If you’re a music fan you’ve likely been part of one of those debates that take place in Nick Hornby’s novel “High Fidelity” (or the 2000 John Cusack film version).
“That was the idea behind all of this – give the bar talk a stage,” says Joe Kendrick, host of “What It Is,” a live streaming web series on Asheville’s iamavl.com. Kendrick launched “What It Is” 2.0 with the folks behind Independent Arts and Music of Asheville – an online channel that airs regional music and arts programs – in September. The radio version of “What It Is” originally aired on WNCW, where Kendrick is midday host and producer - from 2007 to 2010.
The next episode streams Wednesday at 3 p.m. on iamavl.com and covers iconic women in music and promotions, publicity and social networking.
Kendrick’s programs aren’t simply bar talk debates like “best guitar solo” (although those are fun), but cover useful information and informed opinions on topics such as Kickstarter campaigns, artists giving away free downloads, and issues that concern working musicians.
Kendrick’s inclination toward music-related conversations began as a kid growing up in Stanfield in Stanly County. His education in left-of-mainstream music began with “Rolling Stone” magazine, Columbia House mail-order cassettes (he would take risks buying albums based on reviews), and exchanges with clerks in Charlotte record stores.
Kendrick, who’s 43, dove into radio as a journalism student at UNC Chapel Hill and although he worked in marketing and ran a landscape lighting franchise for 10 years, he continued to volunteer at college stations.
He began volunteering at WNCW (88.7 FM) in Spindale in 1991 before taking a full-time position there after selling his business. He lives near Boiling Springs, about 50 miles west of Charlotte.
Kendrick’s forays into multimedia have taken several forms since he started “What It Is” on WNCW.
“I wanted to do a roundtable music talk show,” says Kendrick who called on The Mountain Times’ Jeff Eason (now managing editor with The Blowing Rocket) and Fred Mills of the music magazines Magnet and Blurt. They’d discuss music news, culture and history. Kendrick could split a two-hour taping session into five minute segments that would air over five or six weeks.
“It was one of the most fun things I’d ever done. The next thing I knew I had a radio show,” says musician, writer and WNCW host Rifkin, who was a regular contributor. “Joe was very clear in the outline he had for it, but also he wanted it to have a life of its own and people who could fly by the seat of their pants and respond immediately.”
The show generated feedback.
“We took a stab at sacred cows early on (on the original ‘What It is’) and took swipes at Grateful Dead and John Lennon and Robert Johnson and immediately got flooded with calls and emails that were either, ‘This is so great. I was ready to hear this’ or ‘How dare you!’ ” he recalls. “It’s hard to pull off that kind of comedy and conflict without being contrived though.”
The show lasted 4 1/2 years before Kendrick decided to shake up the format. He moved to a live version called “Lingua Musica” that taped before an audience at The White Horse in Black Mountain.
“I came up with this concept that would be a roundtable discussion broadcast live on the internet in front of an audience with instant feedback from Twitter and Facebook so everybody watching could be immediately included in whatever conversation was going on,” he says. “We had a band that would play in between segments and then they’d play the whole set afterward.”
That complex version of “Lingua Musica” only aired three times in 2010 before moving to a more traditional one-on-one interview format that found Kendrick and others speaking with well-known artists such as Lloyd Cole and Rosanne Cash.
Since its launch in September, “What It Is” has built to a monthly series. Past webisodes are available at iamavl.com. Kendrick also has a documentary on regional music in the works as the conversation about music and the infinite multimedia possibilities to expand on it continues.
“If you’re like me,” he adds. “You can talk about music 26 hours a day.”