Sounds on 29th's Heather Dalton talks Teletunes and Denver music TV history
Heather Dalton has been part of the Denver music scene for decades, as a musician and TV show host and producer. Her latest project, Sounds on 29th, is a live performance and comedy show gearing up for its third season on local TV stationCPT12 this spring.
A collaboration with director Amy Larson and the crew of Denver's DIY-driven Brass Tree Sessions, Sounds on 29th is hosted by Sid Pink and gives local musicians, artists and comedians a platform to reach a wider audience.
See also: Sounds on 29th premieres on CPT12
This Thursday, December 12, at 3 Kings Tavern, the show invites one and all to be a part of the Sounds on 29th Live Gong Show and fundraiser, kicking off at 7 p.m. In advance of the benefit for the local music and comedy show, Dalton spoke with Westword about Sounds on 29th and how she got into television in the first place.
Westword: Can you talk a little bit about the Sounds on 29th show and how it originated?
Heather Dalton: Sounds on 29th was a collective project between myself and our director Amy Larson and some of the gentlemen from Brass Tree Sessions. Channel 12 has a history of being very involved with the local music scene with a show called Teletunes -- which, at the time, was the longest running music video program. It even predated MTV.
We kind of wanted to return to our roots -- but instead of looking at a national level, which Teletunes had done, we had so much incredible local talent that we decided to focus our efforts on the local scene. That's kind of how it came together. We were honestly only going to do a couple of episodes -- but it is a passion-driven project. We've had a really great amount of feedback from the local community and we just want to keep it going as long as we possibly can.
We have a very shoestring budget -- we've been very fortunate that the station has signed on, but outside of production costs, we don't have an operating budget. I'm the Executive Producer. We have a committee that chooses the acts, but I oversee aspects of production and booking.
Why did you decide to do a live music show versus, say, another video-driven show like Teletunes?
There's definitely a well of great videos being produced locally, but we felt that it was more intimate to go with a live show. Honestly, someone like myself -- an old scenester who doesn't make it out that much anymore (laughs) -- it was kind of selfish too, because you can see some of the greatest local acts in Denver without having to pay a cover charge and deal with a bunch of bumbling drunks.
How did you get into working with this kind of media?
Strangely enough, being a local musician many years ago, I actually hosted Teletunes, and started in television that way. I was a VJ who hosted interviews with national bands, as well as introducing the video line-ups.I really had no career path this direction, with production and editing, but I started with Channel 12 in 1992 and I've been there in many capacities ever since. But Teletunes was my introduction.
I had to go through an audition process to get on Teletunes; I auditioned with, I believe, 23 other people. It was a right place, right time sort of thing. I grew up watching Teletunes and it was something very near and dear to my heart. I feel like I can die happy now, knowing that almost twenty years later I am still working in some way related to Teletunes.
I was with Teletunes for about six years -- I started producing toward the end, because I wanted to step out of hosting.
Do you have an memorable interviews or episodes of Teletunes?
There was a lot of great ones! My very first interview was with Foo Fighters and Dave Grohl, which was extremely intimidating -- Pat Smear was running around naked in the background and refused to be on camera. But Dave Grohl was very gracious and understood as I kind of fumbled through the interview. Luscious Jackson and Love and Rockets were two other interviews that made me feel like the luckiest girl in the world to be able to participate in.
What is it about shows like Teletunes and Sounds on 29th that make them valuable to the community of viewers?
As media becomes more scattered, we kind of lose our connections in our interwoven thread as television viewers. For those of us involved in the local music scene, we understand the importance of that community. But I think for our viewers as well, it is just as important. Some people might not take a look out of their backdoors and see all of the amazing things going on in this town. We really have flourished and blossomed as a scene. With this concept of media-on-demand, we lose some of the intimacy and kind of don't see what's going on around us. Our main goal at Sounds on 29th is to share that with the people who are looking just past what is happening locally.
What goes into curating an episode of Sounds on 29th?
We have been extremely fortunate in that we have a long list of acts we want to get on the show -- we are trying not to be genre-specific, and keep it open to all different types. It might take us twenty years to get everyone on here, but we keep telling bands, if you're not on yet, please keep in touch with us. There is so much great talent in so many different pockets -- we'd love to get more electronic and performance art on this next season that we have in the past. It is an evolving process we have to refine over time.
We can only shoot the show quarterly, so we can only do about 18 episodes -- we do twenty per season, but eighteen are live and the other two are "best of" episodes. Ideally, we'd like to pick up production and get more people in. But right now, we are very lucky because we have so many different acts to choose from. We look forward to a longevity of the show, because we have so many acts we want to get in.
We just wrapped our second season, with over forty episodes filmed. We will be going into our third season at the end of March in 2014.
What is the Sounds on 29th Gong Show happening tomorrow night at 3 Kings?
This is fundraiser in support of independent public media -- Sounds On 29th the music show, in particular. We decided that we wanted to do something a little bit more unconventional than in year's past where we would just have bands play. We wanted to also involve the comedians who had been a large part of our success this last season. We started throwing around the idea of a Gong Show and everybody loved it. It took off from there. Growing up in the 70s and being huge fans of the original Gong Show, we thought it would be a fun way to celebrate the close of the season and to allow people to make gigantic asses of themselves. (Laughs.)
We'll have a revolving panel of four comedic judges, and Sid Pink (Sounds on 29th's host) will emcee the event. What happens is, anyone is allowed to get up and perform any time of rare acts that they have -- a song, a dance, anything that they would like to showcase. Then, the four judges will score their performance on a scale of one to ten. If the performance has derailed and gone so horribly wrong, any judges have the right to "gong" and eliminate the person during the performance.
Denver's own Magic Cyclops is going to be putting an act together and John Rumley from Late Night Denver is going to be doing a song and dance number. Comedian Christie Buchele will be doing an act, along with some of the other comedians on the panel as well.
So you've got some performances lined-up for the Gong Show already, but people can sign up the night of to compete as well?
Yes! We are encouraging people to come on down and perform. The more the merrier. We really want to show off all that Denver has to offer.
Sounds on 29th's Live Gong Show fundraiser begins tomorrow night, December 12 at 7 p.m. at 3 Kings Tavern; tickets are $7 at the door for the 21-and-up evening. Live music will be provided by local three-piece Rubedo and the show will be hosted by Sid Pink. For more information, or to sign up and take a chance at getting gonged, go to the event's Facebook page. (Participants may sign up the night of the event at 3 Kings directly, too.)
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