This week we go back to a special episode of The RFC MINI SHOW that premiered in February, 2015, but which featured archive footage originally shot back in 1990 at The Empty Glass (when their stage was up front, where the soundboard is now). This show stars Three Bodies, AKA Jon “Kris” Cormany, Brian Young and Brian Lucas.
For our mini-milestone I wanted to do something out of the ordinary, and revisiting one of the top bands from the original radio run of Radio Free Charleston seemed to fill the bill. Let me quote the original notes from 2015…
Originally the plan was to end The RFC MINI SHOW with episode fifty, but as time progressed, it became apparent that there was simply too much great music in Charleston to simply let this show go away. I don’t think I ever officially mentioned this, but on The RFC MINI SHOW we don’t repeat any of the musical artists. We might have musicians on solo and later as part of a group, but each episode of the show features an act that hasn’t been on yet. We’ve got a long list of folks that haven’t turned up on The RFC MINI SHOW yet, so expect us to stick around for the long term.
To observe our little milestone we decided to mine the rich RFC Archives and bring you footage shot at The Empty Glass twenty-five years ago. Three Bodies was one of the top bands of the first RFC era, and we captured them doing a soundcheck at The Glass in the fall of 1990. They perform the songs “Gardens of Hope” and “Shingles and Tar,” which they later recorded at SoundTracs studio in South Charleston with the production team of Spencer Elliott and Rudy Panucci. Here you get to hear the songs in their raw form.
Back in the day, The Empty Glass was laid out in quite a different manner than it is now. The stage was in the front of the bar where the soundboard is now. The kitchen was behind a wall where the stage is now. It’s pretty weird watching this footage if you’re familiar with The Empty Glass as it is now.
Anyway, we hope you enjoy this look back at the Charleston Music Scene, as Radio Free Charleston continues to look forward, too.
Pretty cool, huh? Just think how this footage is now more than thirty years old, and everybody involved is at least in their 50s. Or maybe don’t think about that. It’s a little depressing.
It’s hard to believe that we’re in the fourth month of 2021 already. Maybe it’s the pandemic-induced time-fog, but for a year that’s already seen an attempted coup, a successful stimulus program and here in West Virginia an experiment in kakistocracy as performance art, the year seems to be flying by at an insane pace.
Since this is a pop culture blog, and these days you can’t get much more pop culture-y than streaming services, I’m going to play a little catch-up this week and offer some of my brief observations of new and old streaming services in which I have been indulging.
Last week I gave you my first impression of how well the WWE Network’s move to Peacock is going. I appear to be in a tiny minority, but I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth for the first time in years. I never used the pause or rewind functions, and didn’t search by wrestler before, so losing that didn’t really affect me. I have been struggling with getting a decent stream from WWE Network for years, so being able to watch the Fastlane PPV uninterrupted was a delight.
Likewise, Peacock going back and editing all the blackface and bad attempts at race-based comedy doesn’t really bother me either.
The rest of Peacock is a nice bonus. Having access to every episode of every season of Law & Order: SVU is sort of like having free24/7 delivery of crack to the house, and it’s cool to go back through all the seasons of Saturday Night Live to see how many times it was obvious that their old shows were better. There’s more stuff there than I’ll get around to watching, and at five bucks a month (with ads) AND the WWE Network included, it’s one of the best streaming values around.
The WWE Network goes away in the US on April 4, and since I really only watch the PPVs, special events and documentaries, I won’t miss it. It’s a little bittersweet, since I only got a Roku streaming device in the first place so I could watch WWE Network, but time marches on, and I will have a much more pleasant viewing experience now.
By the same token, I mainly wanted HBO Max to replace DC Universe, which Warnermedia gutted last year. I have access to most of the DC Universe video content that I want, plus I have HBO and the excellent new Looney Tunes cartoon shorts. I’ve had HBO on and off since 1977, but I dropped it from my DirecTV account about five years ago. It’s cool to have it back again.
Theatrical movies on the day they open in theaters are a bonus (for the rest of this year), and it’s cool to get to see Last Week Tonight live now. It’s odd that they bought the rights to show South Park, but seeing it uncensored is a revelation.
However, the navigation of the app on Roku is garbage. It takes three minutes for the main screen to load, and each section after that loads slowly. I would love it if streaming services would give me the option of skipping the “Who’s Watching” profile screen, and also let me flip a switch that would keep the credits going at full-screen without the next show starting with a countdown.
I’m a credit-reading nerd. Don’t make me have to work hard to enjoy that part of the show. I can’t be the only person who hates having the credits lopped off or shrunk down to an unreadable size. HBO Max is hardly the only offender, but since they really need to rebuild their entire technical interface to bring their app up to acceptable standards, they might as well fix that, too.
The whole idea of having separate profiles is useless when you’ve only got two people in the house. It’s just a longer wait and another hoop through which to jump to get to the main screen… which as I pointed out, takes forever to load.
The content is great, but we knew that already. How about making it easy to get to it? HBO is a quality brand, but they really need to iron out the bugs, reprogram their index pages and stop rotating out movies and shows so frequently. Also, it would be nice if some of the movies didn’t freeze or just stop with no warning. At fifteen bucks a month, the technical interface shouldn’t be the worst among the streaming services.
Mrs. PopCulteer has signed us up for Paramount + so she can indulge her SpongeBob habit, and, perhaps because they had practice under their previous name, CBS All Access, they have their navigation act together. The stream is solid and everything is easy to find. They have almost every episode of every cartoon in the Nickelodeon library, plus they have tons of Paramount movies, and every episode of every Star Trek show,
They also have current episodes of every CBS show from daytime, late night and prime time, and all their news programs, which would be great if I watched anything on CBS. They also have all the classic TV shows produced by Paramount, from The Twilight Zone to Happy Days to Cheers, Twin Peaks and more. They also have plenty of sports programming, but I won’t hold that against them.
Again, it’s more than I’ll ever have time to watch, but for seven bucks a month, it’s a good deal.
These are just my quick observations. In the coming weeks and months I’ll take deeper dives into some of the individual programs on these new streaming services.
That is this week’s PopCulteer. Check back for all our regular features and fresh content every day.
I first heard Tautologic three years ago when Herman Linte played a track from their album, Re-Psychle on The AIR‘s progressive rock program, Prognosis, and the band caught my ear. I was pleasantly surprised to learn they were from Chicago. I started following them on Facebook, and in the Summer of 2019 I happened to be arriving in the Windy City via Amtrak on the same day they were playing an outdoor show at one of my favorite hangouts, Giddings Plaza in Lincoln Square.
Mel and I managed to get into town, get checked in to our hotel and jump on the L in time to catch the band performing live–on one of the hottest days of the year. Of course Mel and I shot video for Radio Free Charleston, but since the RFC video show is basically an annual event these days, the footage remained unedited, on my hard drive, until late in 2020, when I put together our latest video episode. When that show debuted I sent links to the band and got in touch with their leader, Ethan Sellers.
Tautologic was first formed in 1997 by Ethan Sellers and Pat Buzby, and their current line-up was settled in 2010. The band has an eclectic sound, heavily influenced by progressive rock, but also with diverse elements in the mix that make them really stand out in an era where so much pop music has a sameness to it. Tautologic makes true progressive pop, and it’s a joy to listen to.
It turns out that Tautologic has a new album coming out April 2, 2021 (that would be tomorrow, if you’re reading this the day I post it).
I’ve been previewing tracks from Wheels Fall Off on the RFC radio show on The AIR for a few weeks now, and when I was offered the chance to do a quick interview with Ethan (seen left), even though I don’t often do interviews in PopCult, I jumped at the chance and this is how it went…
PopCult: Your new Album, Wheels Fall Off, is due out April 2. How much was this album shaped by the pandemic, lyrically and musically?
Ethan: Lyrically, it was not at all influenced by the pandemic. The last of the album’s lyrics was probably written in 2015 – so any resemblance to current events is either a matter of resonance, circular history, or perhaps clairvoyance (haha).
Musically, the primary influence of the pandemic was that the absence of gigs turned my musical focus exclusively towards studio work, teaching lessons, and general wood-shedding/self-improvement. Most of the album’s tracking was already completed before the pandemic, but I used the time in isolation to perfect the vocals and tinker with synth/keyboard sounds.
A bit later on, when we were more confident about going into the recording studio, Pat Buzby re-recorded a few drum tracks at Rax Trax in Chicago to insure that the whole album has a unified sonic character.
Rick Barnes at Rax Trax mixed and mastered most of the album on his own. I came in for an afternoon or so to do in-person tweaks once he’d gotten it most of the way, and we did a few minor touch-ups after the fact.
PopCult: When did you begin work on this album? I know that some of the songs date to before the pandemic.
Ethan: Without looking at the file creation dates, I’d say that some of the very earliest performances were recorded a decade ago – but much of that was built upon and then replaced as the arrangements evolved and line-up of the band changed. Four of the ten songs were recorded mostly-live at a full-band session in late 2013.
To be frank, I didn’t work consistently on the album. During the period 2009-2013, I struggled financially, was doing a lot of other musical projects to cobble together an income, and my father went through a series of health problems and passed away in 2012. It wasn’t an easy time. Things started to get on track financially around 2014, but I needed a few years to earn some money to finance the previous album, Re:Psychle, this album, and some other projects I have in progress. All of these albums were financed primarily through a combination of gigs and recording work I did for other musicians/clients over the course of several years.
PopCult: Your lead single, “That’s What I Hear,” was released as a benefit for the ACLU, and has decidedly political lyrics. How hard is it to try to craft an upbeat song with political themes in what can be such discouraging times? Is this sort of what “Memo To Yourself” was about?
Ethan: Contrasts are useful for balance – otherwise a song with serious lyrics gets too dour or an upbeat song with happy lyrics ends up too treacly. I remember Sting talking years ago about using the dark lyrics/light music contrast on his song “All This Time,” and that stuck with me as a good idea. In the case of “That’s What I Hear,” both the lyrics and the vocal melody went through a couple iterations before the final version. It started with the title, which I had envisioned as part of a then-imaginary medley of soul classics whose titles would read in sequence like a brief dialogue: “What’s Going On?,” “Freddie’s Dead,” “That’s What I Hear….” – so the obvious task after that was to write a song that could keep company with classics by Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield. I’ll leave it to others to decide how I did at that….
With regards to “Memo to Yourself”…Sting/The Police rear their heads again as a musical influence here as well, I suppose. The lyric is loosely based on an imaginary seduction I never had the nerve to attempt. The ending rant was a free association that somehow stuck – so the politics there come from my subconscious, I guess.
PopCult: In the song “High School Reunion” (heard on this week’s Radio Free Charleston) you sing about not wanting to attend your school reunion. When you wrote this song did you realize how many people share the sentiment?
Ethan: At the time when I wrote it (coming up on 20 years ago), I had no idea. Now I know it. At 10 years post-high school, it’s still too early for many of us to re-visit the traumas of our teen-aged years while we’re still trying really hard to figure out and/or become who we’re going to be.
It’s really been in the last 10 years as I’ve re-connected with some of my high school classmates on Facebook, and I’ve seen that we’re all kind of going through the same stuff in terms of having kids and all of that. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised that many of my high school classmates have turned out to be better and/or more interesting people than I would have predicted at the time. Some turned out pretty much exactly as predicted, too.
Probably the biggest thing that I’ve realized is that everyone in high school is not only dealing with their developing brains and bodies, but they’re also saddled with all of the garbage their parents programmed into them. If kids are lucky/smart enough to leave town and have different experiences – college, the military, Peace Corps, whatever – they get a chance to re-evaluate, un-learn, and re-program.
Maybe I’ll write a kinder sequel – one that acknowledges that most of us were trying our best.
PopCult: As with your other albums, ‘Wheels Fall Off’ has such a delightful mix of musical influences–I hear hints of everything from Jethro Tull to Kansas to Madness, Zappa and other acts that combine musical intricacy with sharp pop sensibilities. What are the five “go to” albums in your record collection?
Ethan: Thanks! A lot of that’s in there, for sure. Picking five… that’s hard. I could use up five albums each on some artists I like. I listen to a lot of different music and basically try to reverse engineer it and mash it up with other stuff. The one thing I’ve noticed about the streaming era is that my tastes are broader, but I listen to everything far fewer times. You can binge an entire artist’s catalog and get a sense of their vibe/approach, but your relationship with the music isn’t as deep.
PopCult: Tell me a little about the grant from the Illinois Arts Council that helped finance the completion of this album. What was the grant application process like?
Ethan: The Illinois Arts Council was my first successful grant application. I honestly didn’t expect to get it, because I hadn’t had any luck with some other grants for which I’ve applied. You need to prove that you’re a resident of Illinois and put together an artist statement, artist bio, a budget, and obviously samples of your work. Having a few albums’ worth of self-promotion under my belt, I had a fair amount of “language” drafted, but it can be an exhausting process to try to explain yourself and your art. The process forces you to really think about what you’re doing and why it matters, and sometimes that line of thinking takes you to some dark nights of the soul where you start to ask, “Well, does anyone actually really need my art?”
PopCult: The pandemic has torpedoed so many band’s live performance routines. Are there any plans for Tautologic to perform live any time soon? What does the future hold for Tautologic?
Ethan: No plans to play live until we’re all vaccinated. By the time that happens, it’ll have been almost a year and a half since we’ve all played together – so there will be some rust-scraping to do. Also, I’ve been writing – so we might just head straight into pre-production rehearsals for the next one. We’ll just have to see…
I want to thank Ethan Sellers for his time and August Forte, who made this interview possible. Wheels Fall Off by Tautologic will be available April 2 as a download from Tautologic’s Bandcamp page, or as a physical CD from Turtle Down Music. Check their website for more details on their recordings and when they might be able to perform in front of audiences again.
I really recommend their new album. It’s such an original work, but the band wears its influences on its sleve, so I’d recommend this to fans of XTC, Kansas, YES, Jethro Tull, and to be honest, at times they even remind of Charleston’s own Stark Raven. Wheels Fall Off is a pretty epic album, one of the best independent releases of the year, so far. Check out this short video trailer…
Wednesday afternoon The AIR brings you a brand-new “normal” episode of Beatles Blast! You can listen at The AIR Website, or on the nifty little player over in the right-hand column of this here blog.
At 2 PM, your humble blogger returns with what appears to be the first “normal,” non-themed episode of Beatles Blast, possibly in two years. I mean, we’ve just come off of four episodes that were mixtape specials devoted to each Beatle’s solo career. We had a few more themed episodes before that, and then before those we had twenty episodes of The Lost Beatles Project, so welcome back to what passes for normal around here.
We do have a fun show for you. We open and close with tracks from Ringo’s new EP, Zoom In, Zoom Out, and then we also have a track from McCartney III, one from the remixed and remastered Plastic Ono Band and a gem from George’s posthumous album, Brainwashed.
After our solo Beatles fix, we bring you cover tunes, with prog-band, Transatlantic, taking on the Abbey Road Side Two Medley and “Strawberry Fields Forever,” from their recent live album. We have a couple of covers of solo John tunes, and Mr. Phil Collins takes on “Tomorrow Never Knows,” from his first solo album, which is forty-plus years old now.
Check out the full playlist…
Beatles Blast 068
Ringo Starr “Waiting For The Tide To Turn”
Paul McCartney “Deep Deep Feeling”
John Lennon “Well Well Well”
George Harrison “Any Road”
Transatlantic “Side Two Medley (live)
Average White Band “Imagine”
Phil Collins “Tomrrow Never Knows”
Ringo Starr “Here’s To The Night”
Beatles Blast can be heard every Wednesday at 2 PM, with replays Thursday at 10 PM, Friday at 1 PM, Saturday afternoon, and the following Tuesday at 9 AM.
At 3 PM on an encore episode from last December, Curtain Call and Mel Larch bring you three tracks from three recent solo albums by musical theatre stalwarts, Lauran Benenti, Tim Minchin and the late Nick Cordero. Then, in a minor departure, Mel brings you the entire soundtrack album from a classic movie musical that never made it to the stage, Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz,a thinly-veiled autobiography in the form of a movie musical. After the main title theme, you’ll hearclassic songs that he felt defined his life, like “On Broadway,” “There’ll Be Some Changes Made,” “After You’ve Gone” and “Bye Bye Love,” along with original songs, incidental music composed by Ralph Burns and more, all presented mixtape-style for the final 49 minutes of the show.
Curtain Call can be heard on The AIR Wednesday at 3 PM, with replays Thursday at 8 AM and 9 PM, and Saturday at 8 PM. A six-hour marathon of classic episodes can be heard Sunday evening starting at 6 PM, and an all-night marathon of Curtain Call episodes can be heard Wednesday nights, beginning at Midnight.
Tuesday on The AIR we have a hybrid episode of Radio Free Charleston plus an afternoon filled with carefully-chosen gems from The AIR archives. Yep, that means reruns. If you want to hear the audio joyfullness yourself, you simply have to move your cursor over and tune in at the website, or you could just stay on this page, and listen to the cool embedded player over at the top of the right column.
This week we have one overstuffed hour of brand-new stuff on Radio Free Charleston at 10 AM and 10 PM Tuesday. The Second and third hours of the show feature an encore of a five-year-old episode of Radio Free Charleston International that hasn’t been broadcast since 2017.
Our new hour opens and closes with new music from Chicago’s Tautologic. You may remember them from our most recent video episode of Radio Free Charleston. Tautologic has a new album coming out Friday, and on Thursday, you can read my interview with the band’s leader, Ethan Sellers right here in PopCult. We open with the title track of “Wheels Fall Off” and close our hour of new stuff with a song that we brought you performed live on the video show.
Last week’s show openers, The Swivel Rockers, are back with another new track, and now you can purchase their EP from Bandcamp, which you really ought to go do, ’cause it’s great! And you may remember, The Swivel Rockers were also on our most recent video episode. It’s almost like we planned this or something.
Our new hour also features fresh-out-of-the-oven music from old old pal, John Radcliff, plus new tracks from The Settlement, Unmanned, Boldly Go, and Lady D
It was easy to fill out a new hour of great music, but this week’s excuse for bringing back an old RFC International to fill out our three-hour running time is that…mowing season has begun, and my office/studio is not soundproof. So I’m recording this episode of the show after midnight, early on the morning that it will air. Of course, as soon as I got started recording my announcing segments, the late-night stoner skateboard guy went right by the office window.
Luckily, our archived show is pretty damned eclectic and impressive.
Check out the playlist to see all the goodies we bring you this week…
Cheap Trick “Roll Me”
Neil Young “Sample and Hold”
Dubioza Kolectiv “Alarm Song”
Marc Ribot y Los cubanos postizos “Los Teenagers Bailan Changui”
Weezer “Thank God for Girls”
Red Vox “There She Goes”
The High Violets “Bells”
The Enid “Someone Shall Rise”
The Foreign Films “Sweet Sorrow”
The Hillbilly Moon Explosion “Heartbreak Boogie”
Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band “Run Paint Run”
Mike & The Melvins “Dead Canaries”
The Residents “Japanese Watercolor”
St. Vincent “Krokodil”
The Dandy Warhols “Pope Reverend Jim”
Killing Joke “The Big Buzz”
Brian Eno “The Hour Is Thin”
Escapism “Ship To Shore”
The Range “Superimpose”
Filter “Pride Flag”
Dread Crew of Oddwood “Siren’s Song”
Atomic Rooster “Friday The 13th”
Black Stone Cherry “War”
Emerson Lake and Palmer “Toccata”
Hooverphonic “I Like The Way I Dance”
Danielle DeCosmo “Don’t Know What It Means”
The Buzzcocks “ESP”
Operators “Bring Me The Head”
Iron Maiden “The Trooper”
You can hear this episode of Radio Free Charleston Tuesday at 10 AM and 10 PM on The AIR, with replays Thursday at 3 PM, Friday at 9 AM and 7 PM, Saturday at 11 AM and Midnight, Sunday at 11 AM and the next Monday at 8 PM, exclusively on The AIR.
I’m also going to embed a low-fi, mono version of this show right in this post, right here so you can listen on demand.
The AIR spends the rest of the day living in the past. 1 PM sees an encore of last week’s new episode of Mel Larch’s MIRRORBALL.
At 2 PM we offer up a classic episode of Steven Allen Adams’ NOISE BRIGADE, loaded with the punkiest ska and the ska-most punk you can imagine. NOISE BRIGADEalternates weeks with Psychedelic Shack Tuesdays at 2 PM, with replays Wednesday at 10 PM, Thursday at 9 AM, Friday at 1 PM, Saturday at 8 AM, Sunday at 9 AM and Monday at 7 PM.
Because of the aforementioned deluge of folks releasing their pent-up sexual mowing energy all day The Swing Shift brings you episodes that originally aired a couple of months ago at 3 PM.
You can hear The Swing Shift Tuesdays at 3 PM, with replays Wednesday at 7 AM and 6 PM, Thursday at 2 PM, Saturday at 5 PM and Sunday at 10 AM, only on The AIR. You can also hear all-night marathons, seven hours each, starting at Midnight Thursday and Sunday evenings.
Those are Tuesday’s music shows on The AIR. Leave a comment and let us know what you think.
This week I’m sharing a pencil sketch that is a bit of a concept sketch for an animated work that you’ll probably hear about in a few weeks, if I can pull it off. It’s a life drawing done with my trusty Blackwing Palamino pencil on smooth paper for pens, with smudges cleaned up digitally.
If you want to see it bigger, just click on the image.
Meanwhile, Monday at 9 AM on The AIR, we bring you six episodes of Psychedelic Shack, Nigel Pye’s bi-weekly showcase of the best trippy music from the hippie era and beyond. There is a chance that, when our Haversham Recording Institute programs return with new episodes in April, Psychedelic Shack may be moving to Mondays. We’ll keep you posted. You can tune into a recent episode of Prognosis at 3 PM.
Due to the lockdown in the UK, the Haversham Recording Institute programs will be in rerun mode until next Monday. We are told to expect our Haversham shows every week for a while after that.
You can hear Prognosis on The AIR Monday at 3 PM, with replays Tuesday at 7 AM, Wednesday at 8 PM, Thursday at Noon, Saturday at 10 AM and Sunday at 2 PM.
You can listen to The AIR at the website, or on the embedded radio player at the top of the right-hand column of this blog.
This week in our look back at Radio Free Charleston‘s video incarnations, we stop in February, 2015, for an edition of The RFC MINI SHOW starring The Company Stores, which was actually recorded the previous summer.
Since this performance, during FestivAll 2014, the band has released two albums and they’ve undergone some personnel changes. On this show, the band was Casey Litz, Matthew Marks, John Query, Joe Cevallos and Grant Jacobs. They are currently recording a third album with some new members and a new vocalist, but this archive recording shows the original line-up.
I told you about their fundraising efforts to finish that new album late last year. In the coming weeks I hope to be telling you about new projects from their former members as well.
We have a new episode of our Disco Music showcase on The AIR, and an early impression of WWE Network on Peacock to tell you about today, so let’s dive in.
Friday afternoon we offer up a new episode of MIRRORBALL and encore a recent Sydney’s Big Electric Cat. The AIR is PopCult’s sister radio shation. You can hear these shows on The AIR website, or just click on the embedded player at the top right column of this blog.
At 2 PM, Mel Larch uncorks a new MIRRORBALL! The AIR’s showcase of classic Disco music presents a salute to Larry Levan, the legendary DJ who held court at the famed Paradise Garage in New York City for ten years, and who defined the era of the extended dance remix, while pioneering what evolved into House Music.
We get an example of Levan’s remix wizardry on this week’s show…
Jimmy Castor Bunch “It’s Just Begun”
LOGG “I Know You Will”
The Inner Life featuring Jocelyn Brown “Make It Last Forever”
Bunny Sigler “By The Way You Dance”
First Choice “Double Cross”
Instant Funk “Bodyshine”
Solsoul Orchestra “How High”
You can hear MIRRORBALL every Friday at 2 PM, with replays Saturday at 8 PM, Sunday at 11 PM, Tuesday at 1 PM and Wednesday at 7 PM, exclusively on The AIR. This week’s new MIRRORBALL will kick off a Disco Marathon Saturday night until Midnight.
At 3 PM, Sydney Fileen graces us with an encore of an episode of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat celbrating the New Wave Music of Australia, which you can read about HERE . This is all-live New Wave extravaganza.
Sydney’s Big Electric Cat is produced at Haversham Recording Institute in London, and can be heard every Friday at 3 PM, with replays Saturday afternoon, Monday at 7 AM, Tuesday at 8 PM, Wednesday at Noon and Thursday at 10 AM, exclusively on The AIR.
You can also hear select episodes of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat as part of the overnight Haversham Recording Institute marathon that starts every Monday at 11 PM.
Powerslamming The Peacock
A couple of months ago, I wrote about a big change on the streaming television landscape. WWE Network will cease to exist in the United States on April 4.
The Network is moving its library and all new programming to NBC/Universal’s Peacock streaming service, and while the realization of this Billion-dollar deal hasn’t been a completely smooth transition so far, it’s not as bad as some folks say it is. In fact, for some of us, the move brings a vast improvement in the service.
Only a fraction of the tens of thousands of hours of WWE programming from their vast library has made the move so far. It will take months for them to make every bit of that wrestling programming from the last thirty-plus years available on Peacock, if they go that far with it. This is going to really upset people who loved diving into that library and reliving old classic matches and PPVs.
To make up for this, Peacock is offering a sign-up bonus. New subscribers can get four months for half-price, and that’s half of $4.99. The WWE Network was $9.99 a month, so the move to Peacock is already saving fans five bucks a month. This introductory deal cuts that price in half for a third of a year.
However, in addition to the missing library programming, there are a lot of missing features that have ticked off some very vocal critics. Peacock does not yet offer viewers the ability to pause or rewind live broadcasts. If you see something spectacular and want to re-watch it immediately…you can’t. You have to wait until the live broadcast is over and then watch it again.
This has really angered the wrestling press, who rely on that function to make sure they get details right when they’re covering the live shows. It’s an understandable gripe for those folks, who actually use those features. Chapter breaks that make it easy to find specific matches in the old PPVs are also missing, and that has some fans and historians really angry at the new way of getting WWE Network.
However, the vast majority of WWE Network subscribers likely do not ever use those features. I know I don’t, and I’ve been a WWE Network subscriber almost since day one. I’ve seen reports that 90% of the WWE Network’s traffic is from people watching new programming, not the classic on-demand library.
Most WWE Network viewers get the network so they can watch the live Pay Per Views specials, plus the fresh documentary shows like 2020’s Undertaker: The Last Ride series. They don’t really use pause or rewind or chapter breaks. For the mainstream fan, ten bucks a month to watch all the PPVs was a bargain, and everything else was gravy…and now it costs half that, and they’re just as happy as before.
In my case, I’m much, much happier. The WWE Network stream was unstable and barely watchable for me much of the time. I have over a hundred channels on my Roku, and the only one that ever gave me any major buffering problems was WWE Network.
They switched up the service provider for their stream a few years ago, and since that happened, my signal would rarely go more than ten minutes without needing rebooted. Sometimes during a PPV special, the stream would break every minute or so. It got so bad I came very close to cancelling my subscription at the beginning of 2020. After much complaining, they did refund a month’s subscription fee to me, and I stuck with them because the service slightly improved, but it was still pretty damned annoying to watch a live PPV.
Last week I signed up for Peacock so I could see how they did with the stream for the Fastlane PPV.
It was flawless. I had a beautiful, full-HD signal for the entire event, and didn’t have to exit the app and go back in once. And the signal was consistently HD. On the WWE Network, oftentimes the picture would degrade and drop down to sub-standard-definition quality for several minutes at a time. At times the screen would look like Minecraft, it was so blocky.
So for me, WWE Network moving to Peacock means a vastly improved viewing experience. I’ll be paying half as much each month. I won’t have any more stress from constantly having to fiddle with the remote.
The picture quality is impeccable, and on top of that, I get the rest of Peacock included in the deal, so I have a huge library of programming, from current NBC shows to classics like Columbo and even weird cartoons like the 1990s Felix The Cat reboot. I enjoy wrestling, but I’m way more likely to watch a classic Tim Kazurinsky sketch from a 1983 Saturday Night Live than ever watch an episode of WCW Nitro.
Peacock is doing one thing that gives me reason to be concerned. They are editing controversial bits of classic WWE programming. Some of this, like Roddy Piper in blackface, will not be missed, but if they start editing out the raunchier bits of the WWE Attitude Era, or the bloodier bits of ECW, then they will anger many longtime fans.
We will worry about that if or when it happens. For now, I’m just thrilled that, in two weeks, when Peacock is the exclusive home to much of the Wrestlemania week programming, I won’t have to deal with the constant headache of wondering when the stream would collapse.
And that is this week’s PopCulteer. Check back for all our regular features and fresh content every day.
As you hear in the song posted above, it’s clean up time here in PopCult. I don’t have an elaborate post planned for today because I’m taking some time to restore old images and missing files to the early entries in the blog.
This isn’t hard work, but it is tedious and time-consuming, and because of that, it may take months or even years for me to get everything put back the way it should be. I’ve been writing PopCult for well over fifteen years, and every time it got jerked around the servers at the Charleston Gazette-Mail, more nuts and bolts fell off. It’s going to take time to sweep those all up and figure out where they go.
I do have a few quick thing to mention about more current PopCult happenings, though.
The Governor of West Virginia took time away from his busy pursuit of trying to enact a massive income tax cut that will mostly benefit himself to lift the moratorium on live performances in the state.
I think it’s ill-advised and way too soon, but I’m happy for my friends who are fully-vaccinated and eager to perform in front of fully-vaccinated audiences, who are still wearing masks and practicing safe social distancing.
While many fine folks are chomping at the bit to get back to normal, I am not fully confident that it’s a smart thing to do yet, so I will not be plugging live and local shows in PopCult at this time. I can’t personally take responsibility or be complicit in something that still has the potential to sicken or kill people.
Maybe in a month or two I’ll change my mind, but for now I still don’t feel right telling people to go out and do something which I don’t feel is safe. I hope my readers can respect that. When I start plugging live shows again, I don’t plan to make a big deal about it. I’ll just start doing it.
I still plan to support the local scene on Radio Free Charleston and The AIR, and any responsible way that I can. I’m hopeful that we don’t face a fourth wave of the virus, and things can start to go back to normal. I’d just rather err on the side of caution than possibly send people to their deaths.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you about a new episode of MIRRORBALL and talk about The WWE Network’s transition to the Peacock streaming service.
In the meantime, I’ll be re-sizing, restoring and posting old images, like the totally random ones I’ve posted along with this piece…just in case you were wondering what the hell those were.
And I’ll try to figure out why I slapped on a toupee and look like a high school gym teacher in this picture from a dozen or so years ago. You find the damnedest things buried on random old hard drives.