Monday, November 15, 2010

We Go In the Dark with Joe Frank

The lights dim. The ethereal backing track starts. A guitarist starts in with a plaintive sound. Out walks Joe Frank, now 72. Frank nestles down in front of a microphone. He clutches his script. And with his baritone voice, grown huskier and more wary with age, Frank launches into his story.

As a radio geek, I have a special place in my heart for the folks who have kept the medium alive as more than just Where Hip Hop Lives. And Joe Frank, who hosted a variety of shows on KCRW from 1986 to 2002, brought real, gritty storytelling back to radio. (His shows inspired "This American Life's" Ira Glass, among others.)

In recent years, Frank has performed his pieces in front of live audiences, at venues such as the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco and the Largo here in L.A.

On Saturday night, Frank brought his show home to KCRW -- well, to a small, intimate KCRW audience invited to watch Frank perform at the Village Recording Studios.

After Frank's performance, we got a chance to meet the performer and shake his hand. The performance was taxing on him, but he still summoned the energy to chat and respond to our thanks.

The Village itself is an amazing, state-of-the-art facility... and we also scored a tour of the facility from Jeff Greenberg, who runs the studio. Seminal works such as the Rolling Stones' "Angie" were recorded there; Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Pink Floyd, Rage Against The Machine, Melissa Ethridge, Oasis, Usher and Nine Inch Nails have all recorded there as well.

KCRW recorded the performance for future air. Among those also in the audience was L.A. Times' media columnist, Jim Rainey. And it was great to finally meet KCRW's Sarah Spitz in person. Thanks for the invite, Sarah!

(Pics for KCRW by Jeremiah Garcia.)

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