‘It was quite magical’: ‘Lift Me Up’ documentary follows six Austin musicians during pandemic year



Musician and documentary maker Chris Brecht created ATX6 project several years ago as a way to promote and foster community among Austin musicians. Each year, the association selects six emerging local musicians representing different genres; these musicians then hit the road, performing together at concerts and festivals around the world.

“It’s an export program,” says Brecht. “Designed to give them a real world experience playing at international music festivals, and that’s what we’ve been doing for six or seven years now.”

The Class of 2020 – Project ATX6 season 6 – included Alesia Lani, Mike St. Clair from Pocket sounds, Catherine Legendre, Evan Charles from Altamesa, Leslie Sisson from Moving panoramas, and Jonathon Horstmann from V3CO and Urban heat. As in previous seasons, they went to music festivals with Brecht, who was filming their trips for the documentary. Lift me up. But unlike previous seasons, the more recent ATX6 group found themselves trying to tour during a pandemic year.

They took a trip to Indie Week in Toronto in late 2019 and then traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand for the Jai Thep Festival in February 2020.

“And then our third trip was going to be to go to the Great Escape Festival in Brighton, England,” said Brecht. This festival, scheduled for May 2020, never took place.

“We have reached the first two [festivals] and I had a great time, and everything went as planned, ”says Brecht. “[But] after the second festival, you know, we were all well aware of how this pandemic has kind of changed everyone’s lives. “

Leslie Sisson says these first two festivals have been wonderful experiences. “Chang Mai was unlike any other festival I’ve been to, and I loved it,” she says. “It was quite magical, and no one there knew who we were… but the reception was truly amazing.”

Project ATX6 made the decision to skip the Brighton Festival just days before it was officially canceled, and Sisson says that while everyone agreed it was the right call, it was still disappointing that they had to miss the third stage. of the tour. “It was heartbreaking,” she says. “Because reality has set in. And so there was a little sense of relief knowing ‘okay, we’re just going to squat here and get out of this.’ But of course it was heartbreaking – some of us had never been to Europe. “

“Each trip adds to the full experience of how [the musicians] getting to know each other, ”says Brecht. “They went through two of the three and… we were so ready to finish it, put on the final pieces. And the movie… the completion of this documentary that we have is maybe what helps people feel that they have a third part.

The change in plans for Project ATX6 meant that Brecht ended up documenting a different story than he might have expected. “You never really know how the end of the movie is going to turn out,” he says. “As the film draws to a close, I think what I wanted to show the audience [is that] I wanted to allow them to relive the confusion of what it was like to be in the midst of this pandemic, and to see it through the lives of these amazing musicians. And also, the Black Lives Matter protests that followed. You know, we went through the George Floyd incident which was very heavy for America. And it’s hard to watch. I’ve watched the end of this movie countless times and it’s always difficult for me to watch it because we’ve had a very traumatic experience as a nation.

Although the common experience of this group of musicians has been cut short, Sisson says she still hopes to work more with the other five members of her ATX6 class. “I want to work with everyone again,” she said. “Because I feel like we’ve been gone so indefinitely, and there was so much we were excited to do. So I have the impression that the door has not yet been closed.

‘Lift Me Up’ will air this Friday evening at 8:00 p.m. on KLRU.

LIFT ME UP | TRAILER | PBS VERSION


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