June 13 2013 12:00 AM

WKAR’’s BackStage Pass aims for younger demographic

Elliot Street Lunatic is a Lansing-based band that will receive national airplay via WKAR-TV\'s BackStage Pass program, which just started its fifth season. Courtesy photo.

Thursday, June 13 — Attending tapings for WKAR’s BackStage Pass concert series means being part of a rock and roll show and getting yourself on TV.

Returning for a fifth season, the free concert series features six bands from diverse genres including hard rock from Detroit’s The Hard Lessons on June 18, the indie rock of Lansing’s Elliot Street Lunatic on June 19 and the groove-based music of Kalamazoo’s Funktion on June 20. The tapings are at Hannah Community center, 819 Abbot Road, in East Lansing.

Tickets for the tapings, which will air in 2014, are available on WKAR’s website.

WKAR-TV Executive Producer Tim Zeko said the goals this season are to reach out to a younger demographic and feature new styles of music than the program had before.

This past season we featured our first metal band (Silent Lapse) and
this coming season will feature ska (Mustard Plug), brass (Lowdown Brass
Band) and funk (Funktion),” Zeko said in an email.

“This year we consciously looked to book bands that might appeal to a younger demographic.”

Zeko said the transition toward a younger demographic this year came after seeing older people watching the show and coming to the television tapings.

“And that's not a criticism, just a recognition of who we were seeing at shows and were contacting us to tell us what they thought of the series,” he said.

Some of those younger bands like Elliot Street Lunatic say BackStage pass is a good way for local artists to gain attention.

“I’ve seen some great bands on there,” said Eric Robins, guitarist and backing vocalist for Elliot Street Lunatic. “I think it’s a great way for bands to get exposure.”

He said being on the show, which airs in markets across the country, helps bands potentially expand their audience to thousands of people who wouldn’t have discovered them otherwise.

Tapings of the series are broadcast on WKAR stations across the nation in large cities like Los Angeles and New York City to small Michigan towns.

Episodes have been seen in more than half of the television markets in the country with over 5,000 telecasts to-date,” Zeko said.

With the addition of the Chicago-based Lowdown Brass Band this season, Backstage Pass has expanded its musical territory from only Michigan bands to those from around the Midwest. Zeko added that another 150 bands are on a waiting list to perform in the future.

He said bringing in talent from outside of Michigan allows WKAR to partner with various mid-Michigan festivals — like the Old Town Jazz Fest and Blues Fest in Lansing — to offer a sampling of potential acts.

Zeko’s goal for BackStage Pass is to be on par with shows like Austin City Limits and revived television series Soundstage, which after being cancelled in 1974 reappeared in 2003.

With the national broadcast distribution of BackStage Pass and the online streaming availability of every show at WKAR.org, audiences across the country are telling us we’ve succeeded,” Zeko said.