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Live from Big Story Books & Movies

Brian Craig flips an impromptu Friday night recording into an album and Tiny Desk submission

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Feb. 4 was a special night for Brian Craig. It was a First Friday, with the town coming alive to hit up downtown Bend and the Central District, while Craig was playing music at Big Story Books & Movies amid a wine pop-up event by Bar Fiori. Good music, good books, good food and good wine—what I call the essential ingredients for a nice night. However, the night got even better than Craig initially planned, as he ended up recording his two-and-a-half hour set—a set that would ultimately become his latest album release.

During a bit of a down season for live music (compared to the summer) and after a long time of miniscule shows around town during the pandemic, Craig says he was kind of complaining because he had the itch to play some more live music. That's when his wife planted the seed that a First Friday was coming up. Craig slid into Big Story's DMs on Instagram and the rest is history—albeit unplanned.

Jamming out in the mystery section never felt so good - BRIAN CRAIG
  • Brian Craig
  • Jamming out in the mystery section never felt so good

"I was like, I'm going to bring everything I have. I didn't know what they wanted," recalls Craig. "I was right by the mystery section. I was tucked away and I couldn't see anybody. I said, 'I'm going to have fun with this. So I started playing and I could hear people clapping, and started seeing people weaving through the bookshelves."

This wasn't the usual show set-up for Craig by any means—someone who has been playing in Central Oregon for years. But as soon as he got settled in he knew it was worth sending out that DM. After noticing the good acoustics in the store and realizing he had his recording equipment and a GoPro camera, Craig got those both running and took off from there. When he got home Craig pulled up the music from the night and said they were some of the best live recordings of himself he had ever done.

"At first it was really strange because it wasn't a bar. There weren't people laughing and shouting. They were actually listening. Which was nerve-wracking [laughs]. The owner didn't know who the heck I was, or if I was going to be a trainwreck. After my first couple songs I could tell she was relieved in a way [laughs]. So that was a win! I played for two-and-a-half hours straight," says Craig. "Big Story is a really cool shop. I was like 'wow!' It felt really cool to be in that kind of local space again."

After going through his recordings and video footage to see what he gathered, Craig realized the special quality of how he recorded that night and decided to make an album out of it. Now you can stream "Big Story Friday Night" on Soundcloud, which is the only place this live session lives. However, Craig saw even more opportunity with this and decided to submit one of his songs from that night to NPR's Tiny Desk Contest. Lo and behold, Craig was admitted to the contest and as of writing is one nine accepted artists from the state of Oregon. Winners get to record their own official Tiny Desk for NPR.

"I think just being a part of that mix is all I really wanted. If I get a mention in a blogpost it's gonna be huge, let alone win it," Craig says. "I'm not out there to win it. Like most people in that competition I'm just in it to be within it. I wish more Bend bands would jump on it. I think we have an incredible scene here that the nation would really enjoy."

Craig's submission is for one of his older songs called "Little Sister," a folk-rock song that is about a protective relationship between friends or siblings, as they try to pull the other away from a weird relationship.

As far as music goes for the rest of the year, Craig is taking inspiration from that First Friday night and plans to record all of his shows this year and will sift through the find the best of the best to release another album into the world. So a spontaneous gig in a bookshop turned out to be just what he needed.

"A free gig, on First Friday, turned out to be a very empowering moment for me as an artist."

Craig's next gig is March 24 at the Campfire Hotel.

About The Author

Isaac Biehl

Isaac is living proof that "Iowa Nice" is actually a thing. A journalism graduate from Iowa State University, he regularly writes about music, the outdoors and the arts/culture scene. Isaac loves the Trail Blazers, backpacking and a good IPA. He plans to one day win Survivor. Your move, Jeff Probst...

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