The local NPR affiliate KCRW brings a new style of concert series to a Malibu venue on the height of new music technology.
By Nora Fleming / Special to The Malibu Times
Every weekday morning, Nic Harcourt, music director for KCRW, the local National Public Radio affiliate station broadcasted from Santa Monica College, showcases musical talents live, on-air in the show “Morning Becomes Eclectic.” Many, he believes, have a future in an increasingly competitive music industry.
“I use the public airwaves to support artists [who] would otherwise go unheard,” said Harcourt, who is credited with bringing talents such as Norah Jones and Coldplay to the public ear and, later, to international fame.
A few of these up-and-coming, and often original performers, will be making a live appearance in a KCRW-sponsored concert series based off Harcourt’s morning show.
The series, KCRWSessions, will take place at the Malibu Performing Arts Center, beginning April 24 with Australian pop singer Sia. She will perform and answer questions from Harcourt in the 500-seat MPAC venue.
“Sia is an incredible performer. She’s somebody that the station has had a long relationship with,” said Liz MacDonald, KCRW director of special events and producer of KCRWSessions. “She presents beautifully and is so dynamic.”
Harcourt started playing Sia’s work seven years ago on the station. The artist recently released her fourth album, “Some People Have Real Problems; in addition to solo albums, she has also collaborated and provided vocals for a number of tracks for other bands, including the Grammy nominated Zero 7.
“She’s unpredictable and a little crazy,” Harcourt said of the artist, whose music has been described as “soulful pop music for the 21st century.”
The upcoming concert series is by no means an unusual venture for the station. Broadcasted from San Diego to the Ventura County area, KCRW plays host to a number of local events, in particular the signature “Sounds Eclectic” evening, held every October at the Gibson Amphitheater and moderated by Harcourt.
However, while community concerts and events are nothing new, the style of the upcoming KCRWSessions series is.
The idea for KCRWSessions is based on Harcourt’s weekday morning show, “Morning Becomes Eclectic.” On the show, Harcourt features unique, promising and often unheard artists that perform in the KCRW studio and answer Harcourt’s questions on-air. The station hopes to bring the experience of the radio show to a live audience so they can see in person what they hear on-air, said Harcourt, who will host both the first and second KCRWSessions. The second and third performances will take place in June and in November or December, both at MPAC, selected for its quality facilities and technological capabilities.
“The thing that appeals about [MPAC] is it’s actually a recording studio with 500 seats. You don’t get the sense that you are in a venue someplace. It feels like you are standing here at KCRW watching a band in our station,” MacDonald said.
MPAC, located behind Malibu City Hall off Stewart Ranch Road, was the vision of Gene Shiveley, MPAC president and CEO, who has worked in the music industry for decades.
The center, which sits on six and a half acres of land, with a 40,000 square foot building, houses a recording studio, performance area, dance studios, production house, retail space and private party and meeting facilities. Property ownership is shared with the Malibu Christian Fellowship, a small congregation that still holds Sunday services on-site, and has been intrinsic in working with Shiveley to develop a vision for the center.
“The goal or vision is to be a creative utopia for the creative community of Malibu,” Shiveley said. “Whether it be for someone who needs to paint or write, [MPAC] is a safe place for the creative space of Malibu to come and perform.”
In addition to serving a full range of media needs, the center has often teamed with nonprofit organizations in hosting concerts and performances to support local, national and international causes, such as Project Red, a fight against the AIDS epidemic, and the recent Mudcrutch concert benefiting The Midnight Mission. MPAC is also often the site for city events, such as the State of City address a few weeks ago, because the city lacks a similar venue.
Shiveley has also made sure MPAC is utilizing all the latest technology, one of the reasons KCRW was attracted to the site. Through Galaxy 3 with Roberts Communications, MPAC can broadcast any live performance through new digital media, such as iPods, Pay Per View, cell phones and the Web.
KCRWSessions will stream live through this technology to the station’s Web site.
With more digital access to music, KCRW has also expanded outside of the local airwaves and utilized new technologies by offering a daily, 24-hour music stream, digital downloads and Podcasts through its Web site. Site viewers can also access past shows and programs they missed on-air.
“Radio, in general, is kind of boring. There’s not a lot of adventure,” Harcourt said. “But it’s never been a better time to discover music as a consumer.”
Tickets for the first KCRWSessions sold out to members only in just seven minutes on March 18, but the tickets for the second and third shows, as well as the performers picked to play, have not yet been released. More information can be obtained at the Web site, kcrw.com