Ahead of The Footlight’s FLTV premiere, read up on the new series and its mission + check out an exclusive teaser for the first episode
On Monday, beloved Ridgewood performance-space-turned-virtual-venue The Footlight will debut FLTV—an online series featuring performances and interviews with local bands—with an episode starring The Hell Yeah Babies.
Ahead of the launch, the team—Laura Regan (Footlight Owner and Operator), Eric Ryrie (Live Audio Production, Recording & Booking), Kendra L. Saunders (VJ/On Camera Talent/Interviewer, Marketing Assistant) and Barry Marino (Director/Video Production & Editing)—filled us in on their journey and hopes for the project, and the band told us about the experience that was once again hitting the stage.
Read up for info, scroll down for an exclusive sneak peek of the show and watch on demand via Vimeo ($7 to rent; $12 to buy/download] starting Monday to support the venue and the band and enjoy what’s def the next best thing to the live music experience we’ve all been missing so much—coming at you with a new episode every Monday.
What’s the background on FLTV—what’s the mission, how did it come to be and what has the process been like?
Laura: In March 2020, after the strongest first quarter of business since we opened in 2016, we shut everything down. It was shocking how quickly it all unraveled. I couldn’t even get a covid test because there weren’t enough tests in NYC, but I definitely had covid the first week of march and was trying to navigate shutting down the bar without going in and possibly infecting people. We even had a break in and the ATM was stolen March 13th!!! It was so much to handle I don’t think I have all the words to describe the whirlwind. The lack of clarity, the misinformation and the lack of support and direction from the local authorities was disappointing and continues to be alarmingly ineffective.
Once the new reality set in, at first we jumped on the Insta-Story show concept and tired of it quickly.
Eric: We hosted them for a couple months, I played a few, we all watched plenty. It was great at first but it didn’t take long to be frustrated with sound/video/internet quality. Plus it was rarely an actual band playing. There didn’t seem to be any avenue for bands to safely get on a stage and do what bands are supposed to do, play together.
Laura: Pivoting our emerging artist mission to an online model seemed the natural choice.
Kendra: Everyone at Footlight loves music, and we are almost all artists of some type. We understand the importance of art to the human experience, so FLTV has been our way of getting artists back on stage, and getting their art back in the world, safely.
Eric: Laura and I were fortunate enough to have a video editing wizard as one of our best friends so it was a no brainer to pull Barry in to fill that role. Between myself, Barry and Kendra, we had the capacity to pull it off in house with a very small team.
Laura: We wanted to get started right away but when we went to Footlight to start installing cameras, we found the roof had leaked (again…) and our venue space was useless.
Eric: We had to leave Footlight… which has landed us over at Starr Bar for the time being. That meant having to build out the room to fit the visual and audio criteria we needed to film these episodes. But Barry and I had a good idea in place of what we needed and how we wanted to execute the filming process and fortunately we’ve been able to make it work really well.
As far as the booking aspect, I wasn’t sure how many bands would even be active and available during this time but I’ve been able to fill up the schedule with really great bands who are all bringing a ton of enthusiasm to the project, which has been particularly gratifying.
Laura: We have realized that Footlight isn’t the physical venue, it’s the people and the artists who make it work. We are hoping that the spirit and the mission of The Footlight will live on through this content and in the not too distant future we hope to have a new permanent home.
How did you land on The Hell Yeah Babies as your first band?
Kendra: Hell Yeah Babies have had a long history with Footlight, and they’re so much fun to be around. We knew they would tackle a new format with grace and a sense of humor, which was important for us. We were a bit jittery and nervous during that first episode, and it was great to have a professional but incredibly fun band to work with. They were patient as we worked out our new format, and they gave us hours of fun content to cull from. Aside from that, we also knew they would look super cool on our stage, in their bright pink suits!
What’s it been like to film shows in an empty venue?
Barry: Filming in an empty venue is great for the amount of control we can have over actually filming. there’s no super-tall person in the way of a shot, or spilled drinks to step over (hopefully). We can cater specifically to the band’s vibe and capture the performance uninterrupted. Eric spent a great deal of time envisioning the layout for recording a performance, rigging sound-proofing and setting lighting that we might not have been able to achieve had the venue been at full working capacity. The only drawback is lack of audience energy for the band to bounce off of, but Kendra, Eric and I do our best to pump the band up every chance we get. So there’s a little give and take in filming an empty venue.
What’s been the highlight of working on FLTV thus far?
Barry: For me the highlight of working on FLTV is not just the luxury of being in a very small group of people actually witnessing live music, but the tension release you can feel from the band when they finish their first song. They all look at eachother and you can see how happy they are to be performing, full band, for the first time in 10 months. This is usually when I look back at Eric & Kendra with that same relief, like “We get to do this?” We love being that avenue for musicians to channel their pent-up energy.
Kendra: I agree with Barry! Seeing live music again is so cathartic. After that first show, I almost cried. And during Shilpa Ray’s set, the energy built and built, and by her last song, I felt like we’d all just run a marathon together. It was an incredible release, and we all just looked at each other and soaked that very human experience in together.
How do you hope this helps the venue, the artists and music lovers, and what do you hope people get out of it?
Eric: For us, it’s a way to keep our mission alive of giving emerging artists a platform to perform and be seen and heard that will do their art justice. As the individuals making it, it’s giving us an outlet to work hard on something that we’re passionate about and create something we believe in, which is always valuable but especially so during these times. We need this as much as the bands and the audience. I’m really proud of how we’ve been able to pivot and find a way to keep Footlight serving the artistic community despite the plethora of obstacles.
Laura: I have wanted to live stream and sell emerging artist content online since the beginning of Footlight. I always had a vision that some kid in Iowa could be watching a show in a dark NYC venue and dreaming of being on our stage someday. Running the venue and bar in addition to the constant strain of impending and ongoing legal issues, I just never had the time to invest in making this happen. Four years just flew by with so much potential left unrealized. I guess we could look at it as a silver lining, this concept could be a lifeline to our struggling industry.
Venues are going to close. A LOT of independent venues are going to close. It’s not a matter of if, it’s just a question of when. Without federal funding, without rent relief, venues have no recourse to stay in their existing spaces. You can help; participate in calls to action by NIVA, NYIVA and your local artists and venue operators, hold local authorities accountable, pay for content by local artists and venues, buy merchandise from local artists and venues, share posts and stories, tweet at politicians and draw attention to our struggling industry. Being able to provide this content is a breath of fresh air for the artists and for us. It’s something positive in a very dark time.
Kendra: I hope this brings excitement and inspiration back to the artists on our stage, and the artists at home who watch. We can’t give up creating, telling our stories, and screaming into the void. I can’t wait to see what happens next on FLTV!
+ FROM the Hell Yeah Babies
Julian Ames (drums), Sam Paxton (vocals, guitar), Mike Pfeiffer (vocals, guitar) and Dylan Roth (vocals, bass) each shared their FLTV experiences (a total love fest demonstrating they’re very clearly on the same page).
Julian: It felt really great to get suited up and playing next to the fellas again.
Sam: It was so nice and soul-restoring to be able to perform with my boys again.
Dylan: It was such a joy to perform a set with the boys again.
Mike: It’s not an exaggeration to say that we’re best friends so it was completely maddening for us to be alone and not performing for months. We had a few practices to get back into shape but nothing can replace being about two feet off the ground with the stage lights on ya. Was the venue empty? Yes! But hey, not the first time we’ve played an empty bar. Luckily the FLTV crew was so warm and enthusiastic that you could see their grins through their masks.
Julian: The bar wasn’t totally empty. Kendra and the rest of the FLTV crew was there and that’s enough of an audience for us to be on our game. The interview part was also a nice touch; the questions were more interesting and fun than standard interview fare and it got us to show our personalities even more than we do already onstage. At least, that’s what I’m hoping people watching who may not know us personally get out of it.
Sam: We’ve been sporadically practicing when it felt safe enough throughout the pandemic, but this was the first time in a long time that playing felt particularly purposeful. Props to the FLTV team for providing such a thoughtful, safe, and fun experience!
Dylan: FLTV set up strict COVID-conscious rules, requiring that we each be tested that morning, which was great because it meant we could share the stage without masks and goof around with each other the way we always do with a reasonable assurance of safety.
Mike: It’s an extra-special show because a couple weeks after this our bassist Dylan broke his shoulder so we won’t be playing like that for a couple of months, even if Bill Gates New World Order go mask off and force us to all get covid vaccines tomorrow*
*THIS IS SATIRE. NOT AN ACTUAL VIEW OF THE HELL YEAH BABIES
Dylan: Particularly given that I broke my shoulder shortly thereafter and won’t be performing or practicing with them (or anyone else) in a while, getting to create and record that memory with the rest of the Babies was a gift.
Mike: Most of all, we miss playing for our friends and fans and hope seeing us onstage together brings them some cheer and captures a side of the band you don’t get from just repeatedly listening to our album because the CD got stuck in your car.
Upcoming episodes of FLTV will feature Shilpa Ray, THICK, The Rizzos, LaPeche and 95 Bulls.
Sign the petition to #saveourstages at saveourstages.com.
Feature image provided by The Footlight.
[Interviews have been slightly edited and condensed.]