‘Live on Location’ – in Aspen
October 8, 2009
ASPEN – The variety of formats for experiencing music is huge – CDs, downloads, podcasts, a resurgence in vinyl, a plethora of concert DVDs – and, in the Aspen area, has just gotten bigger.
Last month, the community access station GrassRoots TV-Channel 12 debuted “Live on Location,” a series that brings concerts performed in local venues into viewers’ living rooms. The series opens with a cablecast of last March’s performance at the Wheeler Opera House by Texas singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker. Programs will show for two weeks, airing three times a week, before a new concert moves in.
Brad Manosevitz, the director of field productions for Grassroots TV and the overseer of “Live on Location,” says it is a “simple thing” that he and his colleagues are trying to do. The concert footage is not posted on the Internet, and the station doesn’t advertise in advance which shows it will be broadcasting, so as not to interfere with ticket sales. The shoot can involve as many as three cameras, but Manosevitz, a musician himself, keep the crew’s presence unobtrusive: “There’s no cameramen running around onstage,” he said. “I tell them we’re a local community-access station; we don’t have a real broad reach. It’s low-profile, as much as possible.”
Still, getting a concert can get real complicated real fast. Take Robert Earl Keen, for instance. Keen, a favorite of Manosevitz’s, is an Aspen regular, performing most every January at the Wheeler Opera House. Keen would figure to be comfortable here – and when Manosevitz approached him about appearing on “Live on Location,” he didn’t seem otherwise.
“He said, ‘Yeah, love to do it,'” Manosevitz said. “And his people show up in town, and we get shut down.”
Which is in a way better, in a way worse than the response from John Prine, who played earlier this year at Belly Up Aspen. “I don’t even think I got a call back from John Prine’s people,” Manosevitz said.
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Manosevitz is learning that, in the age of cell-phone cams and Youtube, some musicians are going with the flow, figuring that efforts to keep their image and music under wraps is futile and that such coverage might even be beneficial, while others are digging in to prevent widespread access. And it’s impossible to predict who will behave how. Xavier Rudd, the Australian musician who seems low-key and audience-friendly, has shot down several requests. The ultimate in split responses came with July show at Belly Up: The closing act, Son Volt, declined to be videoed; the openers, Cowboy Junkies, gave a thumbs-up.
“It’s the artist and how they have their deal set up, I guess,” Manosevitz said. “It’s this voodoo thing they have.”
So Manosevitz is doing all he can to make sure that those acts he does shoot have a positive experience. He makes the footage available to the artist to use however they like. The equipment he uses is state of the art; he says the sound quality of the broadcasts is excellent. He’ll even jump through odd hoops like the one singer-songwriter Todd Snider put up. Snider agreed to have his Carbondale show taped – if Manosevitz would give him a copy of the Jerry Jeff Walker show.
“I blow it with one artist, and it’s going to get around to other artists,” Manosevitz said.
As a huge music fan, Manosevitz doesn’t mind the denials, the reversals of mind, and the lengths he has to go to get the concerts on the air. And he thinks that, down the road, people will appreciate as much as he does the collection of concerts – some with accompanying interviews – available on GrassRoots.
“I think it’s so important,” he said, noting that there are upcoming shows featuring Sam Bush, Greg Brown and Arlo Guthrie, with a Drew Emmitt performance premiering on Tuesday, Oct. 13. “These people are legends and they’re not going to be around forever. Future audiences will be able to be a part of the magic that night.”