The videocamera is an instrument in organ-and-drums act Compact Duo. The local two-piece combines music and film to create a multi-sensory experience at the Fountain on Tuesday nights.
Composed of Harris Lemberg and Tim Consequence, Compact Duo screen videos and short films, including their own mashups of vintage films, to accompany their music. The tunes feature whimsical takes on many soft-rock classics and TV theme songs, as well as jazz and piano ballads. Though they cover everything from the Zombies' "She's Not There" to Berlin's "Take My Breath Away," they play original material, too. When the music is paired with film projections, the result is a jazzy, somewhat psychedelic experience.It's also a nostalgic foray into the past.
Lemberg, who has been the Madison Mallards' organist for more than a decade, met Consequence when he needed a substitute and ran an ad on TheDailyPage.com. Lemberg and Consequence were already aware of each other but found they had a lot in common.
For instance, both players love exploring history through art and music. Lemberg plays a vintage Hammond B-3 organ, and Consequence searches thrift stores, rummage sales and auctions for old film reels and instruments.
"I have spent countless hours reviewing film clips and editing them together," Consequence says. "The splicing is done the old-fashioned way, with a splice block, razor blade, film cement or press tapes. It's a labor [intensive] process, but worth it when those reels start spinning. You hear the whir of the projector and see the flicker on the screen."
"I do a lot of songs from the 1960s: British invasion bands like the Kinks, the Animals and the Beatles, and any kind of corny pop tunes at the ballpark," Lemberg says. "And I do a lot of TV and movie themes. He's into that stuff, too."
The two soon realized they made a great team.
"We never really planned [the act] out," Lemberg admits, "but Tim's an excellent filmmaker. He made this found-footage film called Birds and Bees that he just spliced together from old film he found, and I did the score for it. He projected it, and I would just play to it. We started doing more of that, and after a while, we developed some themes. It's pretty cool."
Next, Consequence made a video of a song called "A Mile in My Shoes," which he and Lemberg worked on together. The duo began performing their creations as an opening act for local shows.
"It was just fun. He would start with a film or video or combination of both," Lemberg says.
Lemberg is a regular performer at the Fountain, so Compact Duo soon caught the attention of owner Harold Langhammer. It turns out Langhammer had a film project of his own.
"Harold, who's a big supporter of local musicians and live music, wanted to show Casablanca on a weekly basis, so I brought Tim," Lemberg says. "He's like the kid in high school who would come in and show the movies in class," he explains.
Consequence remembers the duo's Fountain debut a bit differently.
"The night that was supposed to be our debut, we were greeted upon our arrival by the news that we had been double booked, and that they were fully prepared to screen Casablanca," he recalls. "The club owner sat us down to brainstorm ideas instead of canceling our show. I said, 'Why don't we turn the sound off from the movie, and we will perform while it plays?' He said that was a very creative idea, not knowing that I had been doing that sort of thing for years."
It worked out better than he and Lemberg had anticipated.
"Now we've been doing that every Tuesday," Lemberg says.