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Feeding souls with instant DharmaDen

When Covid says F-U

Who needs a Tiny Desk when you can do your thing in a DharmaDen?
Who needs a Tiny Desk when you can do your thing in a DharmaDen?

“Around May 2020, I started this project to showcase local San Diego talent,” says Eric Neilson of his DharmaDen mobile media production company. “With all the music venues closed at the time, we offered our space [in Ocean Beach] to function as a virtual music venue. We record and produce short-form videos for our Sessions on YouTube. It’s similar to what NPR’s Tiny Desk does. We’ve had great feedback from the music and art community, so with San Diego opening back up, we would like to bring our audience to local businesses.”

Place

Template

5032 Niagara, San Diego

DharmaDen’s Sessions have been staged at the Template in OB with performers such as Riston Diggs (playing with the Gravities) and a new band called the Gnarly Heads, with local musicians and artists invited to participate. “Other locations around town are in the works. The events include two musical performances and a visual artist, and will include a few local vendors. Our goal is to do our part to support local, and present new, creative gig opportunities for bands and artists. Our door is always open to support local music, art, and commerce.”

The Sessions uploaded September 3 features a half hour set from Paige Koehler, whose performance of songs from her debut EP Sorry I’m Late is framed by a somewhat alien looking light-and-sculpture art installation designed by Psychedelic Toad, and artworks by Catmae. Other recent uploads feature live sets from Miro Imani, Tyler Neuenswander, Anthony Frijia, Daniel Ma, the Resinators, Happy Ron Hill, and Blazing Jane.

“Our Sessions are recorded, mixed, and edited with multiple cameras. We’re even working with some equipment that has the potential to pull camera feeds from the audience’s cameras into the video switcher, which we can then include in post-production. We’re taking a more cinematic approach so we can maintain the continuity of our brand, which revolves around telling San Diego’s diverse, artistic story.”

A second DharmaDen YouTube channel was recently launched, Speak Up!, featuring performances and skits from local poets, spoken word artists, and comedians. Editions have been filmed with Timothy John speaking about “Black Privilege,” as well as Mone Hicks (“All Falls Down”) and Ami Depeza (“Crossroad Ode”). Another channel is titled That Time I Bombed, with local comedians sharing their most outrageous and embarrassing stage stories, including Zoltan Kaszas, Dustin Nickerson, and Jesse Egan. A related Den Podcast offers episodes such as “Meet the Creators,” where Neilson says “we discuss our origin stories and a brief outline of how we plan to continue evolving.”

According to Neilson, “I kind of wanted it to be a continuation of my radio show that I used to do in college at the University of New Haven, Late Night Buzz, every Wednesday from 10 pm to midnight. I would have local student singer-songwriters come on and they’d play a set on my show, and then I’d play new music and talk about local venues that were in New Haven. I figured, ‘Why not do that here? There’s plenty of talent and venues.’”

DharmaDen co-founder Rachel de Koekkoek, herself a singer-songwriter, recalls first meeting Neilson in Normal Heights at a Lestat’s West open mic night, after which they began dating. “When covid hit, the open mics that we were attending all stopped. Lestst’s was the one we went to all the time, and Café 1134.” When the operators of the latter open mic moved to North Carolina, it was clear that things on local stages were not likely to get back to normal any time soon. “Covid was like, ‘Fuck you. You guys can’t play anywhere live.’ So we decided to start our own little music project.”

More Sessions are in progress, including some sans-audience with solo performers who are still uncomfortable about assembling crowds as the Delta variant spreads. "We have two upcoming video premieres," says Neilson. "The Gnarly Heads on September 17 [4 pm], and Riston Diggs with The Gravities on October 1 [4 pm]. We currently don't have any upcoming events scheduled. I just started school, so I'm making sure I can balance my schedule before planning more events. I'm currently networking on the SDSU campus to plan collaborative events with student organizations there. And, a few shows at Template are being discussed."

Both see the DharmaDen OB template continuing to grow. “It’s hard for creative people who kind of feed their soul off of sharing their work,” says de Koekkoek. “It’s hard to no longer be able to express yourself the way we did at open mics all the time… But music never dies.”

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Who needs a Tiny Desk when you can do your thing in a DharmaDen?
Who needs a Tiny Desk when you can do your thing in a DharmaDen?

“Around May 2020, I started this project to showcase local San Diego talent,” says Eric Neilson of his DharmaDen mobile media production company. “With all the music venues closed at the time, we offered our space [in Ocean Beach] to function as a virtual music venue. We record and produce short-form videos for our Sessions on YouTube. It’s similar to what NPR’s Tiny Desk does. We’ve had great feedback from the music and art community, so with San Diego opening back up, we would like to bring our audience to local businesses.”

Place

Template

5032 Niagara, San Diego

DharmaDen’s Sessions have been staged at the Template in OB with performers such as Riston Diggs (playing with the Gravities) and a new band called the Gnarly Heads, with local musicians and artists invited to participate. “Other locations around town are in the works. The events include two musical performances and a visual artist, and will include a few local vendors. Our goal is to do our part to support local, and present new, creative gig opportunities for bands and artists. Our door is always open to support local music, art, and commerce.”

The Sessions uploaded September 3 features a half hour set from Paige Koehler, whose performance of songs from her debut EP Sorry I’m Late is framed by a somewhat alien looking light-and-sculpture art installation designed by Psychedelic Toad, and artworks by Catmae. Other recent uploads feature live sets from Miro Imani, Tyler Neuenswander, Anthony Frijia, Daniel Ma, the Resinators, Happy Ron Hill, and Blazing Jane.

“Our Sessions are recorded, mixed, and edited with multiple cameras. We’re even working with some equipment that has the potential to pull camera feeds from the audience’s cameras into the video switcher, which we can then include in post-production. We’re taking a more cinematic approach so we can maintain the continuity of our brand, which revolves around telling San Diego’s diverse, artistic story.”

A second DharmaDen YouTube channel was recently launched, Speak Up!, featuring performances and skits from local poets, spoken word artists, and comedians. Editions have been filmed with Timothy John speaking about “Black Privilege,” as well as Mone Hicks (“All Falls Down”) and Ami Depeza (“Crossroad Ode”). Another channel is titled That Time I Bombed, with local comedians sharing their most outrageous and embarrassing stage stories, including Zoltan Kaszas, Dustin Nickerson, and Jesse Egan. A related Den Podcast offers episodes such as “Meet the Creators,” where Neilson says “we discuss our origin stories and a brief outline of how we plan to continue evolving.”

According to Neilson, “I kind of wanted it to be a continuation of my radio show that I used to do in college at the University of New Haven, Late Night Buzz, every Wednesday from 10 pm to midnight. I would have local student singer-songwriters come on and they’d play a set on my show, and then I’d play new music and talk about local venues that were in New Haven. I figured, ‘Why not do that here? There’s plenty of talent and venues.’”

DharmaDen co-founder Rachel de Koekkoek, herself a singer-songwriter, recalls first meeting Neilson in Normal Heights at a Lestat’s West open mic night, after which they began dating. “When covid hit, the open mics that we were attending all stopped. Lestst’s was the one we went to all the time, and Café 1134.” When the operators of the latter open mic moved to North Carolina, it was clear that things on local stages were not likely to get back to normal any time soon. “Covid was like, ‘Fuck you. You guys can’t play anywhere live.’ So we decided to start our own little music project.”

More Sessions are in progress, including some sans-audience with solo performers who are still uncomfortable about assembling crowds as the Delta variant spreads. "We have two upcoming video premieres," says Neilson. "The Gnarly Heads on September 17 [4 pm], and Riston Diggs with The Gravities on October 1 [4 pm]. We currently don't have any upcoming events scheduled. I just started school, so I'm making sure I can balance my schedule before planning more events. I'm currently networking on the SDSU campus to plan collaborative events with student organizations there. And, a few shows at Template are being discussed."

Both see the DharmaDen OB template continuing to grow. “It’s hard for creative people who kind of feed their soul off of sharing their work,” says de Koekkoek. “It’s hard to no longer be able to express yourself the way we did at open mics all the time… But music never dies.”

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