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Recording a Truly Underground Concert Series

PBS’ Bluegrass Underground: The Caverns Sessions returns this year, captured by TNDV.

'Underground: The Caverns Sessions' is literally taped underground in giant caverns in Grundy County, TN.
‘Bluegrass Underground: The Caverns Sessions’ is literally taped in underground caverns in Grundy County, TN.

Nashville, TN (May 3, 2022)—PBS’ Bluegrass Underground: The Caverns Sessions returns this year for its eleventh season, with performances by the Del McCoury Band, Widespread Panic, Lucinda Williams, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and others captured by TNDV, a division of Live Media Group Holdings.

The live concerts were captured by the TNDV production crew — who now provided all equipment and technical crew for 10 seasons of the nationally syndicated series — from March 18-20 at The Caverns.

Located in Grundy County, TN, The Caverns, which became the official venue for Bluegrass Underground performances for Season 10, is a subterranean amphitheater housed in a natural cave. While the facility now includes The Caverns Above Ground Amphitheater, which was opened during the pandemic, The Caverns Sessions were recorded in the underground concert hall.

TNDV used Aspiration, its 40-foot expando truck, for the shoot. Setup was reportedly simplified with the use of a single-mode fiber infrastructure, which TNDV installed for a previous season, as well as on-site power that eliminated the need for generators. The Caverns is “basically off-road,” explained Nic Dugger, chief marketing officer, Live Media Group Holdings, so a Class A truck was not an option.

Capturing Concerts for VR

The production included 64 channels of audio, engineered through a Soundcraft Vi3000 mixer and recorded to Pro Tools, with Sound Devices PIX 270i recorders used as backup. “In addition to the bands, we also have to mic the room,” Dugger further explained. “We need crowd noise and applause. And because a lot of the music is post mix, we capture that to Pro Tools.”

“The director and assistant director play a tag team role in making sure we have accurate coverage across all bands,” he added. “The director essentially acts as a technical director, as he likes to punch his own show. While the song is being performed live, the assistant director is telling the camera operators what’s about to happen. When there’s a guitar solo, we already have one or more cameras ready to capture the performance.”

“This was the rebirth of Bluegrass Underground,” said Dugger. “We have tried to produce new episodes a couple of times during the pandemic, but we finally got some dates on the books. It was like getting the family back together again — but with a new attitude.”