Q&A with Eighteenth Street Lounge Radio: The “ESL Sound”

The Eighteenth Street Lounge made a name for itself bringing in and supporting electronic music in the District. In April they released ESL radio, a streaming web radio station aimed at broadening and democratizing the Eighteenth Street Lounge experience.  Listen Local First’s Matthew Nahmias held this Q & A with ESL Radio founder Rob Connelly to learn more about the stream and to see what they have planned for the future. 

Listen Local First: Right now you have six regularly scheduled shows, but ESL radio is available 24/7. What are we listening to when one of those shows isn’t streaming?

ESL Radio: Similar to most commercial radio stations, ESL Radio has a “format.” Ours is made up of the “ESL Sound,” combining electronic, dub, afro, funk, world, reggae, and trip hop sounds into a blend of programming designed to send listeners into a mild state of euphoria. The programming also features the specialty shows that you refer to. These shows are consistent with the programming of ESL Radio in general.

Is the focus more on streaming performances at Eighteenth Street Lounge live, or is it on giving ESL label artists an outlet to share the music they listen to through their own shows?

Both. Live performances of the DJ sets at the Eighteenth Street Lounge make up the bulk of our “Live from the Lounge” schedule. Think of this as a normal rock station that plays a blend of rock music all day, and then takes listeners “live” in venue for Live from the Lounge as a specialty feature. Of course the core of the program is heavily dosed with ESL artists and other similar artists and friends who’ve created in the ESL sound over the years.

Do you have plans to expand the line-up?

Yes, of course! Radio is a moving, changing, and evolving medium, and as opportunities arise we will use them to create new programming and new ways to collect that programming to deliver the freshest, most unique product on the radio or online. ESL Radio is broadcasting the upcoming DJ set from Ravin for example live at Buddha Bar on Thursday May 10. ESL Radio will also broadcast the full day stage at the Electric Forest Festival in late June.

Are you restricting shows to ESL label artists, or are you interested in adding shows by DJs you like that aren’t on the label?

Everyone is included, so long as the music matches the format and the artist has a unique style. Ravin, for example, does his own stuff like the Buddha Bar compilations.

Have you been tracking listeners so far?

Yes. Statistics are not the best in terms of a really reliable system, but we do get a snapshot and over time that snapshot becomes more of a picture and so on. ESL Radio kicked off April 13-15, and the stats over that weekend showed over 2600 people tuned in in 65 countries. Approximately 2/3 of them were from the DC metro area. For comparison, CNN has 357,000 viewers on a given night. The numbers of listeners and where they are from will become clearer over the coming months.

What is your intended audience?

As with anything, pretty much everyone. Obviously the ESL Brand, style and lifestyle guides our marketing and defines our audience. For the most part, they are upscale, progressive, conscientious stewards of our planet as well as educated consumers of righteous music.

One of your shows, “The Gourmet Lounge,” is billed as a musical cooking show. What was  the inspiration for a radio cooking show, and how do you plan to keep the show engaging without a video element?

ESL Radio extends beyond its music with promotional elements designed to accommodate the lifestyle of its audience. Cooking, food, wine and entertainment is certainly in the wheelhouse. The Gourmet Lounge each week gives a local chef the opportunity to cook, instruct, promote and show the tips and tricks of the pros. A show can actually be more engaging without the video element, as radio has long proven over the years. The mind and imagination of the audience is more powerful, and the relaxed atmosphere of an instructional dinner party on the radio with musical interludes is really quite unique. The show will feature downloadable recipes from the website where listeners can actually create the dishes of their favorite restaurants.

ESL hosts the DC Flag Day concert series and celebrations starting at 8 pm this Thursday, June 14.

June Featured Artists and Events!

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JUNE DC LOCAL MUSIC DAY – Wednesday June 6th
Visit http://www.listenlocalfirst.com to check out participating businesses
June Featured Artists: Visit their site, download their album!
Fire and the Wheel- http://fireandthewheel.com/
Mynoni & Friends – http://mynoniandfriends.com/
Donvonte McCoy – http://www.donvontemccoy.com/
JUNE SHOWCASES & COLLABORATIONS
  •  Capital Bop Jazz Loft Mega Fest, Saturday June 9th 3:00pm – 2:00am –  LLF will co-sponsor Capital Bop’s Mega Jazz Loft as the culmination of the DC Jazz Festival.  Purchase tickets HERE to enjoy the  pop-up shop, art gallery, improvised music venue, movie theater, eatery and more!
  • Second Annual DC Flag Day Celebration, Thursday June 14th – The Rally and Party sponsored by DC Vote, LLF and L.U.V DC will start in Dupont Circle and end at Eighteenth Street Lounge – More Details HERE
  • Listen Local First presents Dance For The Dying at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Wednesday June 27th 6:00pm – 7:00pm

CapitalBop’s Jazz Loft MegaFest @DC Jazz Festival

Today begins a ten-day, multi-venue celebration of jazz in Duke Ellington’s hometown. Consisting of over 100 performances, from elegant presentations at the Kennedy Center to outdoor family festivals to late-night club parties, the DC Jazz Festival offers enough choices to make a music lover’s head spin. But there’s one offering that stands apart from the rest: CapitalBop’s Jazz Loft Series, culminating in the Jazz Loft MegaFest. A unique, multimedia experience of the creative community of jazz, the Jazz Loft MegaFest, June 9 from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., also presents an exciting opportunity to listen local.

CapitalBop, founded in 2010 by Giovanni Russonello, aims to unite and highlight the vibrant jazz scene that calls DC its home. “I’ve always been a huge fan of jazz,” says Russonello. “But when I was going out to jazz shows as a kid, what I noticed was, no one was at them! There’d be these amazing shows with just very small audiences… CapitalBop was founded on the premise that the DC jazz scene itself has never lacked for impressive experiences, high-quality art, and exciting personalities. What people don’t understand, especially in this town, is they think it’s this historical art form that loses relevance as time passes. But for all the tropes, it’s not dying, and it never will die. It’s improvisatory, and it changes with the times. Because it’s made in the moment, you experience its creation, and that’s why live jazz shows are so thrilling…I thought of magazines like Time Out New York and the Village Voice, or the City Paper here in Washington. They serve an important purpose just by letting people know what’s going on around here. So I wanted to create something like that: an online home for the DC jazz scene.”

Soon after the CapitalBop site launched in 2010, Russonello’s friend and collaborator Luke Stewart joined him as an editor. Stewart’s band, Laughing Man, rented space at Gold Leaf Studios (a.k.a. Red Door), which became the home for the DC Jazz Loft Series starting that December. Russonello calls the Loft Series “unmediated spaces for unmediated music.”

“DC jazz performers and audiences needed not just an online resource, but to experience different presentations of the scene, get it out of the club circuit and give young people—and everyone else who may not have known about what’s happening here—a chance to participate in the jazz scene.”

The site launched in September 2010. The first project was a calendar of jazz events all over the city, which exists today as a complete, monthly catalog of every single upcoming show in DC. Beyond basic event info, the calendar contains previews, descriptions, and editor recommendations regarding each event, “so that you’ll know what you’re going to get out of every show,” as Russonello said. But there’s more to building a music scene’s online home. “The site itself is built around being most utilitarian to those who don’t know the scene,” said Russonello. As such, it also hosts a guide to DC’s jazz-friendly neighborhoods and the bars and clubs where jazz cats play. Its front page and blog are home to a wealth of articles, videos and photos. Posts may be video previews for shows, profiles of dynamic local artists, or info on the city’s weekend lineup.

The concert series known as the DC Jazz Loft Series, on the other hand, gained prominence at last year’s Jazz Fest. Russonello considers working with an organization as large and respected as the DC Jazz Fest to have been a major taking-off point for CapitalBop, which presented four Loft Series shows for Jazz Fest last year. “For every show, we paired really renowned bands from out of town—last year they were all from New York—with local bands. It both gave the most innovative musicians in the country a home right here in DC, and gave the local bands a lot of really good exposure as the openers for nationally renowned groups.” Among CapitalBop’s local collaborators are two of Listen Local First’s featured artists for the month of June, Donvonte McCoy and Kris Funn, who headlined CapitalBop’s section of Lumen8Anacostia earlier this year. Russonello said that the success of last year’s Loft Series also greatly increased traffic to the CapitalBop site. “It’s interesting, because we started the site as a tool to get people out to the live shows, but it turns out to work the other way around as well.”

This year, CapitalBop is presenting some similar Loft Series shows to last year’s: nationally renowned groups paired with local jazz bands. The Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra, unique in that it is led by a bass clarinet, headlines with Christie Dashiell Quartet tonight (6/1/12) at The Dunes, and Kris Funn & Corner Store—one of LLF’s June featured artists—open for “absolute star” group Tarbaby on Saturday 6/2 at The Fridge.

But the big event, the Jazz Loft MegaFest, is in a whole other league. From 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., visitors to the three-floor “loft” at 629 New York Avenue will experience music, film, food and fun as only DC could do it. MegaFest will feature:

-Concerts all day, leading up to a two-set headline show by Marc Cary’s Cosmic Indigenous
“Danceable, futurist, roots-exploring but also totally experimental jazz”

-Spotlight of up-and-coming high-school all-stars of the Jazz Academy, under Paul Carr

-Screening of “Icons Among Us: jazz in the present tense,” a film about the living jazz scene

-Panel on the cross-pollination of jazz and hip-hop by Shaolin Jazz

-Pop-up shop of vintage clothes and records, plus “floating art gallery,” by SHAM

-Catering and drinks by Taste of DC‘s network of local chefs

Russonello says that the diverse multimedia format of MegaFest “stresses the idea that jazz is a way of integrating thoughts, feelings, and experience into a real-time form of expression. It’s music that really knows no bounds, because you can create what you want, and create with your heart, and have the musical vocabulary to do that…It’s really about creating a community around an art form, or around the shared experience of art being created in front of you. The most exciting thing is how much of an experience it will be.”

Saturday, June 9 / 3 p.m.-2 a.m. / 629 NY Ave. NW / $10-12 online, $15 at the door. Tickets & Schedule