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Star Witnesses
December 17, 2011 7:14 AM   Subscribe

Two high school students record a gorgeous version (youtube) of Neko Case’s Star Witness in their high school stairwell. The song is part of a protest to save Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational School from imminent closure. Will their beautiful protest work? Who knows. But they did break Neko Case’s heart. Maybe they’ll break yours too.
posted by Cuke (62 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. That's astoundingly great. It's almost more Neko than Neko.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:27 AM on December 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


You stole my word--Wow.
posted by rmhsinc at 7:29 AM on December 17, 2011


Why did I ignore this when someone sent it tom me a few days ago!?
posted by Midnight Rambler at 7:34 AM on December 17, 2011


Wow. Just wow.
posted by notsnot at 7:39 AM on December 17, 2011


Holy cow, you're right, it's gorgeous. Eerie, even. They have an awesome vocal blend, it's not just the echo. Anyone wavering on whether to listen, check it out.


Here's the website of the campaign to save the school.
posted by spitbull at 7:48 AM on December 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh sorry, I didn't notice the website for the campaign was in the FPP. Apologies, Cuke, and thanks for this post.
posted by spitbull at 7:51 AM on December 17, 2011


What a beautiful way to start the morning.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:52 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are a couple more songs on their YouTube channel.
posted by eugenen at 7:53 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chills. So many chills running up and down my spine. Wow.
posted by rtha at 7:55 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


That sounds lovely.
I think it would sound better with less reverb, but that stairwell probably didn't have a control knob.
posted by entropone at 8:03 AM on December 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, to be honest, I assumed I would find this insufferable when I saw the uke, but it's absolutely lovely.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:03 AM on December 17, 2011


There are reverb-removing VST plugins, although I don't seem to have one handy. In case someone is sitting at their DAW and feeling creative, it would indeed be fun to hear this with the reverb dialed back.
posted by spitbull at 8:06 AM on December 17, 2011


Is this song available to download anywhere? My girlfriend liked it better than the original. I had a bit of a hard time understanding the lyrics, but thought it was nice. Is the reverb just from the stairwell? If so that's forgivable, otherwise I want an unadulterated version.

I saw Neko Case open up for Nick Cave. She talked a lot. She also tried to make political commentary on local races, but was getting her facts all confused. She was much more enjoyable when she just sang, but to be fair I thought this about Nick Cave as well (but he didn't talk nearly as much).
posted by cjorgensen at 8:16 AM on December 17, 2011


I think the reverb was perfect. Two voices echoing in a boarded up school. The ghost of closures yet to come.
posted by jhc at 8:18 AM on December 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


cjorgensen, there are websites that will extract the audio from a youtube video and offer you an mp3 to download.
posted by entropone at 8:18 AM on December 17, 2011


It's almost guaranteed that I'll like anything Neko related. Was worried at first, but wow. If you've never seen Neko Case live, fly to her next show. As amazing as her voice is in the studio, there's something frightening and shamanistic about it live

I hope these girls pull the rabbit out of their hat. I may be an engineer, but I can't help but think how much poorer the world would be without people having a chance to learn like this. (damn Procrustean standards)
posted by drewbage1847 at 8:19 AM on December 17, 2011


I know the guy who mixed that. Damn, that was amazing. Excuse me, I have something in my eye.
posted by janepanic at 8:35 AM on December 17, 2011


I don't see where I am supposed to enter my credit card information so they can send me all of their songs. I assume their album will be called, "Live From the Stairwell: All of Artychoke's Favorites".

(On the page eugenen linked to, there is a non stairwell version.)
posted by artychoke at 8:38 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


To cjorgenson and anyone else who may be interested, youtube-mp3.org works really well.
posted by Randwulf at 8:46 AM on December 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Non-reverb version
posted by blue_beetle at 8:51 AM on December 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks, Randwulf. Got it!

If they were doing a fundraiser....
posted by cjorgensen at 9:15 AM on December 17, 2011


Love it love it love it love it love it.

PS What's with all the "I cringed when I saw X but this is good" style comments recently? (X being spray paint, ukuleles, or whatever)

Either seek out novelty with an open mind or shut it all down and stare at the wall.

At the very least you don't have to mention your cringing pre-condemnation here.
posted by chronkite at 9:37 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, that was lovely.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:44 AM on December 17, 2011


I read that as a way to simultaneously offer a greater compliment to the work ("I assumed this would be banal and cliche, but in fact, it's wonderful and original, fully meeting the higher standard I set for liking things involving spray paint/ukes/whatever") and establish the cred of the poster ("I am worldly enough to recognize the potential for overworked cliche here"). I generally like to focus on the former and ignore the latter.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:44 AM on December 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Either seek out novelty with an open mind or shut it all down and stare at the wall.

That's a silly, black and white way to see the world. I tend to find most uke music twee but kept an open mind, gave it a listen, and was surprised. This is useful information to anyone else with similar predilections.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:49 AM on December 17, 2011


The video, at least on mobile has a ton of contact info for the school board. Don't know how moved they would be by voices outside of their community, but I plan to send a polite letter asking them to reconsider.
posted by dejah420 at 9:50 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the reverb version I found the girl on the left's voice was much clearer and easier to understand. In the non-reverb version I found the girl on the left's voice was much clearer. Problem is, they changed places.... Am I going crazy?
posted by Chuckles at 9:51 AM on December 17, 2011


This is an issue that knows neither left nor right, good sir.
posted by spitbull at 9:55 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is useful information to anyone else with similar predilections.

So you're the canary in the coal mine then, bravely testing the ukulele link, finding it non-twee, then greenlighting it for the other sensitive souls.

Gotcha.
posted by chronkite at 9:56 AM on December 17, 2011


This is gorgeous, thanks.

When I emigrated to Canada I was enchanted at how what we'd call high schools in the states were things like "collegiate institutes" or "secondary schools" in Toronto. I thought that was the case for all of Canada, but nope, here in Calgary, they're just high schools.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:09 AM on December 17, 2011


I deeply LOVE that this showed up here. I resisted posting it myself because it's my daughter's school. This song spreading the way it is — 10,000 hits since yesterday and probably still building — is as perfect a way as I can imagine for the PCVS story to get the media attention it needs.

Here's the backstory: we're a town of about 70,000, with four high schools. Enrollment in general is dropping, just due to demographics, but the integrated arts school our Board wants to close down is FULL, and has the best academic results and the lowest cost of operation of the four schools. It's in a recently restored, beautiful historic building (1908), across from City Hall, and it's an anchor to downtown neighbourhoods we've spent decades protecting. Almost 70% of the students walk there.

It's hard to say how PCVS became such a safe haven for kids who are creative, bright, shy, different, LGBTQ, bullied, disadvantaged ... but it has. What our other (perfectly decent) schools claim as policy about tolerance is reality at PCVS. It's not an exaggeration to say it's a school that saves lives. It's not just that kids are safe there — they're free to become themselves.

Meanwhile, its arts programs are what they are because it's so deeply connected with the arts scene in its downtown location.

Can you imagine your kids feeling about their high school the way most kids feel only about summer camp, or their favourite intensive group experiences? They're fighting for their school.

Here's how this works. We're part of a large, amalgamated board. EVERY VOTE to close this school was cast by a Trustee from another city. The recommendation was flipped from an earlier decision to close another school THREE DAYS before the vote, in a backroom move by a Director of Education who's pretty newly arrived from suburban Toronto, and who was briefly the Principal of the other school.

The community is mobilizing. 1000 people signed an on-line petition protesting this the first day it was available. Downtown businesses closed for 15 minutes to show support. The Mayor, City Council, our MPP, etc., etc., etc., all support a review. Hundreds of people took a day a couple of weeks ago and rallied for hours in front of the provincial legislature in Toronto. It took two overflow rooms to hold all the protestors at the Board meeting two days ago.

But the community has no power. School boards here are independent, and the board won't budge. A legal fight is likely — so watch for an opportunity to buy the song and support this!
posted by namasaya at 10:15 AM on December 17, 2011 [82 favorites]


So you're the canary in the coal mine then, bravely testing the ukulele link, finding it non-twee, then greenlighting it for the other sensitive souls.

Whew, that's not how I read it at all.

I wasn't wary because of the ukulele (maybe because I grew up in Hawaii, and so have a much wider range of associations with ukulele music than other people, so it's not just "oh god hipster twee again"), but because it's amateurs singing a Neko Case song. I hatehatehate stuff that makes me cringe, and so I was glad for other mefites here saying that it was great and their voices are wonderful and so on.

This place is, after all, a filter, and part of that is greenlighting things that we think other users and readers and listeners here might like.
posted by rtha at 10:17 AM on December 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


So you're the canary in the coal mine then, bravely testing the ukulele link, finding it non-twee, then greenlighting it for the other sensitive souls.

Have I offended you in the past or something?
posted by Bookhouse at 10:18 AM on December 17, 2011


Please don't derail this with an unrelated personal fight about a side comment.
posted by namasaya at 10:19 AM on December 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


@namasaya--If I could favorite your 5-6 times I would--Thanks
posted by rmhsinc at 10:29 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, end of derail, I'm out. Great song.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:38 AM on December 17, 2011


Wow, beautiful!
Also wow, more depressing asshole school board antics. I wonder who wants to buy/use the building.
posted by Glinn at 11:04 AM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder who wants to buy/use the building.

Indeed. Something's definitely fishy here.
posted by odinsdream at 11:36 AM on December 17, 2011


It's typical of Toronto experience though - merged megamunicipality makes uninformed decisions against the will of urbanites since it's dominated by suburbs.
posted by mek at 11:41 AM on December 17, 2011


I think it would sound better with less reverb, but that stairwell probably didn't have a control knob.

Great version. This is one of my favourite Neko Case songs. Count me in the minority(?) that likes the reverb - doubtless that's why they chose the stairwell in the first place. Neko's recordings (huge fan here) are awash in reverb - this song included. I find it perfect. As for the ukelele, I can agree that for the most part I can't stand the ukelele but if played well and appropriately it's great. Most times it's not.

If you're fans of lovely harmony check out First Aid Kit. Fleet Foxes cover and their own stuff.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:57 AM on December 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


It used to be cool to like the uke. Now it's cool to not like the uke. That makes it especially cool to not like the uke but allow that you like the uke here.
posted by found missing at 12:07 PM on December 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh wow that really did break my heart. I hope they save their school I really really do. My husband went to an arts high school. I went to a public school in the same area. And the differences in our experiences are huge. His high school memories are so much richer. The opportunity to explore the arts at that age in a school that supports that exploration is so worthy. We should all be so lucky to have that high school experience and encouragement at that age. I am an emotional wreck right now.
posted by dog food sugar at 12:14 PM on December 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the back-story, namasaya. I listened this morning, but decided not to write to the board, as I felt unqualified to discuss the issue. You have provided the necessary ammunition to make a good argument.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 1:18 PM on December 17, 2011


I'm so thrilled that you are here to give us the backstory namasaya. I hope you'll keep us up to date. I'll buy the CD when it comes out.
posted by Cuke at 1:26 PM on December 17, 2011


I gave twenty bucks. If foreign corporations can buy elections in the U.S., maybe foreign individuals can help keep a decent school open in Canada.

You can donate here.
posted by sonic meat machine at 1:49 PM on December 17, 2011


There are reverb-removing VST plugins, although I don't seem to have one handy. In case someone is sitting at their DAW and feeling creative, it would indeed be fun to hear this with the reverb dialed back.

Ever sung in a stairwell?
posted by the noob at 1:58 PM on December 17, 2011


More times than I can count. I've used them as effects before too. There's only so much you can do, but it might be possible to EQ this thing and de-verb it into sounding a little better.
posted by spitbull at 2:08 PM on December 17, 2011


Sometimes I think the world is just so full of corruption and shit and there is nothing anyone can do to even begin to rail against it.

Sometimes I think the world is full of more young talent and beauty than I could ever imagine.

I suspect the world is always both of these things simultaneously.

But apart from all of that, this song just made me float away, hopeful and inspired that, with the correct light upon it, beauty and good will win. Sappy, I know. But there it is. Thanks for the post.
posted by nickjadlowe at 2:37 PM on December 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Goosebumps all over. I liked the reverb. Thanks for this - I needed an uplift today.
posted by Currer Belfry at 2:43 PM on December 17, 2011


Absolutely lovely, and I second drewbage1847's suggestion: if you have a chance to catch Neko Case live in concert, by all means do so. She's fabulous.
posted by grimjeer at 2:47 PM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


The student who plays the Uke plays it righty in the video, but when she plays the banjo in one of her other videos, she plays it lefty. Is that unusual? Is one of these videos a mirror image? Seems pretty amazing to me, but I no musical talent beyond turning on my stereo.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:03 PM on December 17, 2011


Count me as another that likes this as it is. The thing I like most in a musical performance is honesty, and this has it. Could it be more polished and produced? Sure it could, but then to me it would lose something in the transformation, like the simple honesty of two kids singing in a stairwell for the neat sound, and as mentioned before it adds a metaphorical aspect to the song.

Count me as another that appreciates your input here namasaya. You've fleshed out the story nicely.
posted by Eekacat at 5:00 PM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I seriously cannot fucking stop listening to this.
posted by lalex at 7:13 PM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, that was great. Nthing I hope their school is saved.
posted by shoesietart at 8:18 PM on December 17, 2011


And I liked the reverb too.
posted by shoesietart at 8:20 PM on December 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, that was great!
And thanks for the background, namasaya.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:18 PM on December 17, 2011


That was so damn good.

In the first five seconds you know and after that it's nothing but joy. I give my eye-teeth for this kind of art.

Thanks.
posted by From Bklyn at 4:07 AM on December 18, 2011


So so lovely.

The affection between the two was really touching as well. They seem like really good friends.
posted by Sreiny at 9:08 AM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


That was fucking angelic!
fessing up, I'm a big fan of NecoCase, right prolific, as these women .... they did it justice! Gorgeous harmonies to boot, what talents! Pleaze, if they have a pedal steel course, I'll sign up.!
Sure hope to hear more from them.

The stairwell is a beautiful place to sing, oh and a sound stage [where they film movies].

Big tip o the hat to namasaya!
posted by alicesshoe at 11:51 AM on December 18, 2011


Thanks for all the extra info, namasaya! I hope the school can be saved...

This was SO gorgeous and delicate. Their voices sound almost supernatural. I love the use of natural reverb, and the song choice was so right-on. I love Neko Case, and I love that she embraced this cover. I read an interview with her where she talks about writing this song, and how it was inspired by the teenagers who hung out near her apartment, so it's very symmetrical that teenagers would sing it.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 7:18 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


So beautiful. I especially love the voice of the woman on the right. Just stunning.
posted by Theta States at 2:24 PM on December 19, 2011


That was really, really lovely. Thank you. I will buy this when it's available for purchase. I don't have much money, but I keep a US credit card just to be able to send a couple dollars and my name in support for things like this.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:11 AM on December 28, 2011


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