Home > Features > Fort Wayne Reader Presents Live On Stage brings some of Fort Wayne’s best original bands to a T.V. near you

Fort Wayne Reader Presents Live On Stage brings some of Fort Wayne’s best original bands to a T.V. near you

By Jim Fester

Fort Wayne Reader


Some of Fort Wayne’s finest bands have a regular gig in your living room at 1 a.m. every Sunday morning with the launch of The Fort Wayne Reader presents Live on Stage.

The half-hour music show showcases original local bands performing live at Come2Go ministries, as well as exclusive interview segments with the featured artists, and local music news. You can catch it on WISE 33, Fort Wayne’s local NBC affiliate, every Saturday night/Sunday morning right after Saturday Night Live.

The show premiered October 1 with guests The Legendary Trainhoppers. The band sailed through a seven-song set (five tunes made the cut), and Trainhoppers Matt Kelley and Damian Miller sat down for an exclusive interview with Fort Wayne Reader music columnist Sean Smith, one of the hosts of the program.

Kelley said there was a little trepidation when the band was first approached about appearing on the pilot episode of FWR presents Live On Stage. “There’s the fear that it’s going to be kind of… Wayne’s World-y,” he laughs. “But we’re nothing if not adventurous, so we like to throw ourselves into situations like that and see how it comes out.”

The band says they were stunned by the quality of the finished product, particularly the audio. Indeed, the show’s producers realized early on that the success of the project depended on good audio. If the sound was lousy, no one would want to watch it, and bands wouldn’t want to be involved. “(The recorded performance) sounded great,” says Chris Dodds, one of the Legendary Trainhoppers and a solo acoustic performer in his own right. “You could hear the vocals and the instruments, understand the words. It’s not like a show where they just videotape in a room. As we all know, a video camera just doesn’t do it. The level of professionalism was pretty high.”

Dodds was suffering through a heavy cold the night of the recording but nevertheless lead the Trainhoppers through a great version of “Alcohol,” one of the band’s signature toe-tappers. He says that one of the reasons he finds the idea a show like FWR presents Live On Stage appealing is that as a working musician who plays around 200 gigs a year, he doesn’t get out to see new local bands as much as he used to, or would like to. “Before I got into doing this full-time, that’s all I did was go and watch bands. That was one of my favorite things to do,” he explains. “This is a good vehicle to check out local acts, because I hear of all these bands, and I know the names, but I don’t know who does what and who sounds like what.”

Guitar and drums duo Left Lane Cruiser stepped in for the second show (airing October 8), cranking through original blues stompers like “Big Mama” and “Set Me Free.” As anyone who has seen the group knows, for a two-man band Left Lane Cruiser make a monstrous sound, and they saw the program as an opportunity to get that sound out there. And as for the experience of recording their episode of the show itself… “It was a blast,” says drummer/percussionist Brenn Beck. “It was hands down one of the funnest things we’ve done as a band yet. We loved it.”

Rapper Sankofa is a little more blunt when asked why he agreed to be on the show. “It would be stupid for me to turn this down,” he says.

“There seems to be a lot of talent in the community, but there’s just not a lot of outreach,” Sankofa adds. “The musicians themselves know the other musicians, but as far as anyone beyond the average bar patron, there’s not really an awareness of the local scene. Something like this is a great way to get out there. Not everyone makes it to the bars.”

Actually, with that last sentence, Sankofa is tapping in to part of the inspiration behind launching the show, according to Michael Summers of the Fort Wayne Reader. “Frankly, I don’t get out much anymore,” he says, citing the usual litany of work, family, etc. “We thought there were probably a lot of people out there who are still interested in local, original music but, you know, don’t get out like they used to.”

Well, sure, but there are some music fans who have plenty of opportunity to get out to the bars and clubs, and they see a different benefit to having a television program showcasing local bands — they’re actually able to listen the music, without having to deal with crowd chatter or getting a drink spilled on them. “In the bars, music is secondary a lot of times,” says Sean Smith, music columnist with the Fort Wayne Reader and one of the hosts for the show. “It’s there for people to drink to or pick each other up to or whatever. And that’s fine. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. But if you want to really hear what the musicians are singing, hear what they’re playing, Live On Stage is a perfect avenue for that.”

Smith’s knowledge of Fort Wayne’s music scene, and music in general (he also hosts the podcast Stage-Banter [www.stagebanter.com] with Greg Locke of Whatz Up and Matt Kelley), makes him the perfect host to conduct the show’s interview segments. Smith is joined in his Live on Stage hosting duties by Dean Robinson, singer Fatima Washington; Angie Rivas; and Daisy Paroczy. Curtis Shaw, of Bee’s Knees and Unlikely Alibi, did host duties for the first episode, but had to drop out of the show for now. “We’d like to start a rumor and say that Curtis had a dispute with some of the other hosts over the size of their dressing rooms, but the truth is that Curtis is appearing in the Civic Theater’s production of Big, so he couldn’t make it to the tapings,” says Dean Robinson.

Fort Wayne Reader presents Live on Stage is a joint production of the Fort Wayne Reader, Diversity Media Group (publisher of INK), and the Fort Wayne Media Group. It’s recorded at Come2Go ministries downtown on Baker Street, a venue that’s particularly friendly for recording audio/video projects. Not only does C2G have a spacious stage, but the whole facility is set up for four cameras and boasts a high-quality control room. “The venue is very impressive,” says Nolan Broxton of Fort Wayne Media Group. Broxton and his business partner Chris Brown handle the essential technical side of the production — the audio/video, the camera work, the editing, how the show looks and sounds on stage. It was Braxton, in fact, who secured Come2Go as a venue for Live on Stage. “It has almost everything you need for a production like this,” he adds.

FWR presents Live on Stage is planning about a dozen episodes. After that, the show’s producers say that they’ll see what happens, though judging by the experience they’ve had so far, they don’t see any reason why it can’t continue. “This is definitely an idea whose time has come,” says Sean Smith. “There seem to be a lot of really good original bands around town right now. The program is a great way to hear them and hear what they have to say.”

“We definitely have something that’s workable here,” adds Nolan Broxton. “With learning what we’ve learned so far, it’s only going to get better.”

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©2018 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.