In July 2010, Chris Gaudry and his wife Meghan were at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, taking in a workshop entitled Made in Manitoba.
The previous night had been "a long one," Gaudry says with a wink, so on the afternoon-in-question the two were lying back, half-listening and half-trying to cop some Zs.
Midway through the set, one of the artists on stage broke into a tune called 62 Richmond. A few chords in, Gaudry and Meghan sat up, looked at one another and said, "Who's that?"
The answer was Del Barber and the song Barber was presenting was an ode to a bus route that patrols Pembina Highway. Meghan -- a native of Fort Richmond -- got the reference right away. So as soon as Barber was through, she turned to her husband, a media producer by trade, and said, "You have to shoot a video of that song. And you have to shoot it on the 62 Richmond."
Close to 7,000 views later, Gaudry's video for 62 Richmond -- featuring Barber and a host of bemused bus riders -- is still the most watched video in the 34-year-old director's Pocketgigs series -- a collection of live music vignettes that have been stylishly shot in a variety of Winnipeg locales.
Other Pocketgigs, which can be seen online (www.pocketgigs.com) and, as of last month, on the Shaw TV program Switch @ Night (Tuesdays, 9 p.m.-4:30 a.m.) include Federal Lights performing at a carnival near The Forks, Brasstronaut jamming on a walkabout behind Portage Place and Magnum KI rapping on the upper level of a downtown parkade.
"The Barber video worked out pretty good for everybody involved," says Gaudry, who hadn't met the alt-country singer before pitching the idea of a duet with Transit Tom to him a few months after his appearance at the Folk Fest. "When Del got nominated for a Juno (in 2011) he didn't have any HD footage of himself. So I sent the producers that and they played a little clip of it on awards night."
One cold, winter's night about four years ago, Gaudry and some buddies were watching YouTube when they stumbled across a video starring Montreal singer/songwriter Patrick Watson.
The grainy, nine-minute recording had been filmed in Paris. In it, Watson and his bandmates are holed up in a brick-lined alley way where they are about to put on a show for an audience of exactly zero. A few minutes into their number, the group is joined by a phalanx of curious onlookers: people who are strolling by but are lured in, pied piper-style, by Watson's voice, which he is projecting through a megaphone.
"It looked very guerilla, but at the same time spontaneous, unrehearsed and magical," says Gaudry, a graduate of Red River College's creative communications program and the owner of Gaudry Media & Creative, a company that produces promotional videos for corporate clients.
Right away, Gaudry -- a person weaned on MuchMusic videos from the late-80s -- announced, "That's what I want to do, too."
JD Edwards, front man for the JD Edwards Band, wasn't sure what to expect when he hooked up with Gaudry in September 2010, to shoot the inaugural Pocketgig in the Exchange District. (One of Gaudry's friends suggested the name 'Pocketgig' after Gaudry explained the premise: one take, no overdubs, no lip-synching.)
"It's not like Chris had to twist my arm to agree; as an artist nowadays you need to have video," says Edwards, a bit groggy-eyed after returning from a weekend gig in Churchill. "But I didn't really grasp the quality of what he was doing until I got there; Chris had a whole team with him -- he had this great set-up and these awesome cameras -- and I was like, 'Oh, OK.' "
The afternoon Gaudry picked was especially breezy. So he and his crew spent the first hour or so hunting for a location where the mics wouldn't pick up the hiss of the wind. Eventually, they settled on a covered lane in the vicinity of Old Market Square.
"Chris wanted to have an urban setting but there wasn't a big correlation between the song I did (Last Song) and the place we chose," says Edwards, who will bring his brand of folk-rock to Times Change'd, 234 Main St., on Nov. 29. "And he didn't give me too much direction: he just told me a Pocketgig was supposed to be a video shot in a non-choreographed situation, where the artist performs in public and whatever happens happens."
Well, that pretty much sums up what took place next.
For the first two-thirds of the segment, Edwards traipses back and forth through the alley, playing his acoustic guitar and belting out Last Song for all it's worth.
Then, at about the three-minute mark, just after he spouts the lyric, "I'm not alone..." Edwards is joined by four people who emerge from behind a garbage bin, cigarette butts and king cans in hand. With a hearty "All right!" the two men and two women begin tapping their toes and slapping their hips to the impromptu concert.
"Chris had told me he was hoping to capture a moment and poof, there we had it," Edwards says with a laugh. "I remember standing there singing and seeing these heads pop out and my first thought was 'Oh, s--t. I have an audience, I better keep playing.' "
"No, we couldn't have planned it any better if we'd tried," Gaudry says, noting he was as surprised as everyone else when the foursome appeared seemingly out of nowhere. "People ask me, 'How did you get them in the shot like that?' and I say, 'I don't know.'
To date, Gaudry hasn't made a penny from Pocketgigs. He owns all of his own recording equipment, the people who assist him are largely volunteers and the resulting footage is cut, mixed and produced in his home studio. He chuckles at the rumour other Winnipeggers have begun emulating his technique.
"When you're getting paid zero dollars you can't be afraid of somebody trying to steal your market share." (As if he isn't busy enough, when Gaudry isn't home enjoying his one-year-old, he handles drums for Federal Lights, an indie-rock outfit that played the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, Germany, in September.)
Early on, Gaudry was the one who put himself out there every month -- tossing around the idea of Pocketgigs to bands and artists who caught his ear. Nowadays, however, he's the person on the receiving end of multiple emails and Facebook links, from people eager to participate.
"I don't really have an agenda in terms of genre," he explains. "I've done folk, country, hip hop and rock bands that have stripped down acoustically. But not to sound pretentious or like a jerk, but the quality (of the videos) really depends on the quality of the bands that are in them. So yeah, that part's pretty important."
When people ask Gaudry how many more Pocketgigs he has in him -- last month, his YouTube channel chalked up its 20,000th view -- he tells them as long as he's having fun with the format and is able to challenge himself artistically -- he's happy to continue.
To that end, Gaudry can rarely go for a walk or drive without spotting a setting he'd like to showcase, someday.
"Winnipeg is such a great city to shoot in; there are so many beautiful places," he says. "I mean, in the summer alone, how many movies are being shot here? If Hollywood location scouts aren't having trouble finding spots to film and you're a local producer and you're not inspired, that's not the city's fault, man."