A West Michigan filmmaker is linking up with Local Spins to draw attention to the plight of some beloved live music hot spots amid a pandemic that’s upended the industry. Watch the video trailer.
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Michael Whitenack has long had a love affair with classic music venues – nightclubs, bars and theaters that have cultivated a special relationship with fans and bands thanks to their unique and captivating milieu.
After a 30-year history in the music business, including stints with RCA, Island Records and Walt Disney Records, Whitenack decided in retirement a few years ago to create a TV/video series focusing attention on those beloved places across the country where music comes alive.
And when the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered those businesses early this year, the West Michigan director and producer realized it was an ideal time to shine a brighter spotlight on the plight of these treasured venues.
That’s how “Comeback Road” was born: a video series showcasing West Michigan music venues devastated by the pandemic and premiering exclusively at Local Spins over the next several weeks.
“The goal of ‘Comeback Road’ is to enlighten the community of live music fans about the current plight of area music venues. With everything going on I felt it was important to try and break through the noise and put these venues front and center at a time when they need all the love we can give them,” said Whitenack, who serves as director and interviewer for the series.
“I think true fans of live music can relate to the vital role these places play enriching the culture of the cities where they’re located. If there was ever a time to come to their aid, this is it.”
Local Spins offers a teaser preview of the series today, with the first official episode spotlighting The Pyramid Scheme debuting at Local Spins on Thursday. Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill, The Intersection, St. Cecilia Music Center and other venues will be featured in future weeks. It’s a salient project drawing attention to music businesses facing a critical juncture and unprecedented challenges.
A FIRSTHAND ACCOUNT OF ‘HURTING’ VENUES
“As the venues we had been tracking started closing their doors, It became clear that this was going to have a huge impact on live music and the future of venues and artists who depend on each other for their livelihoods, all across the board,” Whitenack said.
“Besides the fact these places were being forced to close, there’s no definitive time when they’ll be reopening. Based on these events, we decided to address the reality of the difficult place these venues are currently in through no fault of their own. ‘Destination Live Music: Comeback Road’ is a series that gives a voice to owners and operators of local live music venues in our area.”
For each segment, Whitenack and his crew – David Darling on production and editing, Kari Cohen as producer – will focus on a specific venue, with the episode broken into three parts: the background story, the current status and how things look going forward.
“It was also important for us to include different ways music fans can help these places should they choose to,” Whitenack said. “Each interview was set up to give these folks an opportunity to offer a firsthand account of what they’re going through in the midst of a world crisis. … People will also hear future predictions on what lays ahead for these places.”
Those interviewed at the various venues also reflect on how the new National Independent Venue Association has advocated and lobbied for federal and state financial assistance to keep independent concert halls afloat.
During his chats with these venue managers, Whitenack has gotten insights into their passion and their predicament.
They’re all “committed to delivering great customer experiences, passionate about the music they’re involved with, proud of the businesses they’ve built up and dedicated to getting through these difficult times. I also witnessed how they’re hurting; one can only imagine how it would feel to be operating a thriving business and then to suddenly have the rug pulled out from you.”
VIDEO: “Comeback Road” Trailer
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