September 27, 2011

The Doe Bay Sessions: Kelli Schaefer




Kelli Schaefer and Band ::: portrait by Dylan Priest



Normally we venture to the far end of an island in the northwestern most section of our great state, and indeed our nation’s “lower 48,” in order to renew our connection with nature and realize serenity. But morning, noon and night, while Doe Bay Fest was happening, this little corner of the world was pulsing with sound. I wouldn’t have had it any other way, but it also made the job of timing our recording sessions crucial. Kelli Schaefer requesting to do her session a capella doubled that pressure.

The day after, festivities were extended unofficially while folks lingered and enjoyed the rare perfect climate of summer just making itself known. A massive waterslide pointing head-down towards the mainstage cropped up, while down toward the beach the Otter Cove Stage was still bustling with unplanned performances from other bands. This meant finding a quiet corner was nigh impossible. We knew it keenly once we’d spent hours roaming the entire grounds for a spot perfectly secluded from sound. Our original prime location in the garden was out due to the cheering hillside waterslide party. After a fair share of roaming, eventually it was decided upon the empty Yoga studio would be Kelli’s venue. But we would still have to wait until the last band at the otter cove stage since a window pane was missing after Friday night’s porch-crushing Lemolo set.

Though initially planned as a quicky solo performance, as Kelli spent time in the Yoga Studio preparing, she invited her band to join her in coaxing the most from this room with unusual acoustics. Right there on the spot, in just short of an hour Kelli and her band reworked one song for us, with only their voices. Then, they recorded it in one take, for just the camera, and a few souls who’d gathered around the missing window pane behind the band as they sang.



Obviously, that went so well that as we were packing up, the band was already planning their own entirely a capella set in the same room for later that evening. As darkness finally took hold, that set would culminate in a rousing arm-in-arm sing-along of “Stand By Me.” Moments like this can’t be, and probably shouldn’t be, planned. That this kind of spontaneity is allowed to organically happen at Doe Bay Fest and in it’s wake is what makes it a place not quite like any other. And not just that it can happen but that these moments do happen. When we’re talking about “Doe Bay Magic” this is what we mean.

That Kelli Schaefer created this new concept, practiced it, and then executed it twice with her band all in a matter of hours in front of people shows why Schaefer continues to keep us intrigued: she is in constant movement, a perpetual state of self exploration and growth. Most bands are trying to be as practiced as possible to make their songs sound about the same every time. Schaefer’s songs on the other hand are alive in her hands, when she’s decided on a “standard” version of a song that means she’s finally wrestled that demon into submission and is ready to confront the next.

“I used to go down in the well,” she intones in this new track. “Fee-ling… everything.” Used to?


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  1. Woah. :)

  2. Best.

  3. uh, well, i just used up all my goosebumps for the month, since they just kept coming and coming in waves, all throughout this performance. wow, kelli. you continue to astound me, and i can’t wait to hear what you do next. xx

  4. Kelli’s art is so much wider and deeper than her shows or album. Follow and absorb as much as possible!

  5. Cat #

    I could feel my heart stop as soon as the video started. Incredible.

  6. I must admit Kelli and her music wasn’t part of my world until I saw her perform at the Reverb fest. I was taken into her music purely because of her extremely strong vocals that can carry her through solo performances (a Capella) or with the band playing some great music. When I heard her sing at the Cathedral (I won tickets to her show – thanks to you guys!) I saw a different side of her. The same powerful voice but more melodious to my ears.

    I dislike comparing artists/ singers (for the obvious reason that they are all unique & not meant to be compared) but somehow Kelli reminds me of Bjork.

    Kelli is definitely someone to watch out for.

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