A face for radio: WTJU launches ‘BottleWorks’ video series

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Roanoke band Eternal Summers gets some couch time with “BottleWorks” host Jenn Lockwood (right). The band is featured in the fourth episode of WTJU’s new video series. Photo: Tom Daly Roanoke band Eternal Summers gets some couch time with “BottleWorks” host Jenn Lockwood (right). The band is featured in the fourth episode of WTJU’s new video series. Photo: Tom Daly

Since Nathan Moore joined WTJU 91.1FM as general manager in 2011, the community radio station has embraced change with new energy. His influence led the station to launch WXTJ 100.1FM, featuring solely UVA students as DJs. He was also instrumental in WTJU’s expansion into Richmond as 102.9FM and 1430AM. The most recent change under Nathan’s leadership is a new video series known as “BottleWorks.”

Though WTJU records many of its live performances, the resulting videos have been typically documentary in nature with a single camera trained on musicians from a slight distance. They record the performance but never quite capture the experience of listening to the music. The personalities of the performers and their approaches to making music have remained ineffable as well. “BottleWorks” takes a different tack.

Primarily focused on rock music, but embracing the many subgenres within it, “BottleWorks” is the brainchild of WTJU DJs Greg Sloan and Dave Moore. The series aims to blend performance and interview footage to present a more nuanced view of bands and their members. Both Sloan and Dave Moore began volunteering at the station before Nathan Moore’s tenure, filling in as substitute DJs, running audio production for in-studio performances and eventually hosting biweekly rock shows of their own. Their familiarity with the station and the local music scene inspired the idea for the series and, after workshopping the idea with friends, the two pitched “BottleWorks” as a new endeavor for WTJU. “Greg and Dave approached me about this and I think my reaction was along the lines of, ‘So you want to create some awesome content with bands we like under WTJU’s name? Yes, absolutely,’” says Nathan. And so “BottleWorks” was born.

Now in production, the series remains a project among friends, featuring a crew of some of the best local video and music production folks around, many of whom are musicians in their own right. Together, they do everything for the series, from video and audio production and editing to moving set furniture and getting snacks for the bands. “[They] are doing the production as volunteers, and I love that there’s this avenue for them to share their passion for excellent music through WTJU—just in a different way than our usual on-air broadcast,” says Nathan.

The first two “BottleWorks” episodes feature Corsair and Y’all—each with strong ties to the area and members who live locally. As Charlottesville’s version of an MTV VJ, Jenn Lockwood hosts the series, interviewing and joking with bands to create the casual ease and camaraderie of a backstage hangout. “We just try to create a relaxed, fun environment where the bands can let their personalities shine,” says Sloan.

Nathan saw the potential as soon as Corsair launched the series in April. “It was super well-produced and it made me realize how cool this series really could be,” he says.

As a band, Corsair is heavy and loud, with plenty of extended guitar shredding interludes. Arguably, selecting a metal band for the first episode was a risk, but the audio engineering of the performance is well-balanced and captures the band’s sound in all its depth. The performance footage is a marked improvement on other WTJU videos and alternates with interview segments between songs. The first episode is a production success, though it relies heavily on the band members for its personality.

With the second episode in June, the “BottleWorks” crew made a couple of dramatic changes and, as a result, the episode is better than the first and sets the ideal tone for the series in the future. Featuring Y’all, episode No. 2 is more dynamically edited so that transitions between interview and performance segments are less abrupt but more frequent. The interviews are also less formal, even leaving room for slapstick outtakes, and the onscreen energy never dips below madcap.

“I think we managed to capture the infectious fun of those guys, and how much they care about each other,” says Dave Moore. Unfortunately, this means there’s less continuous footage of the band playing full songs together, but it’s the right trade-off to make for a more entertaining and energetic show.

“Each episode will showcase the idiosyncrasies of the session,” says Sloan. “In my mind, the episodes will morph and change to reflect the nature of the band, the performance and where they are at that time. Ultimately, we want to create content that is informative for the novice viewer, rewarding for the die-hard fans, and entertaining to all.”

Two additional episodes of “BottleWorks” have been shot, and the third installment with Charlottesville band New Boss, was released in July. A fourth episode is currently being edited and will feature Roanoke’s Eternal Summers. The crew hopes to film other bands in the near future, including acts from Harrisonburg and Richmond. “We don’t think of this as specifically ‘for locals’ only,” says Sloan. “We hope to have regional and touring bands join us as often as possible.”

With the series established, WTJU’s team is ready for more. “I think the sky is the limit right now,” says Dave Moore. “We have the space, the crew, the equipment and the sound ability to create a product that is on par with any video series out there, and WTJU is just the station to showcase these emerging and established rock acts.”

View episodes of “BottleWorks” below or go to wtju.net.

What bands would you like to see on “BottleWorks”? Tell us in the comments below.