Belatedly hitting a BURNT beat

In our typically finite wisdom, we’ve decided to wrap up some unfinished business on C-U Blogfidential before it becomes lost in the dusty trail left by 2009 A.D. “Finite,” as in this effort will run concurrent with our continuing work on the C-U Confidential twofer as well as our advisory role in next week’s IMC Film Festival in Urbana. As long-time readers know, once past the Ides of March we tend to slow down with on-line activity as we heap last-minute love on the print opus right before press time, so please bear with our backtracking quest if it seems to fall off the proverbial cliff.

That said, we keep finding good reason to mention the following music video to help illustrate how busy Matt HarsH and Sam Ambler have been with cranking out local-pop promos. However, we also keep forgetting to give dedicated props – such as, embedding it here for your viewing pleasure. A prior attempt to file a report fizzled due to bad timing, so we apologize to Megan Johns and present the train-bound accompaniment to her sinewy track, “The Beat was Burnt,” right now:

Taped early last summer at the Monticello Railway Museum in Monticello, IL, THE BEAT WAS BURNT finds a pouty Johns following the lady friend (Rachael Johns) of a lovesick beau (Remy Tipei) on board the next train out of town. Considering the deliciously sharp key of the song and the dominance of shadows, it’s a foregone conclusion that friendly small talk will not take place once Johns makes her way back to the sleeping car where her target has retired. Look quickly for familiar faces behind the Forties fatigues, including Morgan Orion as a passenger and Mark Rubel as a clerk in the train station.

It would be proper for CUBlog to draw the obvious parallel. Just a little more than a decade ago, local session musician Kristen Johns (yes, Megan’s mother) and her friends in the Champaign Underground collective convinced Jay Rosenstein to help them shoot and edit a music video for the song, “Delta Queen.” Through props, lighting, and a bit of sleight of hand, they turned Vriner’s Confectionery (now Memphis on Main) in downtown Champaign into a riverboat gambler’s haven. Nearly every cast member – Grizz Stevens, Leila Ramagopal, Matt Stewart, Lisa Boucher, Mark and Nancy Rubel, et al. – boasted music credentials, reflecting the all-star vibe of the Underground’s three albums.

You can read about that epic in MICRO-FILM 2, assuming you’ve lucked into a copy since it hit the shelves almost 10 years ago. (If not, who better than CUBlog to hook you up?) Back in the present, we will hopefully see additional Megan Johns tunes transmogrified into creative visuals by the HarsH/Ambler tandem in the near future. As with last week’s Elsinore treat, BEAT was directed by HarsH and photographed by Ambler, while “The Beat was Burnt” is a new, stripped-down version of a song Johns first recorded with her former band, The Greytones, for the 2007 album Penumbra. Fellow Greytones Mike Arnold, Dave Cohen, and Garrick Nelson were planning to appear in the clip above but schedules ultimately didn’t jive, Johns tells CUBlog.

~ Jason Pankoke

[Updated 3/22/10, 1:15 a.m. CST]

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