After former Greencastle High School students Glenn Myers and Gabe Wallace graduated -- from GHS and Maine South High School in the Park Ridge suburb of Chicago, respectively -- their paths eventually led them both to Bloomington and Indiana University. Over the years, the two maintained close friendships with some other Greencastle natives who'd moved to Bloomington and stayed close themselves.
In the fall of 2006, Myers met Andy Beargie, an IU student and musician, also pursuing a major in telecommunications and a minor in music. Before long, Myers joined Andy in The Calumet Reel, a folk-rock band based in Bloomington (The Calumet Reel recently performed at Hoods and Capers in Greencastle). This brought Beargie into Myers' social circle and, in turn, Wallace's.
In May of 2010, when Beargie and Myers graduated from IU, they -- with Wallace -- moved into a house off of SR 37 outside of Bloomington. The three young men continued working on artistic pursuits individually and collaboratively until earlier this year when Beargie and Kevin Winkler -- friend, colleague and videographer/producer -- began developing the idea that would become Midwest Underground.
Midwest Underground is a television and web show recorded and released once a month and each episode features two bands from the area playing original music on a sound stage in Beargie, Wallace and Myers' house. Rather than having repeated takes and a closed off set, Underground is recorded live with a party going on around it. It also features film projects from local artists and artist spotlights.
"We started talking about it a couple months after we moved into the house," said Myers, "and we were trying to figure out what all to do with the basement.
Beargie and Winkler, inspired by the large underground music scene in Bloomington, decided to bring that feeling to a wider audience through a television program that would celebrate the movement. They sought to capture the experience that comes from the "basement shows" that make up the core of the music scene in the large college town. They also wanted something unique and different from the staged video blogs that frequent the net. For that difference, that quirk, they looked to Wallace and Myers.
To shake things up, the production duo decided to frame each episode by using recurring characters performing skits between the art submissions and performance footage. Wallace, plays the role of Archibald Progers, the eccentric, heinously mustached host of the program whose costume comes complete with brightly patterned sweaters and an accent.
"Originally we just tried to make it seem like a children show," said Wallace, "So I wanted it to be someone kind of like Mr. Rogers but weirder and kind of a loser. I guess it's a creepy Mr. Rogers kind of thing. Along the way he started becoming more annoying and British." Progers is a resident of the home in which the Underground exists and gives verbose introductions to both the show and each performance.
Myers -- who also works as a videographer and has performed on the show -- plays Archibald's train-crazed maintenance man Cecil. The character is usually seen dressed as a train conductor, playing with his "choo-choos" or talking about them if he is ever asked to do anything else.
The character elements give the show the unique touch that the production crew was looking for and gives the series a sense of cohesion, rather than just being "one-and-done" episodes.
The credits for the episodes include a host of writers, including Beargie, chiefly, and the two actors among others.
"We all come up with the ideas for the sequences in between, like the mole scene from the second episode," said Myers.
"Andy (Beargie) gives me the basic idea for what he wants, and then we just sort of talk about what Archibald is really going to say," said Wallace, "A whole lot of it is ad-libbing, though."
Despite the irregularity of having a television show being filmed in their house, neither Wallace, nor Myers seem to find it odd.
"Usually when we do the sequences we rearrange the house and have about two full days of shooting where everyone is dressed up. So its really fun," said Myers, "It is kind of weird actually seeing a finished show where the whole thing takes place in the house you live in. That part is kind of bizarre, I guess."
"It's really just like we throw a house party every month," said Wallace, "Honestly, though, I consider this place to be a factory as much as it is a house. Things are constantly being produced. Albums are being recorded; art is being made; the show is being filmed. I think we all moved in here pretty much expecting it to be this way. "
The Midwest Underground crew recently shot footage for their next episode, which included performances by Gallery Circus from Newcastle, England, and The Broderick of Bloomington.
Underground is primarily a web-based program but also airs on Bloomington's public television channel (CATS) and a public television station in Chicago. All episodes and extra footage and photos can be found online at www.mwunderground.com.