Last summer Jeremy Webster and Addie Wuensch (pronounced Voonsh) were hanging out at Wuensch’s art gallery and wine bar, Bottega, in the Brooklyn Arts District. Wuensch was discussing her love for NPR’s Tiny Desk and her desire to start a Bottega YouTube channel, in an effort to showcase local, live music from the gallery. Webster loved the idea—so much so he took it to his stepfather, reporter Vince Winkel of WHQR, in an effort to gain traction and earn a larger platform to showcase all that’s great about ILM’s music scene.
“I didn’t want it to have the feel of a recital,” Webster tells, a pianist himself, “but an experience that would make a listening audience feel they were actually at the concert.”
Winkel loved the idea. So the three hustled to cull a roster of artists to make a demo and pitch it to the higher-ups at WHQR. “This was pre-Florence,” Winkel tells, as we gather on the outdoor patio of Bottega last week. The Thursday night drum circle begins to set up their weekly jam.
“We want it to be raw,” Winkel adds above the percussive warmups. Come Friday, April 26, Bottega Live takes to the airwaves of 91.3FM from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., when Striking Copper and Jake Newman Band play six to eight songs each during the program. Winkel and Webster double up on recording the show; Winkel mics the PA system and Webster gets live feed from the audience.
“That way listeners also get to hear the unfiltered comments and laughing amongst the band and the crowd participation,” Winkel says. “We recorded Jake outside and got good footage of their interactions.”
Striking Copper set up inside Bottega, as the cold weather didn’t participate with their recording just three weeks ago. “So everyone packed into the hallways,” Wuensch says, “and the band was amazing, totally had the audience engaged.”
Striking Copper played songs from their first album, “Mirror,” including “Sweet Love” and “Siren Song.” Guitarist Matt Donnelly appreciates this opportunity for musicians to expand their reach. “Local businesses helping local musicians creates a really great network of support,” he says. They also performed new music, “I Give You My Heart” and “Overflow”—the latter of which was written about their experience through Hurricane Florence.
Everyone has a story of how the storm affected them, including WHQR, which is turning 35 in 2019 and has been going through a shift in its programming since the hurricane hit our coast last year. Station manager Michelle Rhinesmith is in the midst of hiring a general assignment reporter and doing a national search for an assistant news director. Additional hires will help thoroughly cover the area, especially in throes of crisis. As well Communique’s host Gina Gambony moved to Norfolk, Virginia, to work for NPR affiliate WHRO, so WHQR’s morning show went on hiatus.
“We are retooling our local arts program and it will have a new name, time slot and host,” Rhinesmith says. “It seemed like no better time to introduce a local music show. I love the idea of WHQR working with local community partners, and with Bottega Live we’re highlighting young, talented, local musical acts that otherwise might not have the opportunity to be broadcast on a 100,000-watt public radio station. I see this program as a win-win for all.”
Winkel, Webster and Wuensch have two or three more shows in the can. Bottega Live will air during the last week of every month, in conjunction with downtown Wilmington’s Fourth Friday Gallery Walk. “I think the advantage of it being a monthly is we have lots of time,” Winkel says. May’s show will feature Billy Heathen Band, a heavy rock group, and Entangled Dreams, a sister duo of singer-songwriters.
“I like to curate the acts according to what complements each other,” Wuensch says.
“Billy Heathen was amazing,” Winkel excites. “I had never heard of them.”
“They played heavy but still stripped down,” Webster adds.
“And those girls in Entangled Dreams always rock,” Wuensch says.
“We recorded Kersten Capra a few days ago,” Winkel notes, “and just … wow! A great piano player who really has the pipes.”
The Male Men set up on Saturday, April 20, while Cinco de Mayo will welcome Medicated Starfish from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wuensch wants the genres to remain varied to showcase the spectrum of musicians and styles across the tri-county area of the Cape Fear. Plus, she is toying with the idea of having interludes of spoken word in between the two sets of music.
“What would you like to hear?” Webster asks me.
“Paper Stars, Randy McQuay, Travis Shallow, Onward Soldiers, Rebekah Todd,” I rattle off. “Also, it would be cool to work in instrumental music that maybe wouldn’t secure a full set, like to be the background to the spoken word—say, the drum circle here [I point to the crowd]. And it’s a way to cover other areas of music not always given a spotlight, like noise musicians, or classical players, organists from local churches, even school marching bands.”
Shows are open to the general public for $5, all of which goes to the band, and folks can find out who’s playing by following Bottega on Facebook and Instagram. Winkel and Wuensch say their inboxes are already filling up with requests. “We even had someone contact us from New Jersey,” Winkel shares. “But we want it to be local—it’s really about the local music scene.”
Once the show airs, it will remain on WHQR’s website per on-demand streaming and in the archives. “We want to make this a place bands want to be,” Webster details.
“I just want to showcase really good, original music people haven’t heard yet,” Wuensch conveys.
Bands and musicians who wish to apply can email email@example.com and send info and audio files, as well as links from Bandcamp or ReverbNation.