It’s a popular media combination: show a movie, or gather some friends for a chat, and add some how-to cooking footage. Dinner with the Band is a hip twist on the formula.  Reputable chef Sam Mason, who made pastries at New York’s WD-50, and worked at such venues as Palladin, Union Pacific, and Atlas, now runs a restaurant called Tailor, but in his off hours invites a diverse helping of independent and alternative bands to a kitchen-concert studio space to sing for their supper.

The brainchild of Darin Bresnitz, who is a veteran of the Food Channel, the show went live on On Networks – an Austin-based video podcast network – in March, 2007. Each episode is usually divided up into five parts, with one or two cooking sessions and two or three performances by the band.

Sam Mason’s taste in bands is as progressive as his approach to food, which includes such treats as olive cobbler and mackerel-grapefruit ceviche. Band members crowd around Mason at his studio cooking counter and often partake in preparation.  Members of Pigeon John, for example, relished sliding strips of brisket into the meat grinder. Other bands who have dropped by for tutorials include Holy Hail, an electo-indie foursome from NY, the Ontario indie band Tokyo Police Club, the Brooklyn punk – dance duo Matt and Kim, hip hopper EL-P, Christian rapper Pigeon John, and F–Ked Up, a hardcore punk band from Toronto.

Production values are high on Dinner With the Band, and Mason is an engaging host, with a slight Southern drawl and an immediate intimacy with the muscians.  Finding well-produced live performances of good bands either on TV or web TV is a rarity, and almost all the clips on the series are good. Curiously, however, the near-unplugged or intimate style of the performances can unveil some of the bands’ vocal or keyboard deficiencies.  While the production of the show is professional, some of the acts appear amateurish. It’s nice that some of these kids have a hobby, but rock and roll takes stamina, which the otherwise cheerful Matt of Matt and Kim, appears not to have, given that he runs out of breath on one song.

The site also comes with numerous ways to access the various episode parts, plus recipes and transcripts of the cooking sequences.

F–Ked Up is a fun throwback whose nostalgic mien belies the tightness of the band. Kim’s joy in drumming and in her partner Matt is infectious, and Holy Hail is agreeably earnest. Matt and Kim’s parents might be disappointed to learn how little they know about food and nutrition, but the viewer will be amused.

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