Sydney Festival: Best of BUG, the evolution of the music video

1 February 2012

Comedian, music video fanatic and YouTube wrangler Adam Buxton likened his show to what you'd experience if you came round for dinner - minus the dinner - and left an appreciative audience feeling like they'd spent two hours with that geeky friend who can't wait to show you their latest internet finds.

From the sublime to the ridiculous (often in the one clip), Buxton curated a selection of videos exemplifying the technical and creative heights of the genre, along with some of the hilarious and often cringe-worthy comments they generate on his favourite video sharing platform. These clips were then interspersed with his own work - intentionally crude in production values and content - as a comedic foil to the material that has impressed him in the evolution of music videos.

Buxton has a cult following from his BBC radio program that extends to our shores, with some audience members even shouting out things he graciously explained to the rest of us. Judging by the comments on his YouTube channel since the show, it's safe to say that after these performances at the Sydney Festival, quite a few more people will be in on the joke.

Where better to start exploring the evolution of music videos than with Michael Jackson? Buxton begins the show with Dennis Liu's film clip for Behind the Mask, one of the biggest crowd-sourced videos ever made, with more than 1,600 Jackson fans featured in a mash-up style edit of over 15,000 submitted clips. The result is both homage to the artist and a celebration of the user-generated content YouTube has become famous for. This was followed by what must surely be many a ten-year olds' wildest dream brought to life; the controversial yet dazzling film clip for Is Tropical, in which French directorial collective Megaforce overlay the toy gunplay of children with the cartoonish explosions and blood splatter they are imagining. Buxton's favourite YouTube comments for this video, read like all the commentary throughout the show in a range of silly voices, were equal parts outrage and admiration.

Hoku Uchiyama's gothic fairytale for Amanda Palmer's side project Evelyn Evelyn followed, along with a haunting cover of Joy Division's She Lost Control, performed by South African rapper Spoek Mathambo and directed by Pieter Hugo and Michael Cleary. An attempt to lighten the mood again after these two clips was perhaps Buxton's only real misstep of the night; a parody of the Baz Luhrmann's film Australia, in which he makes fun of the Aboriginal characters, perhaps made particularly sensitive given this performance was on Australia Day. After some polite applause he apologised and promised to never show the clip again, and quickly drew us back in with the mind-boggling stop motion work of Swedish duo Rymdreglage, whose Terminator 2: 20 Years (July 3rd 1991-July 3rd 2011) was created via countless hours of drawing each individual frame from selected scenes in the movie.

An analysis of the crowd-sourced therapy sessions occurring in the comments section of the REM hit Everybody Hurtswas next, then a few more light-hearted Buxton creations - including a very literal interpretation of a Gwen Stefani clip - followed by some old favourites from the BUG archives, including the Roots Manuva classic Witness the Fitness(directed by Mat Kirkby), that got toes tapping and heads nodding. Buxton finished the show by predicting the directors of his final clip, Manchester Orchestra's Simple Math, would soon be directing feature films - and while their clip was technically impressive, it felt thematically clichéd. This is where Buxton's geek nature perhaps lets down the cohesiveness of the show overall; the collection of clips he presents are undoubtedly impressive in their execution, but whether they're all pleasurable to watch and listen to (Etienne De Crécy's No Brain comes to mind) - let alone representative of the evolution of music videos - was a popular topic of debate in the Seymour bar after the show.

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