East End Celebrates its Underground

Pthalo-Blue. Photo by Ellen Watson
The alternative rock band Pthalo-Blue. Photo by Ellen Watson

By Michelle Trauring

LTV is about to get a whole lot sexier.

For a half hour each week, the East Hampton-based public access television station will turn over its broadcast to a young, hip music series with a voice—the brainchild of Michael Clark and Ellen Watson.

They’re calling it “East End Underground.”

“I’m just really excited that we’re doing this,” Ms. Watson said during a recent telephone interview. “I grew up an enormous music fan. I cannot sing my way out of a brown paper bag, but I love music. So I’m thrilled for us, I’m thrilled for all of the musicians out here because they’ll have a place to be able to play and show themselves off to the community—people who might not know anything about them.”

For one band or solo artist, each episode will be their formal introduction to the community. The program is all about the music and only about the music—from rock and roll, rap and country to acoustic, hip hop and reggae—without a host or multiple acts sharing the stage.

It is unlike anything LTV has ever aired, according to Mr. Clark, whose former shop, Crossroads Music, was an Amagansett landmark for musicians, and their fans.

“Conceptually, I’ve had this idea for a while. And in working and brainstorming with Ellen and [Executive Director Morgan Vaughan], we came to where we are now,” Mr. Clark said during a telephone interview. “It’s kind of a living, breathing thing. Our goal—or my goal, at least—is to be certain that we’re doing something that’s completely different than anything they’ve seen on LTV before.”

Setting the bar is alternative rock band Pthalo Blue, comprised of Jack Marshall, Steven Clark, Sam Houston and Kevin Foran—all in their 20s and all East Hampton natives.

“Steven is my son, so I might be a little biased,” Mr. Clark laughed. “I have three boys who are all young and musicians themselves, so they run with that crowd. I’m able to get, ‘You should check out this band, that band’s great. They’re not out or getting the Talkhouse gigs because they don’t have a name for themselves yet, but check them out.’

Jack Marshall. Ellen Watson photo

“Some of the things I’m hearing, I’m 60 years old, so these guys may think it’s good but it’s not necessarily something I would go out and buy,” he added. “But if it’s making people happy and making the performers happy, that’s what matters. People may watch some of the shows and say, ‘Oh my gosh, how can people listen to this?’ and other people watching the same show will be saying, ‘This is awesome.’ That’s the beauty of music. And maybe this is one of those things that, for the people on the fence of a certain type of music, it will bring them over one at a time.”

Before that can happen, there is naturally a learning curve inside the studio, both Ms. Watson and Mr. Clark agreed. For the first time in recent memory, the production team is bringing in outside digital cameras instead of relying on the supplied equipment, they explained, and introducing a sound that doesn’t normally fill the studio—not to mention editing that will give the program a contemporary look, a departure from LTV’s signature style.

“All of us want to make sure it’s perfect, or close to perfect, before we put it on the air,” said Ms. Watson, who works in production LTV. “It has to be, you know?”

The goal is to enrich the deep tradition of music on the East End, and add to the ever-growing tapestry, Mr. Clark said.

“I think the music scene out here is really thriving—it always has. It’s fairly amazing,” he said. “You have the surface stuff, and the stuff I’m looking for is underneath that. You’ll always have the Nancy Atlases and the Gene Caseys of the world—the people who have been playing out here forever, who are all absolutely amazing—but there is also this undercurrent waiting beneath the surface waiting to bubble up. And now is going to be their time soon.

“The way I see it, music is all we have,” he continued. “It’s the common denominator between all of us, and it’s so important right now.”
For more information about “East End Underground,” follow them at facebook.com/eastendunderground.