June 8, 2020
Live From the Print Shop is a new concert series broadcast from the MacFly Fresh Print Shop in Charlotte. The series features both independent and national artists, curated to create a “sonically diverse” portfolio of sound and voice. During each set, a custom designed T-shirt is printed live and presented to the artist afterward; the same shirt is also made available to the general public. New episodes debut the 1st and 15th of each month on the Live From the Print Shop YouTube channel.
The series is the brainchild of Rhasaan Smith and Terance Murray. Murray and Smith first met each other in the early 2000s while working at Power 98. Murray interned at the station while attending Barber-Scotia College in Concord, eventually landing a job as a Promotions Assistant at the station.
“I graduated on Saturday, went to work on Monday,” said Murray. His new boss would be Smith, who was already working as the Promotions Coordinator for the station, and they would end up working at the station together until 2009.
Shortly after, Murray and Smith went their separate ways, but would still collaborate. A few projects in particular were promotional videos for activation concerts sponsored by alcohol companies. It was during one concert in particular that Smith found the idea for a unique concert of his own.
“There was one specific show that we did with Raheem DeVaughn…During his performance they were doing artwork and they would sell the artwork afterwards,” recalled Murray. “That was Rhasaan’s vision…that’s where he got the core vision from, somehow.”
This core vision turned into the concrete idea for Live From the Print Shop. Smith, in his vision turned reality, explained that his series is unique because “it offers a platform for up-and-coming independent music artists, along with a designated place to get their own customized tour merchandise.”
Smith and Murray took their concert series idea to Eric Ndelo, owner of DRC Apeparel and the MacFly Fresh Screen Printing Company in Camp North End. Ndelo, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), founded the company after he noticed the lack of Congolese influence in fashion. His vision is to be a socially conscious fashion brand for the “global minded, social-conscious, sneaker enthusiast,” combining “Pan-African style” with “social issues from countries of the African Diaspora.” Ndelo’s print shop offers a variety of more personalized and Charlotte-centric apparel, but especially shirts, which ended up as the artwork element of Smith and Murray’s idea.
After pitching the idea, Ndelo was on board with Smith and Murray’s vision. “He was wide open,” according to Murray, who had more than just a business connection to Ndelo and his work. “Eric is my brother in law,” he added, “so I’ve known him for more than a decade.”
With the three of them in agreement, they sat on the idea until last December before shooting their first episode from Ndelo’s store that debuted this March.
The concerts are multifaceted in their production and diversity of talent using multiple cameras to capture different angles of the performance, and audio for each provided by Power Out Studios, based in Charlotte. While the shirts are printed in the MacFly shop in real time, the logos are made earlier by graphic artist Dane Chong of Weso Creative based in New York City.
Murray explained exactly how the logos are made for each artist: “What we do is, we send him the artist’s music, and then he kinda just vibes out and just creates an image. The performer has no idea what the shirt’s gonna look like…so that’s kinda like a wow factor.”
As for the artists themselves, there’s a wide variety of different sounds that will be presented. Smith described the acts they’ve hosted as “creatively diverse, from new school soul to mainstream R&B influenced by jazz, blues, rock, reggae, and neo-soul.”
The performers who’ve already appeared on the series include Jason Jet, Emanuel Wynter, and JJ Dae. In addition to the concert series, there will be a few other supplementary series under the same Live From the Print Shop umbrella. Live From the Print Shop Presents: Acoustic Conversations will feature spoken word and poetry performances while Live From the Print Shop: Everything Indie will showcase independent music videos.
Even despite hurdles the COVID-19 pandemic has presented, like the lack of a live audience, the series has been successful. “For us it felt like it was a simple idea,” Murray said. “My inbox is flooded with artists.”
Smith and Murray have now been able to book talent apart from artists they already knew mutually. “I feel like a talent scout right now, because I’m reaching out to artists myself,” Murray said.
So far, 12 episodes of the series have been shot and are ready to go, according to Murray. Upcoming episodes include performances by El Lambert, Chastity, Charnel Allen, Care Ausar, and JMEBROWN. If the series stays successful, the goal is to expand into different markets, with New Jersey, LA, and Atlanta being the primary three. Another expansion would include music festivals, where past performers would be invited back to perform in the same activation style on which Smith and Murray originally collaborated on.
Ultimately, the Live From The Print Shop Series provides a unique opportunity to the artists and to the creators themselves. “It’s cool because I’m doing what I love,” Murray explained. “We’re both doing what we love.”