Jerry Bryant’s long-running JBTV hosted a concert featuring nationally renowned hometown duo, Local H, on a recent Thursday night. It was a one-of-a-kind musical experience for the 180 fans who packed the intimate River North recording studio.
For 90 minutes, singer/guitarist Scott Lucas and drummer Ryan Harding beat a thunder that shook the room like an arena.
In between songs, fans shouted encouragement and made requests directly to Lucas. He responded by telling jokes and sharing stories, usually without getting on the mike.
For Bryant, the Emmy award-winning founder of JBTV, it was another of nearly 3,000 shows that he and his small staff have recorded, filmed, edited, produced and broadcast over the last three decades.
Since 1984, JBTV has been memorializing live music — from Cake to Megadeath and Dave Matthews to Joey Ramone — enroute to creating one of the highest quality musical archives in the country.
JBTV was founded when Bryant, a commercial producer/editor for “like 300 clients,” noticed the number of excellent songs and performers that were going unnoticed.
“On the same reel that we had a clip from Madonna,” he explains, “there’d be another clip from a great unknown artist.”
So he started broadcasting the booty on “the only place where real people can get on TV:” public access Channel 19. A few weeks after it premiered, the show was picked up by WGBO.
These days, the concerts are broadcast every Wednesday night at 11:30 p.m. on PRISM/Ch. 62.4, every Saturday night at 1:00 a.m. on WJYS/Ch. 62 and webcast around the clock on JBTVmusic.com’s live-streaming video network channel.
The shows initally featured up-and-coming artists who were short on exposure but tall on talent. It captured bands in the studio and in venues throughout the city. Early episodes included regional favorites, like the Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails, as well as a 90s’ era Local H show at the Metro.
Current episodes feature the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Bastille, Capital Cities and Foster the People.
JBTV’s Grand Avenue production facility is equipped with nine HD cameras and a 24 track audio suite. The bands are often booked and promoted in partnership with Q101 FM. JBTV’s music director is Greg Corner, who also plays bass for Kill Hannah, another former guest performer that went on to become one of Chicago’s gifts to the music world.
The expertise and equipment make the studio one of the best resources for creating commercial content, according to JBTV executive producer Thomas Flynn.
“We see a lot of brands right now amplifying their strategy by promoting artists,” he says.
“What Jerry built to perfect live music — it’s the highest quality of audio and video production, the easiest turnkey way to work with a band. Bar none,” he says.
Although the show’s production capabilities and musical legacy have attracted national attention for years, its dedication to emerging talent is still a hallmark of Bryant’s mission.
At the Local H show, he seemed most proud of the fans who told him, “When I was 9 years-old I first discovered this band on JBTV.”
Then he remained in the studio until 5:30 a.m., editing the concert footage into a video that premiered Friday and scored thousands of hits before the weekend.