The one-man band plays on in Gresham
Two years ago, Gresham performer William Spillette was inspired to create a film after taking a documentary filmmaking class through Metro East Community Media.
"I realized I called myself a one-man band," says Spillette, who goes by the stage name Billy Dimes. "I felt this kinship with other one-man bands and pride in being the new version of this old-school thing that's been around since the 13th century."
As he collected stories of one-man bands, Dimes met some of the coolest, most interesting people he could imagine.
Dimes' documentary, "Solo: The Evolution of the One Man Band," will premiere at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 10, at Metro East Community Media.
"Solo" explores the phenomenon of the one-man or one-woman band and its lineage, from 13th century minstrels to today's electronic musicians. The film highlights the common links that unite them.
Dimes describes how Bert, the jack-of-all trades character in "Mary Poppins," is one of the most commonly recognized one-man bands in pop culture. "We're the newer version of that but with the same drive, motivations and outlook," Dimes says.
Among the eight featured performers in the film is Dani Tanzella, a local songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and loop artist. Tanzella is a classically trained saxophonist who made a career transition into nursing for a stretch following the 2008 economic recession.
After an injury left her unable to play instruments as she had before, Tanzella found an alternative way of making music: one-handedly with an old loop machine. She describes the possibilities that have come with being open to creating music in new ways.
"It feels so expansive," Tanzella says. "You're a musician no matter what. One-man bands have wildly different styles and approaches. But they are all independent, fiercely creative and dedicated. There's no end to being a one-man band."
Other featured performers in the film include Ayatollah, That One Guy, Shovelman, Nate Pazzo Bocciccio, Glassys and Dustin Trinklien.
"I hope we educate people about what one-man bands do and how they originated," Dimes says. "And I hope that we inspire people who might be wanting to make music."
Dimes and Tanzella describe how many one-man bands start off as multi-instrumentalists. Some are not able to find the right fit with a band. Some have so much creativity and drive that it's easier to maintain their own practice and schedule.
The two appreciate the beautiful creative flow of skillful one-man bands and the virtuosity of seeing someone perform multiple instruments at one time.
"You don't have to call three, four, five other people," Dimes says of the freedom in scheduling as a one-man band. "You book the gig or you don't. It all ends up being on you. It's basically you're putting your whole self before the audience."
Dimes and Tanzella note that sometimes being a one-man band can feel isolating and make it harder to find a sense of community. The two hope that "Solo" can help offer a sense of community and belonging to those who perform as one-man bands.
"We're a niche inside of the band scene," Tanzella says. "An island of misfit toys. You are part of this bigger community. All you need is to have your ideas and people to refer to with questions and support."
She adds, "I hope this is the first of many documentaries by Billy. He inspires those around him and is someone who says, 'Do what you love.'"
If you go
What: Documentary screening of "Solo: The Evolution of the One Man Band"
When: 6 p.m. Saturday, March 10; an after-party will take place at Bar 33, 33 N.W. First St., Gresham, following the screening
Where: Metro East Community Media, 829 N.E. Eighth St., Gresham
Cost: No entry fee; snacks and refreshments served
Things to know
Dimes performs from 9 p.m. to midnight Thursdays at Bar 33 in Gresham, and every other Friday at Pastimes Sports Bar, 22605 N.E. Halsey St.
His work, including his latest album, "Depth Charges," can be found at williamspillette.com.
Dani Tanzella will perform throughout the spring and summer at farmers markets and art walks. She also began teaching music. A list of her perform-ances can be found at danitanzella.com.