Feb. 4 was a special night for Brian Craig. It was a first Friday, with the city bustling to join downtown Bend and the Central District, while Craig played music at Big Story Books & Movies amid a wine pop-up event organized by Bar Fiori. Good music, good books, good food and good wine, what I call the essential ingredients for a good night. However, the night turned out even better than Craig had originally expected, as he ended up recording his two and a half hour set, a set that would eventually become his final album.
During a bit of a low season for live music (compared to the summer) and after a long stretch of tiny shows around town during the pandemic, Craig says he complained a bit because he felt like playing. more live music. It was then that his wife planted the seed that a First Friday was brewing. Craig slipped into Big Story’s DMs on Instagram and the rest is history, albeit unforeseen.
“I was like, I’m going to bring everything I have. I didn’t know what they wanted,” Craig recalled. “I was right next to the mystery section. I was hidden away and couldn’t see anyone. I said, ‘I’m going to have fun with this. So I started playing and I heard people clapping, and I started seeing people sneaking through the shelves.”
It was by no means the usual set up of the show for Craig – someone who has been playing in central Oregon for years. But as soon as he settled in, he knew it was worth sending that DM. After noticing the store’s good acoustics and realizing he had his recording equipment and a GoPro camera, Craig turned them both on and walked from there. When he got home, Craig took over the music of the night and said they were some of the best live recordings of himself he had ever made.
“At first it was really weird because it wasn’t a bar. There weren’t people laughing and shouting. They were actually listening. Which was nerve-wracking. [laughs]. The owner didn’t know who the hell I was, or if I was going to be a shipwreck. After my first songs I could tell she was relieved somehow [laughs]. So it was a victory! I played for two and a half hours straight,” says Craig. “Big Story is a really cool store. I was like ‘wow!’ It was really cool to be in that kind of local space again.”
After going through his recordings and video footage to see what he gathered, Craig realized the special quality of how he recorded that night and decided to make an album of it. You can now stream “Big Story Friday Night” on Soundcloud, which is the only place this live session takes place. However, Craig saw even more opportunity with this and decided to submit one of his songs from that night to NPR’s Tiny Desk contest. Lo and behold, Craig has been accepted into the competition and at the time of writing is one of nine artists accepted from the state of Oregon. Winners can register their own official Tiny Desk for NPR.
“I think being part of this mix is all I really wanted. If I get a mention in a blog post, it’ll be huge, let alone earn it,” Craig said. “I’m not here to win it. Like most people in this competition, I’m just in it to be in it. I wish more Bend bands would jump on it. I think we have an amazing scene here that the nation truly appreciates.”
Craig’s submission is for one of his oldest songs called ‘Little Sister’, a folk-rock song about a protective relationship between friends or siblings, as they try to push the other away. of a strange relationship.
As for the music for the rest of the year, Craig is taking inspiration from that first Friday night and plans to record all of his shows this year and sift through the best of the best to release another album globally. So, a spontaneous gig at a bookstore turned out to be exactly what he needed.
“A free concert on the first Friday turned out to be a very stimulating moment for me as an artist.”
Craig’s next gig is March 24 at the Campfire Hotel.