Sick of Sarah on Tour: Surviving the “Bittersweet” Video Shoot

This edition of a monthly column by Sick of Sarah — whose music can be heard weekly on Brunch with Bridget, and on a recent episode of South of Nowhere — is written by guitarist and vocalist Katie Murphy.

When I was shown the treatment for the “Bittersweet” video, I thought either I had gone crazy or just misread something. After a quick double take, it was obvious that Shane Nelson, the director/ producer was the crazy one. Seriously, was this guy off his rocker? He must be.

Sane people don’t plan to spend hours on a ski hill in the middle of the night during March in Minnesota. They cuddle up fireside with their cats, cocoa, and warm socks. Sane people don’t put guitar amps, expensive instruments, and five unsuspecting women on shoveled out make-shift platforms of snow. They find a stage in an indoor venue (with heat of course) and film some live shots. Possibly throw in some rowdy, alcohol influenced randoms, and call it a wrap.

By the time the evening was over, I was glad Shane opted for what I have chosen to call “the insane approach”. This guy has complete passion for his video ideas just as we do for our music, so there was no choice but to follow suit and go with his vision and whatever was in store for us that evening.

We arrived at Buck Hill Ski Area in Burnsville on Wednesday night, March fourth for a ten o’ clock call time. In the distance I saw about ten to fifteen people rummaging through equipment, adjusting lights, and walking in and out of what I would later find out was our “warming” tent.

Considering it was after hours, there were no ski bunnies out so we got a clear view of Shane flying down the bunny hill on the back of a four wheeler to greet me and the rest of Sick of Sarah. It had been months since we had seen him directing the shoot for our “Daisies” video, which at that time was a chilly experience. He was sporting facial hair that would make Grizzly Adams question the legitimacy of his title. I would assume, being behind the scenes, sane people would take advantage of the option to wear a hat, mittens, and/or their whole winter wardrobe. But he decided against any and all of those things.

The band followed Shane into the chalet and awaited our fate, I mean, instructions as to the process of the shoot which basically consisted of us getting ready as we would for any other show and catching the next available ATV up the hill towards all the commotion.

As a born and raised Minnesotan I know certain precautions were necessary in order to avoid frostbite and/or hypothermia. We tripled up on long sleeved shirts, socks, and anything thin we could find in the absence of goose down jackets and woolen hats.

When I reached the top of the hill, I noticed a small, black, cube-shaped object next to each of the lights. I decided not to bother Shane with questions and head into the “warming” tent. And I use the term “warming” quite loosely. In there we waited for a brief few minutes and got the call to get on set. When I went back outside I saw all of our equipment strategically placed on plastic sheets in the snow. A few members of the crew were shoveling out some “flat” spots for each of us to pretend rock on.

I was quite wary, as I am sure the rest of my band mates were, about playing in the icy snow wearing Chuck Taylors, the worlds most winter unfriendly shoe ever created. Nonetheless, we grabbed our winter unfriendly instruments and walked to our marks in the snow. Shane screamed for quiet on the set, and I heard the familiar opening guitar riff for “Bittersweet” come through the speakers.

We played through the song two to three times, and I could tell by the look on the girls faces they had frozen to the bone halfway through the first playback just as I had. It was at that moment that I realized I had no idea just how intense and insane this night was going to be.