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‘Van Sessions’ celebrates six years of fine tuning a music community

By Chelsi Lasater - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Feb 2, 2022
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Sammy Brue's new band, BRUE, performs on "Van Sessions" in summer 2021.
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"Van Sessions," a live music podcast featuring local musicians performing from "The Van," is celebrating its six-year anniversary.
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Ogden-based band Orchard Wild poses with The Banyan Collective's R. Brandon Long and Todd Oberndorfer after their "Van Sessions" performance last summer.
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"Van Sessions" celebrates its six-year anniversary with first-time guests Kyle McBride and Imaginary Friendz this Friday during Open Studio Night at The Monarch.

“Van Sessions,” started in 2016, is celebrating its six-year anniversary this Friday during Open Studio Night at The Monarch. Two “first timers” will be featured on the live music podcast: Ogden-based Kyle McBride at 7 p.m. and the alternative band Imaginary Friendz at 8 p.m.

R. Brandon Long and Todd Oberndorfer of The Banyan Collective record Van Sessions from “The Van,” that is usually parked inside their studios, 1 and 2, at The Monarch, along with their other successful podcasts, including “The Ogden Outdoor Adventure Show,” “LITerally” and “The Nine Rails Art Podcast.” “Van Sessions” is a live musical performance and interview with local Ogden musicians that occurs every first Friday at The Monarch.

The first artist to be featured on “Van Sessions” was KJ Ward, formerly of The Wednesday People, in February 2016. Ward has since joined a new rock band, The Backseat Lovers, and released two albums that have over 2 million monthly listeners on Spotify.

We asked the dynamic duo about their experiences the last six years, and it appears they’ve learned a lot. Starting with just one mic and only acoustic instruments, they have moved on and up. “Now we’re more like the ol’ ‘MTV Unplugged’ series where it’s not fully plugged in, but also not quite acoustic either,” Long said.

“Van Sessions” began as a fully acoustic session recorded entirely inside the 1987 Dodge camper van, but they’ve since expanded setup to outside of the van and are mostly plugged in now. Some of that is thanks to the pandemic, they say. “It may be fun to do a retro set soon and go back to our roots of one mic in a van.”

They’ve also added a video element using multiple cameras to record the livestream and later edit to release on YouTube.

Some things, though, have not changed. “But what I love about what we do is that we’ve kept the main ingredients which are our van and local musicians. Local musicians are super talented, gracious and a big happy family,” Long said.

A passion project, the podcast is a venue to help local artists obtain discovery. “Ogden has wonderfully talented artists,” Long said. “Ogden is great at supporting the arts, and we’re continually grateful for the amount of support the community shows us.”

Speaking of community, it’s at the heart of why “Van Sessions” was created. Oberndorfer says its purpose is to build a sense of unity within the greater Ogden community and Nine Rails Creative District through the live performance podcast and music series. Beyond showcasing local and touring musicians, “‘Van Sessions’ is also to drive traffic to Ogden’s First Friday Art Stroll and increase potential customers at local businesses and restaurants,” he said.

“The podcast couldn’t happen without our incredible musicians. Because we know that our bands and musicians are sacrificing a Friday night to be part of the ‘Van Sessions’ podcast, we do our best to make sure they have a memorable time when they’re with us,” Oberndorfer said.

Long and Oberndorfer are appreciative of the community support that continues to grow each year. The Banyan Collective’s mission is to “share Ogden’s stories, musical and otherwise, with as big of an audience as we can muster,” they say. “With ‘Van Sessions,’ we’re able to not only shine the light on existing talent but also introduce new musicians to our podcast listeners and Monarch live audiences.”

Be a part of the audience this Friday at The Monarch with Open Studio Night from 6-9 p.m. and live performances at 7 and 8 p.m. Follow the Banyan Collective’s “Van Sessions” @vansessions on Instagram and @thevansessions on Facebook and check out their YouTube channel @The Banyan Collective for all of their podcasts.

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