Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2003

Fusion’ takes detour onto ‘Turnpike’

August 16, 2003


Call it a facelift, an artistic revision or an outright radical overhaul.

Whatever the description, Lawrence's "Fusion" transformed into "The Turnpike" in July.

The long-running live music show on Sunflower Broadband Channel 6 made some philosophical and personnel changes in keeping with the city's ever-evolving music scene. While recently added "Fusion" host Tim vonHolten has taken a more active role in the new proceedings, new producer Jon Mohr has imported his unique view to program.

"How is it going to be different?" vonHolten asked just before the new program's launch. "How is it NOT going to be different?"

"We're paying a lot more attention now to the look and sound of the show," Mohr specified. "Plus, it was always shot in The Bottleneck; it was always in The Jazzhaus. Even if it's safer, you cut out a lot of music by keeping it in those same places. We need to get into teepees and rooftops and open it up."

"The Turnpike" still follows the basic format of netting interviews and live performances by local and national acts who take the stage in Lawrence. Yet Mohr has promised a more cutting-edge approach that will allow for steering the production in new directions.

"I'm playing with different visual effects that I think would make the show interesting, like faster cuts and colorizing the video or making it appear like film," said Mohr, who will tailor the look of each episode to the sound of the band being featured. "There have got to be some ways to brand the show, but I want it to always be changing like music can."

The half-hour "Turnpike" debut highlighted an act that the pair specifically recruited for the occasion.

"We thought that the perfect show for the kickoff would be Split Lip Rayfield," vonHolten said of the Wichita-bred bluegrass quartet. "They've taken a break for a year. When I heard they were back together, I thought, 'Man, these guys have got to be on, and there have to be explosions and/or firearms.' They were definitely amicable to that."

Mohr elaborated, "They're kind of a Johnny Cash of our area, where people from all walks can identify with something in that music and appreciate it."

'Fast-moving thoroughfare'

The award-winning "Fusion" made its Channel 6 debut on Sept. 1, 1997, featuring local artists Scott Springer, David van Hee and music from that year's Warped Tour. Mohr, who worked at Channel 6 previously after graduating Kansas University with degrees in film and English, became familiar with the program almost immediately.

"I would watch 'Fusion' occasionally because I would help out with some audio," said Mohr, who was one of the masterminds behind the station's oddball cooking show "Guided By Flavor." "I would hear complaints about certain things, but I would also get some compliments, because there have been some quality shows done in the past. I think after having a certain format for so long, with people's attention spans the way they are, it just needs to keep changing."

So why the name "Turnpike?"

"As far as a fast-moving thoroughfare, I think that's a nice symbol of what we want to do," vonHolten said. "The (Kansas) Turnpike merges -- no pun intended -- and connects all areas of this scene that we're trying to expose more people to, from Kansas City to Wichita to Topeka to Lawrence."

Plans to expand the program into other regional markets are on the horizon. But for now, the organizers are concentrating on luring the Lawrence community to embrace the telecast.

"'The Turnpike' is an opportunity for people to see bands that they may never hear on the radio," said vonHolten, who books the artists who appear on the show. "It's a unique format in that we're bringing in local and national acts that people just can't find at Wal-Mart and won't see on MTV. But in certain circles, they're as well known as 3 Doors Down, Godsmack or Nickelback."

Mohr and vonHolten hope the community takes a more active role in "The Turnpike" as it continues to evolve.

"I definitely need suggestions and comments because I can't be this crazy little alchemist in a basement doing the show," Mohr said. "It's got to be done for the bands and for the people who like music."

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