Launched in 2010 as a music video content and promotions company to connect music with fans like never before, On-Airstreaming publishes musical performances and interview videos of artists and bands performing simple, stripped-down songs in an iconic silver Airstream parked inside a building in the 2nd Street District.
Trendy bands and up-and-comers alike have strummed guitars and belted tunes in intimate performances for On-Airstreaming of such a high-quality that this online content far exceeds anything else available. With new videos uploaded every Friday morning, music fans have even more to celebrate recently: On-Airstreaming has been opening up their sleek downtown space to small crowds of music lovers during recordings, allowing fans to get a more meaningful look at their favorite artists.
The idea for On-Airstreaming was sparked — as tends to happen in Austin — at a bar (The Mean Eyed Cat) when popular radio host J.B. Hager met film and music video director Paul Boukadakis (who splits his time between Austin and Los Angeles). It was Hager's out-of-the-box, into-an-Airstream idea to get bands to play music in a small and mobile space, and with Paul's background, the plan for filming and releasing those performances was a natural evolution.
"The idea was just to do something completely different. Something that would enhance the original songs the way the artists intended them to be performed. We wanted to make something incredibly intimate. To reflect that with not only the audio and the visual, but the whole experience," says Boukadakis.
Rounding out the team
The pair teamed up with Sam Shah in late 2010. Shah has a long (and envy-inducing) career in the music business managing top name musicians and has great connections with labels and musicians. Shah says he was immediately impressed with the level of video and audio quality he saw in those first On-Airstreaming videos and knew he was seeing something that hadn't been done before.
On-Airstreaming added the fourth member to the team in 2011 with Reid Mangan, a killer media producer originally from Boston who's worked for places like NPR. All with a very special and specific skill set, Shah makes the connections and books artists, social Hager conducts interviews, Mangan rocks the audio recording skills, and Boukadakis brings his film directing expertise to the mix. They all band together to find musicians to share with each other and audiences.
From Pecan Grove to downtown
When On-Airstreaming first started, the Airstream was parked at Pecan Grove, that cozy RV park on Barton Springs Road that seems out of place and right at home all at the same time. It was when the team began recording sessions in different locations, like one particularly memorable set at Hotel St. Cecilia, that On-Airstreaming noticed just how rapt audiences were watching these musical recordings. The team found a new home in the downtown building at 210 Guadalupe Street, which it has occupied for about a year (for the curious: the front glass had to be removed to get the Airstream in).
Trying to recreate the trailer park feel, you'll find fake grass on the floor inside and a mural by street artist Mike Johnston, as well as a bar, lots of natural light and a community feel that puts you right at home. (But don't worry, they still have an Airstream at Pecan Grove, and artists itching to record there can be accommodated.)
"I think what's so cool for the audience is the experience of what happens in the Airstream. We're challenging the bands. They're performing in such an intimate space. They're forced to perform in a different manner. It's different than what's captured on the finished produced record. It's different than what they're playing out at the gig. And that is so cool," says Shah.
To date On-Airstreaming has recorded over 100 bands in over 250 musical performance and interview videos, with names like The Civil Wars, Cold War Kids, Dawes, G. Love, Delta Spirit and more. It's a highly curated list of artists that they all believe in, love to listen to and genuinely want to share with audiences.
"I think along the way we've really become a trusted filter for people to discover new music. There's a lot that goes into who we're going to work with, a lot of research, a lot of listening to music and conversations where we all have to agree that we really love a band and want to work with them," says Shah.
Content with a side of tears
Emotions run high at some of the recordings. Raw feelings and thoughts bubble to the surface when musicians play in this cozy space. The four admit that oftentimes, they're wiping back a few tears, too.
This team of music lovers and talented folks struggles to put into words the ineffable quality these videos have, Boukadakis even cringing a bit when he describes them as "magical," knowing the word's a bit cheesy and inadequate.
But the truth is, these videos do have a magic to them. With every recording, they recreate that euphoric feeling when you hear a new song and want to learn everything you can about who's behind the sounds. There's a connection, a spark, that happens between audiences (virtual and real) who witness the performances through On-Airstreaming and the bands stripping down and strumming.
Coming up on Monday, August 5 from 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. at the OAS Studios at 210 Guadalupe Street, music lovers will have the chance to see a pared down version of local fave Black Joe Lewis. Admission is free, but space is limited. And as always, you can view the musical performances and interviews On-Airstreaming has recorded on the website.
As for OAS' future, the team will continue partnering up with cool folks like ACL Music Festival to launch videos; the team also hints that they have something in the television realm cooking. And of course, On-Airstreaming will continue spreading good music by sharing awesome artists they come across and encouraging musicians to make music that's true to how they wrote it.
"It's about making the sounds. It's not about the perfect song, it's about collaborating and playing together and making these noises that ultimately sound awesome together. It doesn't matter how you get there, it's just getting there," says Mangan.