A few nerdy dudes, two couches in an otherwise barren basement, and a video camera. With MuchMusic turned over to Leah Miller’s minions and whomever wins the all-pervasive VJ Search 2.0, this simple format stands as a striking alternative to the glamorous folk with the obnoxiously loud in-studio audience on Queen West. But with the launch of AUXtv, with an impressive 285,000 viewers in its first week, the channel’s new late-night spot—Talk Show Night at Juicebox Manor—may look more like the future of cool music programming for the coveted 18–34 set.
The five BFFs who came up with the idea—with a collective resume boasting published work (and editorial positions) with Exclaim!, Broken Pencil, Torontoist, more Torontoist, and names in bands like Junior Battles—were already eating pulled-pork sandwiches, drinking beer, and taking in gigs together. So when AUXtv agreed to cash in for a pilot late last year, the cameras essentially recorded their current lives, just with the added spark of a few musical personas. Now, they share their booze and stretched-sausage sammies with whichever rock stars they invite into their house. In the first week, for example, the pals decided to call in a favour from Andrew W.K. Surprisingly enough, the hard-partier was more than willing to join in a sleepover (on completely platonic terms), eating ice cream and sharing secrets under the covers with the circle of friends—and thus, Talk Show Night was created in that bedroom, that night.
The show’s set up in a house, er, manor at Christie and Dupont is basic, bare—budget, even. (Episode two, featuring Alexisonfire and the Thermals, is above.) But the lacklustre set leaves room for the guests to stand out; and for the viewer to feel there too, like eavesdropping on conversations in a buddy’s basement. Sam Sutherland, one of the aforementioned dudes on couch describes the sit-down segment: “We always tell people it’s like Wayne’s World, but really, it’s much more like Animal Planet. With music instead of lemurs or whatever. It’s bands interacting in their natural habitat.” And a natural habitat it is—for bands who’ve been playing the garage- or basement-rock circuit throughout their youthful years, the Manor’s stage will seem familiar. “Weird, cold, and wet,” and “only reaching heights of about six-foot-two, in its most expansive places,” Sutherland’s description of the basement bandstand sounds suitable for those groups who can’t afford a more professional soundstage or at least those who pretend they can’t.
But that is the point, after all. The environment’s informal, friendly feel is purposeful—an attempt to derive something you can only get from inviting someone into your home. “We want to get something out of our guests that you won’t see on a sterile TV set,” says Sutherland, “We want every band performance to feel intimate and special and vital.”
Talk Show Night‘s third episode, featuring Woodhands, The Artist Life, and Wax Mannequin goes live on AUXtv tonight at 11 p.m.