessions was about my next big question was I’m sorry? Who did you say you’re trying to get to play on a tram? I’m a sucker for a good story, and I wanted to see how Tram Sessions were going to get the Foo Fighters to jam on a tram. Meeting Dave Grohl’s cut-out is probably the closest brush to fame I’ll ever have, but what I could see evolving was a very exciting and ambitious campaign. Tram Sessions received significant media coverage throughout Melbourne and generated a lot of chatter amongst Facebook followers. The networks and contacts established in the whole process was invaluable and the consistent efforts that backed this 4-month campaign must be commended by at least those who were privileged enough to witness it – me. I haven’t met many people who have been bold or brave enough to take a chance on grand dreams. It was utterly refreshing to meet not one, but a whole group.
The energy that gives life to each tram session is no accident. This energy, I discovered, comes from the dedication, good will and generosity that Nick and his team have so willingly devoted to this project. I admired the professionalism and seamlessness in which the sessions were delivered. The ‘imperfections’ of the live recordings and the realness of the moment express the true essence of a tram session. This is something I didn’t fully understand until I had been to one. Time spent with the team also gave me insight into the motivations around such a project, and why so much time and energy is invested into something without commercial gain for the people who are creating it. The artists certainly receive great exposure in playing on a Melbourne tram, but what about the crew who built the wheels and set this thing into motion? In a society driven by consumerist ways and profit, the basics of pure enjoyment in doing something fun, for the love of it, has been diminished. Essentially, this is what music brings to people – joy. There was no reason greater than that.
Two months after I had started my journey with Tram Sessions I had countless hours of audio to trawl through, select, and edit to compile into a 20-minute package. Eight intensive days into November, with little sleep, a few nightmares and a cramping neck, I finally had a result I was satisfied enough to share. To capture this Tram Session journey was my goal from day one. I just hadn’t bargained on being so encapsulated in it. I’d say I reached my goal, and scored some bonus extras, like a packet of inspiration and a handful of new friends. All because of that Facebook status. Seriously.