JBTV’s music marathon for a cause expands its reach


The Boston indie band Gentleman Hall is just finishing taping a four song set at JBTV studios in River North.

With some time remaining to re-record part of their performance, JBTV founder and executive producer Jerry Bryant says to the band, “The beautiful thing about JBTV is you get a mulligan.”

JBTV, the alternative music television show that’s been a Chicago staple for 27 years, is getting its own mulligan of sorts. The show is expanding its production with a larger lineup of bands and reaching out to a wider audience on the web with live streaming of their recent programs.  

There’s also a subscription-based app providing access to their entire archive of music videos, interviews and live performances.

The centerpiece of this evolution for JBTV is the 25th Annual Don’t Drink and Text and Drive Marathon, Bryant’s mission to promote safety behind the wheel.  This year the dangers of texting while driving was added.  It airsDec. 28 on cable and online.

Executive producer Thomas Flynn describes it as a “best of,” a 10-hour collection of performances from 110 of the near 140 bands that have come through the JBTV studios this year.

“It’s going to be all hits this year,” Bryant says. “It’s more for the ADD Generation.”

Jerry Bryant (center) with music director Greg Comer and EP Thomas FlynnBryant says of the cause that the marathon is a way to convey the message of being responsible in a light, fun way that’s accessible to younger people. “Music is the best way to get messages out,” Bryant says.

“Instead of being real heavy hitting, we’re trying to show that you can go out and drink, but you have to be responsible. We’re trying to do an alternative way of getting the message out because I think a lot of the PSAs go over people’s heads.”

Flynn stressed that for the first time in JBTV’s history, the marathon is being streamed live nationwide, airing on jbtvonline.com on Dec. 28 from noon to 10 p.m.

An online festival for discovering new music

Flynn hopes that this showcase of all of JBTV’s recent collection and archive of never before seen material — from now-legacy acts like Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins and Oasis — will help bolster JBTV’s reputation as an influential music program, not just in Chicago but across the country.

In addition to the cause, the Don’t Drink and Text and Drive Marathon serves JBTV’s mission of “breaking new bands” by acting as an online festival for discovering new music.

“I care about helping the brand new bands, the underdogs, the ones that need the help and the ones that need the exposure,” Bryant says. “The power of one person hearing a good song can grow, and that’s what the special is all about: bringing good music along with a great message.”

The 25th Annual Don’t Drink and Text and Drive Marathon can also be watched on regional Chicago station CAN TV on Dec. 28 and in partial segments on WJYS on Dec. 26 from 12 a.m. to 2 a.m. and on national network Tuff TV on New Year’s Eve from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Brian Welk is a freelance film reporter and movie critic. His work can be read at brianwelk.com Contact bwelk608@gmail.com