Neil Young Narrates This Ad for 'Save Our Stages,' an Online Benefit Concert This Weekend

In support of struggling indie music venues

Grizzled rocker Neil Young lends his voice to Anomaly's short film promoting "Save Our Stages," a three-day online music festival happening this weekend from YouTube and the National Independent Venue Association.

The performances will stream here at 8 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. (all ET). Sunday to benefit clubs, theaters and auditoriums hard hit by closures owing to pandemic safety concerns. (Without help, 90 percent of NIVA's 2,000-plus members could bring down the curtain for good in the coming months.)

Though we mostly don't hear their music, the film features intriguing clips of Young and other artists—the Doors, Beastie Boys, Jimi Hendrix, Iggy Pop and Sonic Youth among them—performing on small, intimate stages before they were huge stars who could sell out 50,000-seat arenas.

Save Our Stages - A tribute to independent venues (ft. Neil Young)

"Shakespeare said, 'All the world's a stage,'" Young begins. "But not every stage can raise you up, high off the ground. Can bring you down, all the way to your knees. Can take you in, like you've always belonged."

He concludes: "All the world's a stage. But not every stage is part of our history. Part of our culture. Part of our community. All the world's a stage. But there are some stages that feel like the whole world."

Below, Anomaly associate creative directors Mariana Oliveira and Joaquin Salim discuss the gig:

Muse: How'd the project come about?

Mariana Oliveira: The brief was simple—create a sweeping, emotional hero piece to promote the SOS Festival. But since we are in the middle of a pandemic, shooting original material was almost impossible. Our ambition was to create an evocative film that transported viewers to some of their favorite venues, with our super-limited budget and schedule, and without having a proper shoot or the ability to capture any new footage.

Our core insight was that small venues make big stars. Every musician we know and love had to begin in one of these independent venues. So we wanted to highlight and celebrate the transformative power of these stages, in order to show their importance in the music community.

Was it challenging to put together?

Joaquin Salim: Since we had little resources, we opted to direct the film ourselves, choosing to partner with Jim Helton, an editor from Final Cut who we really admire.

The editing process was extremely challenging, because we kept creating these amazing cuts with Jim, and then finding out that none of the footage we were given to use on those cuts could be cleared after all, so we had to start from scratch a couple of times. As you can imagine, it's very difficult to get the rights and licenses for all these performances.

Our team worked tirelessly with YouTube, reaching out to artists, venues and photographers to get us the right type of footage: not only clearable, but also footage that fit within the aesthetic vision we had for the film.

How'd you pick which artists to show?

Joaquin Salim: To really highlight the fact that all the big artists we know and love started on these small stages, we had to feature footage that was almost immediately recognizable. We wanted to cover a lot of genres and a lot of different time periods so that different viewers could relate to the film. We had a preliminary list of acts and specific performances, and the No. 1 rule for finding footage was that they had to take place in independent venues.

It's refreshing and has the feel of a homemade movie, of something personal, rather than some superstars playing at the Hollywood Bowl.

Joaquin Salim: Our goal was to transport people back to these venues, to remind them of the glorious, sticky, sweaty experience that is seeing live music. That is, in part, where this raw and grungy look came from. Another reason is that we had a lot of different types of footage of varying quality, so we had to work very closely with our colorist, Mike Howell, and our finishing team at Final Cut/Significant Others, to figure out a way to make it all come together in a cohesive way. This home-movie look was part of this effort.

How'd you get Neil Young involved?

Mariana Oliveira: It was honestly surreal. We threw a couple of dream names on the table for the VO, and YouTube made it happen. Neil sent us his recording of the VO, and since it was based on a Shakespeare line, he also gave us never-before-seen footage of one of his very early performances at the American Shakespeare Theatre, which used to be located in Stratford, Connecticut. It was meant to be, I guess.

What's playing on the soundtrack?

Joaquin Salim: We partnered with Citizen Music to come up with a cinematic and emotional track for the film. Our idea was to create something unexpected and minimalistic to contrast against the busy and somewhat chaotic visual nature of the film. Wave Studios did our sound design and Sonic Union did our mixing.

Appearing in the video (some acts show up twice):

The Doors/Jim Morrison
Beastie Boys
Brittany Howard
Jim Morrison
Beastie Boys
Nine Inch Nails/Trent Reznor
Jimi Hendrix
Iggy Pop
Nirvana/Kurt Cobain
Tyler The Creator
St. Vincent
Jimmy Eat World
Spoon
Sonic Youth
Foo Fighters/Dave Grohl
Bob Marley
Neil Young

Appearing at the festival (among others):
Foo Fighters
Brittany Howard
Miley Cyrus
Dave Matthews
The Lumineers
Finneas
G-Eazy
Marshmello + Demi Lovato
The Roots

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.

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