The not-ready-for-prime-time players
Music promoter Jerry Perry pairs with Access Sacramento employee Jim Bailey to showcase local bands for a new, freewheeling cable-access show
It’s not typical for Perry, who’s been booking bands in town since the ’80s, to prod the audience, but this is no ordinary performance; rather, it’s the first taping of Alive & Kicking TV, a new Access Sacramento cable show that he co-produces with Jim Bailey, a television crew member at the Sacramento-based media-production company.
The show’s inaugural episode aired in January, and in the months since, the pair has learned that staging a television show comes with a unique set of considerations. For example, during the recording of that first episode (which also included singer-songwriter Parie Wood and the band Walking Spanish), Perry instructs a cameraman to be sure to zoom in tight enough to make the audience look like a packed club—the kind of thing he never had to think about while booking regional or touring acts.
“We’re trying to create good TV, and it’s different than a good concert. It’s not like a regular show, deliberately so,” Perry says. “[During the shoot, we] were really manipulating shots to have a good energy to them. I would tell the bands, ’Oh, could you stand here? Don’t stand there.’ Just ridiculous directions, like, we had applause signs.”
The operation for each show is usually the same: Each episode is filmed using three or four cameras—tripod-mounted and handheld. In between performances, Perry and Bailey scramble to conduct interviews with the artists, the results of which will be interspersed between live shots once the final episodes are assembled.
The process is sometimes a bit chaotic, fitting perfectly with that anything-goes late-night-cable vibe, really.
“We’re trying to squeeze as much out of the moment as we can. We’re trying to get a lot done in a finite chunk of time. I want it to feel like we [just] went in and shot this band, but in reality, while we were shooting one band, we were interviewing another,” Perry says.
Before the shoot, the two set up a custom audio feed with Bailey placing microphones around the room to capture the ambience of The Refuge.
During the shoots, however, Bailey typically isn’t in the club with Perry. Rather, he and the remainder of the crew are stationed inside the Access Sacramento van—essentially just an old recreational vehicle that someone donated to the station. The vehicle’s been gutted and turned into a mobile television studio with monitors, audio equipment, a switcher and everything else needed for recording. Here, Bailey typically works the audio, while the director watches the monitors and gives the cameraman directions via headsets.
Ultimately, the performances, taped over the course of a couple hours, yield three episodes—one per band.
It’s all a lot of work, considering that there’s no money in it for Perry or Bailey—or the bands. This is, after all, public-access television. The first season, shot through late 2012, produced 12 episodes, and the pair hopes to shoot 20 episodes for the second season, set to start production later this year. The new episodes will be taped at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub, according to Perry.
All the acts are local, but moreover, Perry says, they fit a particular consideration.
“I’m not booking these bands because they’re the popular thing in town; it’s because I think they’re good. They just have to be bands that Jim and I like,” he says. “We’ve got to be able to stand by it. I’ve got to be able to say, ’I like these guys. I’m not embarrassed to have them on my show.’”
The Kelps’ lead singer Cory Barringer says he found the experience rewarding.
“Everyone involved worked very hard. Jerry’s doing a really great thing for local music with the show,” Barringer says.
Perry, of course, has been supporting the Sacramento music scene since the early ’80s, when he first started promoting shows at venues such as the Vortex and, later, the Cattle Club. At the Cattle Club in particular he placed a heavy emphasis on local bands, booking Sacramento acts in the opening slots for big names such as Nirvana, NOFX, Weezer, the Cranberries and No Doubt. Back then, he says, if a band’s manager didn’t want a regional act on the bill, he simply wouldn’t take the show.
In 1991, Perry launched a music-related newspaper, also called Alive & Kicking, which published on and off for 17 years. Not surprisingly, the paper’s focus was local, with Sacramento bands dominating the cover. The paper folded in 2008, but even before its demise, Perry says he’d been thinking about branching out into other mediums.
“I wanted to do TV, but I wasn’t sure how,” he says.
And then, Perry met Bailey. The two first encountered each other a couple years ago at one of Perry’s events. Bailey had been attending shows regularly, taping artists he liked and then cutting the footage together for Songwriter Sacramento, a short-lived Access Sacramento program. As he worked on that show, he started volunteering at other shoots, and eventually landed a job with the cable TV-production company.
Now, neither Perry nor Bailey remember whose idea it was initially to work on a TV show, but at some point, it dawned on Perry to use the Alive & Kicking name.
“It’s got some branding, and it gives people an idea of what we’re about from the get-go,” Perry says.
Their working relationship proved copacetic. Perry had the connections with the bands and could set up shoot days at The Refuge, while Bailey brought not just technical expertise, but also a crew of friends and co-workers willing to volunteer.
Now, they say, part of what makes filming in a club such as The Refuge so appealing is that they maintain total control. Eventually, the team hopes to expand beyond live music—perhaps adopting some of Perry’s regular Alive & Kicking newspaper features, such as accompanying a band to the drive-in theater for a movie review or, similarly, eating with musicians at a local greasy spoon.
“The idea of taking that to a TV level, that would be really fun, do segments like Entertainment Tonight programs, but that’s very ambitious,” Perry says. “Right now, getting live performances and documenting them the way that we are, I’m really happy and excited about that.”