Once again showing their love of the world of music, the recent Jim Beam Welcome Sessions took time to explore the special relationship between artists and the venues that first welcomed them. Inspired by Jim Beam’s famous welcoming spirit, each episode shone a spotlight upon globally-recognised iconic artists as they returned to the independent venues that gave them their warmest welcome to lay down one-of-a-kind performances on film.
In a multi-year partnership that reimagines the live music experience, Jim Beam are dedicated to championing independent music venues worldwide, with four exclusive performance and documentary videos premiering via the Jim Beam YouTube channel.
As fans continue to look to reconnect with live music, the world’s number one bourbon helped to connect artists with the music venues that gave them their first big break, with each Welcome Session bringing to life the spaces that have played host to seminal performances in years gone by—creating moments where the power of music helps people feel like they truly belong.
Globally-recognised names such as Jack Garratt, Fontaines D.C., Jose González, and Wolf Alice featured in the series, taking viewers behind the scenes in the pubs, clubs, and live venues that welcomed them from the start, and making it feel as though the viewer was once again a face in the crowd at their favourite local.
Kicking off the first Welcome Session was English singer-songwriter Jack Garratt, who returned in February 2020 with Love, Death & Dancing—his first taste of new music in over six years. For Garratt, live music and performance is something transcendental.
“It’s in a venue’s nature to be welcoming to everyone inside it, from performer to audience to security,” said Garratt. “I’m not religious, but it’s the closest thing to a congregation I’ve been a part of. Everyone in one room, sharing a single experience.”
It couldn’t be more fitting. with Garratt’s Welcome Session giving audiences a front-row seat to his triumphant return accompanied by one of his trademark shimmering performances. A fine welcome indeed.
The second episode of Jim Beam’s Welcome Sessions saw Grammy-nominated Irish act Fontaines D.C. return to beloved North London independent music venue, The Lexington.
The Lexington was home to some of Fontaines D.C.’s first shows outside their native Ireland. Within its walls, the band cut their teeth amongst London’s live music fans, earning their reputation as a tour-de-force live act and drawing in sell-out crowds.
Working in collaboration with photographer Nick Helderman and music production team La Blogotheque, the band tore through a re-recording of their A Hero’s Death track, “I Was Not Born.”
“So often it’s a singularly unique experience you can’t replicate or imitate playing live and is so often magnified or diluted by the space you are in,” Fontaines D.C.’s Conor Curley explained. “As opposed to the overly controlled feeling you get in larger venues, there’s a more natural, authentic feel offered to you by the smaller independent gigs.”
Next, acclaimed Swedish singer-songwriter José González unveiled ‘Valle Local’ — a beguiling rendition of a track from his recent record, Local Valley, which arrived last month.
Filming at Berlin’s iconic independent music venue, The Michelberge, his performance was filmed in various nooks and crannys throughout the hotel; the courtyard, elevator, bar, and outdoor areas. Sucking the marrow out of the bohemian, East German-inspired interiors.
“As a touring musician, the welcome you feel within a space is so important for so many reasons, both in shaping what you do on stage but also the moments in between,” González explained.
“From the moment you step through the doors of a venue like The Michelberger, the playful architecture and warm and inviting aesthetic immediately inspires and fuels the creative spirit, especially for musicians entering a building owned, run, and built with the distinct aim of fostering the writing, production and playing of live music.
“Having spent a great deal of time in The Michelberger, my connection comes from memories wrapped in rich emotions of amazing nights spent in the space.”
José’s performance was filmed in partnership with renowned music production team La Blogotheque and photographer Nick Helderman.
Lastly, London rockers Wolf Alice took to the Union Chapel, a reclaimed 19th century Gothic church, for an uncanny take on their Blue Weekend song “Lipstick on The Glass”.
“As performers, there are just some venues that you connect with musically and emotionally,” explains vocalist Ellie Rowsell. “That can be rooted in memories of seeing live music there or the spectacle of the space, but it’s also the people that make it what it is.”
Of their decision to perform at Union Chapel, the band explain: “It has incredible acoustics and is visually very beautiful, and for Ellie, a sense of nostalgia who grew up nearby and even did an annual Christmas concert with the local community choir here.
“We wanted to play ‘Lipstick on the Glass’ for its melodic grandeur that we hope pays homage to the space we are in. It’s a privilege to play here and something we will collectively remember forever.”
It’s no secret that music venues went through an immense struggle in the wake of the pandemic. Some of our favourite independent venues had to close their doors for good. With that in mind, Jim Beam Welcome Sessions offered viewers a chance to celebrate the indie venues that helped build our music industry from the ground up; the venues that welcomed audiences and artists through their doors for years, creating the unmistakably singular shared experience of live music and community that we all know and love. Ultimately, the series served as a potent reminder of why these venues are so important to our scene.
“Although the light at the end of the tunnel is coming ever closer, the real-world shared experiences we so crave remain few and far between,” said Malini Patel, Managing Director at Jim Beam.
Patel is correct. This sense of place and sense of community with others is something Jim Beam have been firm believers in throughout their 226-year history. After all this time, coming together over a glass of bourbon is still integral to the extended Jim Beam family today.
“The Jim Beam Welcome Sessions are about creating connections between amazing global acts, the iconic independent venues and the audiences who love their music,” continued Patel. “By launching the global partnership, we hope to create a unique shared experience that fans can relate with, over and over again. An experience that inspires, uplifts and instils a sense of community to being part of something special.”
Like Jim Beam, which has been welcoming drinkers for eight generations, the iconic venues featured in each Welcome Session are musical hubs where artists and fans alike can come together. Though their doors may have been closed over the past year, their revival is imminent and Jim Beam is along for the ride. Crucially, 2021 marks the start of a multi-year commitment from the Kentucky bourbon legend to meaningfully support the music industry at a time when it is needed most.
Raise a glass of Jim Beam Kentucky bourbon. We’ll cheers to that.