KVMR Challenge: Two live music festivals, one weekend, 50 Miles Apart
Even a longtime festival and community radio station engineer like KVMR 89.5 FM’s Dave (Buzz) Barnett can’t remember any single radio station attempting anything quite like it.
The Nevada City radio station will produce not one — but two — live remote broadcasts this weekend: from the recently relocated Strawberry Music Festival at the Nevada County Fairgrounds and the American River Music Festival near Coloma some 50 miles south.
“National radio networks like Westwood One do this all the time,” Barnett said. “Perhaps there are some local classical stations that feature two live orchestra performances in one weekend, but that’s all I can think of.”
“I don’t think there’s another radio station in the country doing anything like this,” added Eric Rice, KVMR’s Strawberry Music Festival radio producer. His colleague, Wesley Robertson, is producer of the American River Festival broadcast.
Non-commercial, eclectic KVMR, in fact, will be airing close to 50 hours of remote programming from the pair of festivals, beginning with the 33-year-old Strawberry opening celebration at 4 p.m. Thursday and from 10 a.m. Friday to early Saturday.
Friday night features the near-original line-up of bluegrass legends Hot Rize and their offbeat western music band, Red Knuckles and The Trailblazers, including Nick Forster.
On Saturday, KVMR will broadcast from the American River festival 11 a.m. to approximately 6 p.m. with performers including Laura Love and Tommy Milone of the Subdudes, returning to the Strawberry festival for the evening and early morning and Achilles Wheel, Marcia Ball and Tower of Power.
Sunday sees a morning Strawberry Main Stage broadcast of the festival’s traditional “Sunday Revival,” with a bevy of special guests 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. when action switches to the American River stage for Greg Brown, The Bills and others until 6 p.m. or so. Then it’s back to the final performances of festival-laden weekend at the Fairgrounds including the Jerry Douglas Band and Patty Griffin.
“Strawberry is the premiere music festival in the western U.S., and I’ve always dreamed of broadcasting it,” said Rice. “And now it’s landed in our backyard. I can’t believe it.”
The festival had long been entrenched at Camp Mather near Yosemite but was forced to move because of fire damage and infrastructure issues.
KVMR will offer the first broadcast and online streaming of Strawberry by a fulltime radio station and will partner with Strawberry’s traditional Hog Ranch Radio onsite presentation.
Meanwhile, engineer Barnett raves about the “superior audio quality” found at Strawberry.
“The front-of-house engineer for most of it will be Larry Cummings, a Grammy-award winning sound engineer,” Buzz said. “He creates one of the finest live mixes you will ever hear, and we will do our best at KVMR to maintain it.”
According to Barnett, the main challenge for the two-headed broadcast is “to make sure we have enough bandwidth at the studio to accommodate two streams” and create some “quality of services” rules in the station’s internet router.
“Thirty years of doin’ this stuff (live remote music broadcasts) and it doesn’t get any better than this (Strawberry),” Rice added with a big smile. “You combine it with the American River Festival, and there’s maybe nothing we can do to outdo this.”
As always, dozens of KVMR volunteers will be donating time and work to the broadcasts, according to Rice.
“It took us almost 400 volunteer hours to do the (June) Bluegrass Festival,” he added. “This is two festivals, two sites, two crews…”
And one very busy chief engineer, darting between locations.
“Buzz (Barnett) is going to be burnin’ the tires on his truck this week,” quipped Rice. “That’s for sure.”
A weekly wrap-up of news and oddities about community radio station KVMR (89.5 FM, kvmr.org streaming), a noncommercial station offering diverse musical programming, independent news and provocative public affairs.. Complete program listings are available at kvmr.org
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