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Common Tread

The Highside/Lowside podcast: Doing it LIVE!

Dec 11, 2021

Looking back at the past year or so, it’s hard to believe how much we’ve accomplished with the Highside/Lowside Podcast.

When Zack Courts joined the program as a full-time co-host at the end of October 2020 for the start of Season Three,  we were tasked with redefining what the program would be moving forward. We had a choice to make: Did we want to create a polished video experience that we simultaneously released as a podcast with episodes releasing farther and fewer between, or did we want to create a true podcast experience that happened to have a video component attached to it with a more regular release cadence.

We opted for the latter.

Our rationale was relatively simple. Zack and I already had plenty of other video projects to keep us busy, but neither one of us had ever really had the opportunity to create a focused podcast. 

Point is, the idea of building something new and different excited us. And with that, we set about the task of reimagining what Highside/Lowside as a program would look like.

Fast forward to present day and we’ve accomplished a lot over the past 12 months. Whereas Seasons One and Two were wrought with all types of random changes and a lack of consistency, Season Three marked a shift in programming that has continued throughout Season Four. Our goal was to create a podcast with a clear format so the audience knew what to expect, something that was lacking from the earlier episodes.

It was clunky at first. We had to deal with a global pandemic and figure out how we were going to coordinate recording from two remote locations. It took Zack and me a few months to figure out our dynamic with one another, especially considering we were talking to each other over video software. Software which made our normal jokes and jabs sound a bit poorly timed. And we had to figure out how to incorporate guests from their remote locations, as well, and make them feel comfortable. Luckily, the setbacks were minor when weighed against everything we had going in our favor.

Season Three found us with a fantastic new sponsor in Motul, who has stuck by our sides throughout the process. We have arguably one of the best, and most patient, producers in the business in the form of Chase Kubasiak. Bernie Sweeney, our editor has the tedious task of listening to hours of Zack and I talking and turning it into something usable and/or watchable for YouTube. We also have had the benefit of fantastic guest hosts to choose from in the form of Lance Oliver, Ari Henning, Jen Dunstan, and Patrick Garvin. Along with not one but two Season Finale guests in Ryan Kluftinger from FortNine and Noraly of Itchy Boots fame.

Jen Dunstan, Spurgeon Dunbar, Ari Henning, Brandon Wise, Zack Courts
The dream team. We're only missing Lance, Patrick, and Andy... Next time! Photo by Chase Kubasiak.

By the time Season Four wrapped at the end of November 2021, Highside/Lowside had grown to the number-one motorcycle podcast on the Apple Podcast charts and we’d cracked the Top Ten in Automotive, with a peak position of number three right behind NPR’s Car Talk with Click and Clack. Considering Zack and I had both grown up listening to Click and Clack with our dads, it was all quite a surreal and humbling experience. Plus, we were having fun doing it.

So when talk about recording a live show started swirling around, we were excited by the prospect, but it also seemed like a big undertaking to lump on at the end of the year, considering everything we’d already pulled off. That being said, we loved the idea of being able to get some face time with our listeners outside of the regular emails and comments.

Our first idea was to hold it in Austin, Texas during MotoGP weekend in September. However, rising COVID-19 cases and concerns around travel forced us to reconsider. With the majority of the team already residing in Southern California, we instead opted for a location in Southern California and made an effort to align it with the IMS Outdoors show in November.

Highside Lowside Live at the Frida Cinema
Hiighside/Lowside on the marquee. Photo by Luke Darigan.

It took weeks of meetings and negotiations to find a theater that we felt would work for the experience. Ultimately, we settled on the Frida Cinema in Southern California. It was located on a quiet Main Street with plenty of options for parking, an outdoor seating area for a pre-show reception, and it had a bar next door called Native Son for afterhours libations with the members of the audience who wanted to stick around and talk about motorcycles some more.

It was also the only location we could afford. And I use the term “afford” loosely because we hadn’t technically approved any of this with our superiors which meant, technically we didn’t actually have any budget. But we’re never ones to let small details like that stand in our way.

The production itself came together quickly over the course of about three weeks. Lynna Stancato on our video team helped us set up an EventBrite page, Sheena Walker from digital marketing linked us together with the non-profit organization MOTO F.A.M., because we wanted the money from ticket sales to go to a cause that would help the motorcycle community. Sean Laughlin on the events side volunteered to help us with collecting tickets on location. Kyle Nagel on the customer service team volunteered to help us set up and run cameras.

Highside Lowside Live Podcast
From left to right: Spenser, Jen, Ari, Brandon, Spurg, Zack, Kyle, Bernie, Stephen, and Chase. Photo by Luke Darigan.

For the production itself we tapped Brandon Wise to MC the evening, Stephen Gregory to help with video cameras, Luke Darigan to shoot photos, Bernie Sweeney to Live Switch the cameras, Ben Templin to run sound, and Spenser Robert to act as Director of Photography. Jen Dunstan and Ari Henning joined Zack and I on the stage and Chase Kubasiak, as always, was the conductor of the hodgepodge orchestra.

Doors opened at 5 p.m., popcorn and soda were free with stronger drinks and sweeter snacks available for purchase. By 6 p.m., Spenser introduced the debut of the CTXP Alaska episode to a relatively packed house. At 7:15 p.m. Zack and I took the stage and by 9:45 p.m. we were drinking beers with members of the audience at Native Son’s rooftop bar.

Spurgeon
Spurgeon Senior, shown here representing the 1970s as an era in motorcycling, made an appearance on the Live episode via the phone. Photo by Barbara Jo Dunbar.

I would consider our first HS/LS Live! Episode to be a success. But more than anything it was a testament to what a great team we have. Everyone pitched in to make this possible. And none of this would have been possible without all of you folks out there who choose to listen to Zack and I sit around and talk about motorcycles for hours on end.

For that reason, I want to take this opportunity to give a big thank you to everyone who has supported Highside/Lowside over the years. From subscribing to the podcast, leaving a review, sending an email, or showing up in person to attend our inaugural live event, you are all responsible for making this podcast what it is today.

From the bottom of our hearts, we can’t even begin to tell you how grateful we are. We hope you’ll stick around as Zack and I figure out what the next season has in store for us.