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Exploring the American River with Local Music

Alex Cosper at the American River near the Watt Avenue Bridge on July 1, 2012.

Sacramento’s most incredible natural resource is the American River. Sacramento’s most incredible untapped resource is local music. If you put the two together you get "River City music videos," which is a new feature you’ll find on SacTV.com. It’s a new series of local music videos set to local music. It’s a way to promote the beauty of Sacramento to the rest of the world and another way to promote local artists to Sacramento, and maybe even the rest of the world. 

I spent most of Saturday (June 30)  thinking up the idea and most of Sunday (July 1) making videos of the idea for SacTV. On Saturday I produced a video of the American River with my own music just to get the idea rolling. It’s so much easier to start with your own music especially if the only one you have to get copyright permission from is yourself. So I used scenes of the river I had shot in early June, set to an instrumetnal song I wrote and recorded called "There Will Always Be Surf." Then I started asking myself who else could I get? One track that instantly came to mind was "Waterways" by Nora, which was on a compilation I put together in 1995. It’s an instrumental that’s as awesome as it gets for a genre I call "environmental music."

Another local artist who instantly came to mind was Ken Koenig, who just put out a new CD album called The Organic Life. I asked Ken on Sunday night if I could use his track "Beautiful Day" for a river video and he was very cool about it. I’ve known Ken for awhile and he has  invited me to perform at his shows, which are always a blast. We do cover songs from various decades with some originals mixed in. Those are my favorite kind of local music shows because it’s a way of connecting with the audience most of the show with familiar music and then offering a taste of homegrown organic music, which blends well if your influences and visions are in harmony.

I interviewed Ken Koenig a few months back about his hew album, which came out in June. It’s a refreshing collection of eclectic songs that he mostly wrote with a few covers thrown in. Setting "Beautiful Day" to scenes of the American River was inspiring because the song itself is very positive – it’s about enjoying life in the sunshine. The scenes of the river can elevate the human spirit just by watching them. It’s such a powerful combination. 

My day at the river near the Watt Avenue Bridge was fun, friendly and free. The fun came from making videos with my portable pocket size HD video camera. A friendly pigeon posed for several photos. I also met a few friendly people walking around and the whole adventure didn’t cost a cent. It made me ask myself why haven’t I spent more time at the river all these years? I’ve lived in Sacramento most of my life yet I have rarely spent time at the river other than occasionally hanging out on the bike trail or always driving by and seeing quick flashes of water and trees.

Getting back to nature has more value to me than chasing dollars that really don’t have any value except for the massive national debt they represent. I’ve always believed that nature is better than TV and radio, yet in my life I’ve spent so much more time with TV and radio than nature. Well, not so much anymore. I stopped listening to commercial radio when it got too painfully corporate and in the past year I’ve backed off TV a lot since running SacTV online has become much more important. Have I become disconnected from society? No, because the internet has become more connected, meaningful and powerful to me than TV and radio combined. Mobile internet plus nature is pretty unbeatable as far as meaning and connectivity. The only thing missing on my adventure to complete the entertainment puzzle was an acoustic guitar. 

Throughout the summer I’ll be spending more time at various points of the American River and taking more videos for SacTV. I’ll also be looking for local artists who want me to produce a free video for them to share with the world. Johnny Pride of the Features – Sacramento’s top local band of the 80s – wants to be involved. One of the city’s hottest rising bands, Road 88, also gave me the green light to use their music in a SacTV video.  I’m particularly interested in environmental music, more songs about summer sunshine and anything with a melodic sound and positive spirit. In the past few months I used a similar concept setting local music to Sacramento freeway and street scenes in the SacTV "drive video" series, which creates the feeling that you are listening to local music on the radio while driving. The "River City video series" is all about sharing with the world the best of what Sacramento has to offer, mixing two of its best resources: music and nature. 

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