LiveWire Radio is a locally produced and nationally broadcast radio variety show that is taped live in front of a studio audience at the Alberta Rose Theatre. It’s smart, funny, irrerevent, and an absolute blast to see live. We are sponsors of the show and they invited us in for a peek behind the dial during soundcheck and rehearsal before a recent taping with the incredible Reggie Watts and Michael Kiwanuka–it was a kickoff to our partnership and they offered up bottles of Cold Brew to the enrapt crowd. Since this taping, the inimitable Courtenay Hameister has gracefully stepped down as host after nine years (listen to her goodbye speech here) but she remains on the show as the Head Writer and Co-Producer. The new host is the ever-talented Luke Burbank.
We sat down with the show’s Executive Producer and Co-Creator Robyn Tenenbaum for some insight about how the show started, where’s it’s gone and where it’s headed.
You are the executive producer and co-creator of the show. How did it all come together?
Kate Sokoloff (a branding consultant in town) and I began working on the show in February 2003. She approached me with an idea to produce a show for Portland, like what West Coast Live was for San Francisco, a live radio show that featured the best talent of what Oregon – and the rest of the country – had to offer in terms of people who did fascinating things, great musicians and the occasional oddball, who no one knew about but everyone should. Kate had been a caller on Car Talk once and that was the extent of her radio experience, but she had the vision of what she wanted to achieve. Her experience was steeped in live theater and she had a lot of great connections around town who helped in the early phases. I had produced West Coast Live for 4 years so I had a working knowledge of the elements needed to get a show on the air.
Courtenay Hameister was working for an advertising firm at that time as a copywriter and helped write and design many of our materials with Bob Thompson at Dangerr Creative. We came up with great materials to take to OPB and other potential supporters and the materials were innovative and so pretty it was hard to throw them away.
Jim Brunberg, our Technical Producer was a musician I had known from San Francisco. He was opening up Mississippi Studios at the time and had the expertise to record a live show and impeccably edit it for the radio. Ralph Huntley was with his band Klezmocracy, who was the original house band for Live Wire. And Carolyn Lindberg had radio and radio marketing experience. So, it was a strange and wonderful convergence of people all at the same time. I don’t use the word ‘synchronicity’ often but this truly was pure synchronicity.
Early on, we were able to get the attention of the right people at OPB to convince them that we had a great idea and the expertise to execute it, and OPB agreed to air us if we handled the budget and the production of the show, essentially if we stayed independent. Many of the radio shows we hear are started and/or backed by a station, so Live Wire is unique in that we are a completely independent production that airs on OPB. (more…)