Live from Fox studios…

Fox 30’s [Real] Music spotlights regional and touring musicians with new weekly live-music and interview show

FISHBONE WITHOUT A NET <br>Cameraman Bill DeBlonk is part of the three-man crew capturing live bands from all angles for Fox’s new <i>[Real] Music</i> series.

Cameraman Bill DeBlonk is part of the three-man crew capturing live bands from all angles for Fox’s new [Real] Music series.

Photo by Tom Angel

Fox TV 30’s Steve Chollet watches the video monitoring screens and briskly calls the shots via headset from the control room. On the other side of the glass wall, in the studio, are the three cameras filming the live performance.

“Ready One. … One’s up. Ready Two. … Two’s up. Ready Three. … Three’s up. Uh, One, can you give me a shot of the bass player?”

On this day Chollet, who is both producer and technical director of the show, is overseeing filming of the wild six-piece L.A. band Fishbone, which is on a Chico stopover between gigs in Lake Tahoe and San Jose. The longstanding funk/punk/metal crew is rocking the downtown Chico studio.

The Fishbone taping is to be part of the locally produced [Real] Music series, Fox’s new Saturday-night, three-segment, live-music show featuring performances of and interviews with local, regional, and sometimes nationally known bands. Already taped segments include Chico rockers Goldmind and Red with Envy, Sacramento’s ¡Bucho!, the socially provocative but always rhythmic Michael Franti, and heartthrob singer/guitarist/harmonica player G. Love.

As co-producer Bruce Coykendall describes it, the show spotlights “original music from people who don’t get a lot of exposure but have some great music.” At first a half-hour show, [Real] Music is now an hour long, thanks to the popularity of its first short test season last fall.

Fishbone’s hyperkinetic front man Angelo Moore throws himself into the band’s recent performance at Fox’s downtown studios.

Photo By Tom Angel

[Real] Music, filmed in the round without a studio audience in an area designed to resemble a rehearsal space, conjures up “more of an intimate rehearsal atmosphere,” as opposed to filming a concert on a stage before an audience, Coykendall explained. “You get to actually see … a more informal look at a band that you don’t usually get to see. … With so many shows [you see] now, you don’t know if it’s live or recorded. This show is live with minimal editing … no overdubbing.

“The owner [of the station, Chester Smith] has always had the idea of having a music show,” Coykendall reflected. “In-the-round production was not what he expected. When we came up with the pilot, he told us, ‘This is not anything like I thought you were gonna hand me—but I like it!'” Supervising Producer Doug Holroyd echoed Smith’s sentiment as he spoke with pride of the work of Chollet and Coykendall.

Alternating between watching the action on the studio floor and sitting in the low-lit, slightly chilly, equipment-filled control room with 24-year-old video whiz kid Chollet and Coykendall, I watch the same blip-filled computer screen that the amiable Coykendall hardly takes his eyes off of. He works with the sound-produced data coming in from the band playing in the studio and listens through the one-eared headset to the rapid-fire communications between Chollet and the cameramen.

I am also glancing up at times to look at the TV screens in front of Chollet, who is seated in front of me, to see what he is watching. We’re all paying attention to the fast-paced visual and audio input appearing on the various screens in the room.

Angelo Moore, Fishbone’s lead singer and one of the group’s original members, is charged up and bursting with sassy energy as the band runs through “Face Plant” and “Alcoholic.”

“Alcoholic/ Real good liquor/ Make you throw up!”

Bruce Coykendall adjusts mikes for Fishbone drummer John Steward.

Photo By Tom Angel

The “stage” is a large motley-looking rectangle of carpet in the center of the room that [Real] Music co-host and talent coordinator Chadd Shotwell chose because it has that desirable garage band look. Cameramen Bill DeBlonk, Hal Ratay and Rich Gray circle around it, capturing the ballsy performance according to Chollet’s instructions coming in over their headsets.

Chollet at one point to cameramen: “Guitars—somebody get me some guitars!”

Shotwell walks into our room to hang out and chat a little before he goes back out into the studio to contribute his on-camera lines ("On the rug right now, it’s Fishbone!").

“I think the first, like, big act we had in here was [Texas psychobilly musician] the Reverend Horton Heat,” says Shotwell, “They rocked that room so hard! It was cool!” His pretty co-host, Fox TV Promotions Coordinator Betsy Brewer, is also here, getting up from a chair and announcing at one point, “I gotta do makeup!”

Fishbone’s road manager comes into the control room to observe the goings-on and discuss the game plan for the rest of the shoot.

CONTROL TEAM From left, <i>[Real] Music </i>co-hosts Chadd Shotwell and Betsy Brewer, and co-producers Bruce Coykendall (standing) and Steve Chollet review the afternoon’s tapes.

Photo By Tom Angel

“Interview,” he says, referring to the non-performance part of [Real] Music. “How do we want to do that? On the set?” Before that question is answered, word comes in from the studio floor that Fishbone wants to do “Alcoholic” over again because they weren’t totally satisfied with their first take.

One of the cameramen asks: “Are we retaking ‘Alcoholic'?” Moore, dressed in a kilt, is doing cartwheels across the carpet while waiting for the word. Chollet: “OK, one more time.” Shotwell and Brewer introduce “Alcoholic” again, and we’re off on take two.

It all seems exciting but a little hectic, and it’s to Chollet and Coykendall’s credit that all of the pieces come together into the coherent, easy-on-the-eye, entertaining whole that is [Real] Music. “I think it was kind of more than what everyone expected,” Chollet tells me with quiet pride at a later meeting I have with him and Coykendall in the relatively un-hectic conference room in the basement of the Fox building.

I’m talking with the two producers on a Thursday, just days before the airing of the recent Saturday show featuring G. Love & Donavon Frankenreiter, Australian singer-songwriter Ben Lee and Chico’s own Nothing Left (a.k.a. Brad Finney), the popular street musician who performs downtown on the corner in front of Access Dental.

“Saturday’s show is 25 percent done,” Coykendall said.

Photo By Tom Angel

Chollet elaborated, “The content is 85 percent ready. The performances are edited already.” It’s a matter of putting all the final pieces together—the interviews, the breaks for commercials, the inclusion of the final credits and any other little detail that needs to be added to polish the show—that will still take a considerable amount of time but will be done on deadline, despite the fact that Coykendall and Chollet are also busy functioning as the station’s commercial producers.

Now that the new show “has numbers,” Coykendall said, referring to the show’s favorable Nielsen ratings ("We killed the Farm Report!"), "it has good potential to be sold to a syndicator" to be shown in other markets. The show’s current February run (another Nielsen rating period) will determine its future as a long-running show both here in Chico and beyond. Coykendall and Chollet are clearly excited about the prospect of bringing more "real music" to more people.