Sweet and Lo-Fi

Bill Streeter's vlog is how others see us

The first music video Streeter ever created wasn't really a music video at all. At the Way Out Club this past February, he snapped stills of a Milwaukee band called Bleed. When he returned to his home studio, he cobbled together the digital-camera shots in a robotic montage backed by a live recording of the band's piercing performance.

"I wanted to see if I could make a music video," says Streeter. "But I hadn't even bought a video camera yet."

Streeter had, however, produced a couple of short documentaries — one about photographer Bob Reuter, another on Frederick's Music Lounge — with loaned equipment for a video-editing class he'd taken in 2004 at Meramec Community College, a course taught by Channel 9 (KETC-TV) producer Patrick Murphy.

A filmmaking class taught by KETC-TV producer Patrick 
Murphy allowed Streeter to make documentary shorts on 
underground hot spots like Frederick's Music Lounge.
A filmmaking class taught by KETC-TV producer Patrick Murphy allowed Streeter to make documentary shorts on underground hot spots like Frederick's Music Lounge.
"Bill's in love with this city, which is pretty unique," says 
grunge poster pioneer Art Chantry.  "He's building 
attention for the culture he lives in."
"Bill's in love with this city, which is pretty unique," says grunge poster pioneer Art Chantry. "He's building attention for the culture he lives in."

"He really liked my stuff and told me I should be doing stuff for them," says Streeter.

Instead, Streeter bought his own video camera, took Lo-Fi Saint Louis live in February 2005 and set out to chronicle the city's artistic underbelly. One of his early challenges was dealing with poor lighting in clubs like Lemmons, where footage of a Bloody Hollies show looked destined for the cutting-room floor until Streeter figured out a way to turn spoiled avocados into guacamole.

"I stripped it of all its color," Streeter explains. "I tried to take a disadvantage and turn it into an advantage, and it worked really well.

"I try to make it all look lo-fi," he adds. "The irony is, it's really high-tech."

Today Streeter's site boasts more than 400 daily subscribers ("subscribers" being a bit of a misnomer: the content's free). And to the dozen or so regulars on his Tuesday-night vlogging videoconference, he's a bona fide celebrity.

"Forget fifteen minutes of fame; it's that you're famous to fifteen people," says Current TV's Sloan. "It's neat to flip the matrix of success on its head, and I think a lot of vloggers are doing that."

Richard Hall's vlog, The Richard Show (Richardshow.com) is exactly as advertised: a video scrap album of Hall and his family, the highlight of which is a hilarious clip depicting the University of Missouri-Rolla prof and his beer gut climbing hesitantly into an icy stream. If his students were to see it, they might mistake him for a bear, Hall quips from the passenger seat of Streeter's maroon Mercury minivan en route to Chicago.

Streeter and Hall are both about six-foot-three and don't miss many meals. But on the Saturday of the Chicago road trip, Streeter's already skipped breakfast. With their presentation set for 6:30, they might have to sacrifice dinner too. Hence a pit stop at a KFC just outside Bloomington becomes a four-helping, whole-bird smelting of three meals into one at Colonel Sanders' ample buffet.

"I could be a vegetarian if I didn't like fried chicken so much," says Streeter, wiping thigh grease from the side of his lip with an undersize napkin.

Back in the car on the home stretch, Streeter reveals that the erstwhile late-night USA Network program Night Flight is a huge aesthetic influence, especially as it pertains to Al Lien, a toilet-mouthed extraterrestrial alter ego Streeter invented to introduce some of the harder-edged acts on his site.

"There was no hard-and-fast format," Streeter says of Night Flight, popping a cassette adapter attached to his little black iPod into his van's tape deck. "It just had to be weird."

Love them or hate them, iPods and their brethren are irrevocably altering the role of mass media in society. Case in point: Not once during Streeter and Hall's nine-hour round trip to Chicago do they listen to traditional radio stations, or even compact discs. Instead, they alternate between downloaded tunes and podcasts Streeter subscribes to, which are automatically updated via Real Simple Syndication — media aggregation software Streeter describes as "TiVo for the web." Instead of having to surf from site to site to check for newly updated content, RSS users (there's also a like-minded program tailored to video content, called FireAnt) have fresh material automatically fed to their hard drives or iPods from sites they choose. Streeter goes to bed at night knowing that when he wakes up, dozens of videos and podcasts will await him.

Streeter's favorite podcaster is a gay Chicago-based performance artist named Richard Bluestein, who inconspicuously sat in the back of the Apple Store during the "Meet the Vloggers" confab. Bluestein was able to maintain that low profile because on his podcast he's not Richard Bluestein — he's Madge Weinstein, host of Yeast Radio (yeastradio.com), a cross-dressing "bloated Jewish dyke" and breast-cancer survivor with a penchant for left-wing politics, flatulence jokes and yeast-infection advocacy.

The self-proclaimed "shock jock with no cock," Madge refers to the vice president as "Penis Cheney," liposuction as "thigh abortion" and promises potential advertisers, "If you sponsor me, I'll lick your balls."

"Madge is really what Howard Stern wants to be," says former MTV veejay Adam Curry, who has started Podshow.com, a virtual podcasting network that is attempting to monetize the audio-only segment by selling premium content and sponsorships for its stable of programs (which includes Yeast Radio).

"There's no way these corporations can build into their DNA the type of programming that's being made in podcasting," adds Curry, a self-described "jetrosexual" who splits time between San Francisco and the English countryside. "I come from that industry; it's just not going to happen. When it comes to specialty shows, they don't have the resources or seconds in the day. We have no limitations in terms of frequency and time, and that is a very bleak picture for the radio industry. People are running away from what we're hearing on mainstream radio, not just because of the time-shifting element, but because of the content itself."

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