Things to Do

Four Things to Expect From the 9:30 Club’s New PBS Show

Photo courtesy of Audrey Fix Schaefer.

The 9:30 Club has had an eventful year. First, it celebrated its 35th anniversary by becoming a history museum for five days with a display of memorabilia, old concert films, and “rare” artifacts like Brendan Canty’s drum set. Now it’s the subject of a new PBS showLive at 9:30, which is set to premiere later this spring, will feature concert footage from 9:30 Club shows, including recent sets by Leon Bridges, Tove Lo, and the Jesus and Mary Chain. After seeing a sneak preview of the first episode, here are some of the things to know before it debuts June 3 on WMPT.

It’s pitched at YouTube viewers

Unlike PBS’s long-running concert show Austin City Limits, which broadcasts full sets by two bands, Live at 9:30 episodes will include four or five bands performing one or two songs each. This spliced-up format, which also includes backstage segments with bands and comedians, appears to be catered more toward an online audience that may be more interested in streaming a single song on YouTube than watching an entire hour-long set on TV. It’s also the personal preference of club owner Seth Hurwitz, who admitted during recent music-industry panel at Georgetown University that he rarely stays for full shows at the 9:30 Club.

“PBS came to me and they wanted to do an Austin City Limits, one-hour one-band show,” said Hurwitz. “I was like, ‘You know, I wouldn’t watch that. I couldn’t sit through that. Let’s do a bunch of bands.’ ”

Hurwitz gets screen time of his own, hosting a gossip-y segment called “Stories I Shouldn’t Tell.” (His anecdote in the pilot recounts meeting Yoko Ono and mistaking Sean Lennon, Ono’s son with John Lennon, for Julian Lennon, the Beatles singer’s son with his first wife, Cynthia Powell.)

Each episode features a diverse crop of bands

Rather than pair together four or five similar-sounding artists per episode, Live at 9:30 tries to offer several genres at once. The pilot features snippets of sets from ’90s alt-rock mainstays Garbage, French-Cuban R&B duo Ibeyi, dance-pop collective MisterWives, and EL VY, the side project fo The National‘s Matt Berninger.

Every episode will also feature three-minute segment called “180 at 9:30” featuring a short film submitted to the show’s producers. The pilot episode’s clip was a music video from Lala Lala, a Chicago garage-pop band.

The audience gets a lot of screen time

While Austin City Limits mostly keeps its cameras locked on the performers, Live at 9:30 is more crowd-focused, giving significant airtime to head-banging fans and moments of audience participation. These sequences don’t add much to a set from a mid-tempo rock band like EL VY, but they do for MisterWives, whose colorful, danceable performance requires shots of excitable crowd-members for someone at home to grasp the full experience.

DC doesn’t play a big role

Henry Rollins and NPR Music’s Bob Boilen appear throughout Live at 9:30, but there’s no particular emphasis on DC’s musical history or the role the club plays in the District. Rollins filmed a segment about buying records at U Street’s Joint Custody, which will air in a later episode, but at least in the pilot, the only footage showing off DC is used for interstitial cuts between bands.

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