Bret Alexander of The Badlees will be immortalized as hologram for futuristic performances
From a press release:
Michael Jackson. Tupac Shakur. Frank Zappa. Ronnie James Dio. Whitney Houston. Roy Orbison. The list of dead musicians whose holograms have performed for live audiences continues to grow, so how long will it be before an artist from Northeastern Pennsylvania is immortalized?
Not long, according to The Mediatwist Group. The digital marketing and advertising agency based out of the small town of Lititz in Lancaster County is partnering with Microsoft’s new Avatar Dimension in Ashburn, Virginia near Washington, D.C., to “move an entire industry forward” by capturing and preserving musical performances in the cutting-edge 3D and mixed reality studio.
This week, they’re working with Bret Alexander, the Pittston-based singer, songwriter, musician, and producer best known as the principal songwriter and guitarist of Selinsgrove rock band The Badlees.
Thankfully, Alexander is still among the living despite a health scare last year – Mediatwist founder Chris Kurtz just wants to get ahead of this rising trend, and he is doing so by going back to his past.
As a young kid honing his craft in the coal region as a production and lighting tech, he had a few short business transactions with the rising stars from his area over the years. Kurtz remembers bringing The Badlees a bunch of Takamine acoustic guitars for their Boscov’s Thanksgiving Special.
“That was my first big run-in with them, at Terrace Music. They came through and I put aside some select acoustic guitars for them because I knew they had a big TV gig coming up,” he recalled.
“I had a knack for bringing rare instruments to guitar clinics in my area. I brought the Ibanez PGM30 to a Paul Gilbert clinic. It was just fun. I brought Takamine guitars to Darius Rucker back when was just ‘Hootie.’ Through the years, I stayed in touch with Bret; I would bring him out to sing Feld shows that came close, Monster Jam, etc., but I’ve always wondered and waited for the perfect moment to super intersect our careers. And this, this is it!”
Pointing to a text message from Alexander, he added, “What a shame it will be if somebody doesn’t capture Bret’s performances, in the round volumetrically, while he is here on this Earth.”
Kurtz is also a member of the the board of directors of the Central Pennsylvania Music Hall of Fame, which inducted The Badlees this year along with several other artists like Halestorm. The organization noted that, in the 1990s, The Badlees “served as the heartbeat of roots rock” for Central and Northeastern Pennsylvania. The band’s success with their 1995 album “River Songs” catapulted them to national fame with the hits “Fear of Falling” and “Angeline Is Coming Home.” To the local music scene, this elevated status has never dwindled as the band and its individual members have continued to inspire, mentor, advise, produce, and perform with artists throughout Pennsylvania. As the owner of Saturation Acres in Dupont, Alexander recorded many notable artists from the area, including the debut EP of multi-platinum Wilkes-Barre rock band Breaking Benjamin.
“Chris and I go way back. He was a big fan of my band [The Badlees] when he was a young lad – still is, I know! We have stayed in touch throughout his career and, on occasion, he sends an opportunity my way. I even sang the national anthem at a Monster Jam through Chris!” Alexander said.
“This project will be super cool. His newest venture with The Mediatwist Group and Microsoft’s Avatar Dimension dives into the whole world of VR, the metaverse, and avatar creation. I’m an Americana artist, so I’m typically very organic in my approach, but I’ve been trying to keep up with this fast-moving space in my own humble way. It’s obviously a huge game-changer for artists and creative people. We are in the way early innings (like the early days of the Internet), and I’m thrilled Chris thought to reach out to me to be involved. Line me up next to Sir Elton, Sir Paul, and Willie Nelson as one of Chris’s early musician avatars. Stay tuned!”
The Mediatwist Group is looking to attract that kind of star power, saying that, 100 years from now, a stadium could be packed to see a Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, or Ariana Grande show.
“This project signals the start of a new dawn for TMG in AR/VR and takes us another step closer to leaving our mark on the tech and entertainment sectors,” TMG Vice President Aimee Lankford Kurtz emphasized.
“We are thrilled to partner up with the unique marketing mind of Chris Kurtz and his Mediatwist team,” said Sovanna Mam, head of production for Avatar Dimension.
“Life-like 3D holograms and avatars are no longer a dream of the past – they exist today and artists and musicians will begin entertaining in a new digital landscape. Chris is positioned to bridge the digital gap between big brands and big acts in this exciting new medium. Thrilled to have Chris as one of the tech’s biggest evangelists!”
Kurtz also believes that “the addition of augmented reality pieces can make the live experience better.”
“Imagine Joe Perry walking up to you in line for a beer at the Aerosmith concert. Holographic arrows could point you to the quickest way to the shortest restroom line. You could even see a virtual billboard for a sponsor. The future is here!”
As The Mediatwist Group works to preserve music in this entirely new way, they called upon Sony Music Publishing for additional help with publishing and artist protection.
“Getting to see a dear friend dream so big, get there, and then push even farther… it’s so great to see!” said Lee Shwartz of Sony Music Publishing in Nashville.
“The cool thing, like so much of the wrangling and the legislation happening right now, is writing the rules of a whole new game, and there he is right in the middle of it! Watching, as I have, Chris has already written or rewritten so many rules, I have zero doubt this will be his last contribution to this crazy landscape.”
Photo by Rich Howells/NEPA Scene