KEXP's Live Room Twinkles Again With Microsoft Partnership

The twinkle lights are back!
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  • The twinkle lights are back!
Car Seat Headrest performs in the new live room

Since relocating to its new Seattle Center home, it's been nothing but upgrades for beloved listener-supported radio station, 90.3 KEXP.

The biggest difference is the sprawling, gleaming new space—the 28,000 square foot remodeled suite once known as Seattle Center's Northwest Rooms—a world of change from the station's former cramped and gear-packed digs on Dexter avenue, KEXP's home base until December 2015. 

Now there's a pop up record shop, sign-up in studio performances open to the public, a cafe featuring monthly guest coffee roasters (this month it's Cat and Cloud), even rumors of a brick and mortar Mexican restaurant coming along sometime soon. 

But one of the station's most-cherished features—that twinkling net of string lights adding intimacy and warmth to those live in studio videos and band photos—was missing until today.

Now, suspended strands of softly-glowing purple and blue LED globes hang loosely next to walls in the station's live room, a high-tech take on the old lighting scheme.

It's a new partnership with Microsoft, and it's interactive, too: the lights use motion sensing Kinect technology that interacts with the performer's physical movements. So, when indie rockers Car Seat Headrest came by this afternoon to break in the new space, frontman Will Toldeo's herky-jerky dance moves were interpreted as blips, bleeps and blinking waves in the light network.

From the control room, I had at least one reservation about potential photosensitvity triggers, but the music itself proved more raucous. The light show was quite pleasant and, because the performance space is much bigger (this idea would have been too overwhelming in the old room), added a cozy glow to the concert.

KEXP DJ Cheryl Waters, who was at the center of the action hosting and interviewing the band, was trying it out for the first time and might need a day or two to get used to the new setup. 

"It's very bright," Waters said, a few moments before the show. "I'm not used to it being this bright." 

Sundance FiIm Festival to Screen Seattle-Specific Short Film Series

Sundance FiIm Festival to Screen Seattle-Specific Short Film Series

Visit Seattle and SundanceTV collaborate on five sense-based films about the city
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Five film shorts featured on SundanceTV highlight unique visions of the Emerald City.

The famous Sundance Film Festival kicks off this week in Park City, Utah, and among the multitude of movies on view are five short films about Seattle. The mini-movies are a project called "Five by Five," a collaboration between Visit Seattle and SundanceTV, and will screen next Tuesday, accompanied by a panel with the filmmakers which include two Pacific Northwest locals. 

The directors were tasked to examine Seattle through the five senses—sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch—and each was assigned a specific sense for cinematic exploration. In vignettes that run between roughly four and seven minutes long, from animation to studies in quiet observation, the series features the filmmakers’ unique approach at capturing the essence of Seattle.

Who are the star directors behind the films? Get to know the five filmmakers and their Seattle-focused masterpieces below. 

Filmmaker: Clea DuVall
Basic stats: Los Angeles-based actress, writer, producer and director
Fun facts: DuVall’s filmmaking debut, The Intervention played this past spring at the Seattle International Film Festival; she had roles on the 2003-2005 HBO TV show Carnivàle and 1999's Girl, Interrupted.
Film: Taste
Sense: Taste
Synopsis: One of Seattle’s favorite things: food. Seattle’s relationship to its natural surroundings is explored as DuVall chronicles the farm-to-counter journey of one of the city’s most beloved treats. 

Filmmaker: Drew Christie
Basic stats: Seattle-based filmmaker and animator
Fun facts: Christie has been creating films and animations since age five; his work appears on the Showtime show Billions, in No Depression quarterly and many other outlets. 
Film: Scent of a Sasquatch
Sense: Smell
Synopsis: It’s essentially the (unofficial) mascot of Seattle: the Sasquatch. In Christie’s animated short, the creature’s acute sense of smell guides her on a tour of the city’s many offerings: forests and wildlife, breweries, coffee roasters and shorelines.

Filmmaker: Ian Cheney
Basic stats: Brooklyn-based documentary filmmaker, cinematographer and producer
Fun facts: Has earned a Peabody Award, a Heinz Award, and a 2017 Emmy nomination; is a cofounder and former member of the board of directors for the nonprofit organization FoodCorps.
Film: Touch of Seattle
Sense: Touch
Synopsis: Even with the towering skyscrapers and endless construction, we still cherish Seattle for being our green city. Celebrating the raw beauty of the forests, Cheney paints a quiet portrait of the city’s first skyscrapers that dwellers can experience with their own hands.

Filmmaker: Martha Stephens
Basic stats: Kentucky-raised filmmaker, now an Olympia resident
Fun facts: Great-niece of writer Jesse Stuart; her third film Land Ho! premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was purchased by Sony Pictures Classics.
Film: All at Sea
Sense: Sight
Synopsis: Stephens creates a fictionalized account of a moment in Seattle icon Bruce Lee’s life; though struggling, Lee’s view of the Seattle skyline from the Puget Sound helps him again find balance.

Filmmaker: Terence Nance
Basic stats: Dallas-raised artist, musician and director
Fun facts: His first feature film, An Oversimplification of her Beauty, premiered in SFF 2012’s New Frontier section and was also screened as part of the 2012 New Directors/New Films Festival in NY.
Film: Jimi Could Have Fallen from the Sky
Sense: Sound
Synopsis: We around these parts know a little about Johnny Allen (aka Jimi) Hendrix. But Nance explores a little-known fact about the music legend: that he knew how to skydive. The film explores what this skill meant for the figure’s life.