It was halfway through the show. Things had been going relatively smoothly so far. The posse of puppeteers behind the band had been cooperative and added a new element of motion to the 30 Minute Music Hour set. But at around 12 minutes, when it was time for the artist interview, producer Andy Moore jumped on the stage, grabbed one of the furry backup dancers and uttered the words, “Have you ever been interviewed by a sock puppet?” and knew there was no turning back.

Using the persona of his puppet Snuggles, Moore conducted the entire three minute interview with a confused frontman Elliott Kozel. In a high pitched voice, Moore asked the Madison based country punk band, Sleeping in the Aviary, about their repertoire and musical style until the interview wrapped up with a very tongue-heavy puppet/human make out. Not a typical night for public broadcast, but a moment that captures the essence of Wisconsin Public Television’s 30 Minute Music Hour.  

Still in the infancy of its second season, the show’s episode was a learning experience for Moore and 30 Minute Music Hour. Since then, the show has constantly been adapting. Despite changing sets, adding a live audience and axing the fickle live interview, 30 Minute Music Hour has stuck zealously and stoically to its main tenets: Be raw, be organic and put on a live show that everyone can appreciate.

Located just down the hall from University of Wisconsin’s epicenter of journalism and communication arts in Vilas, the WPT large studio hosts three live shows Wednesdays about once a month. Communication arts students and graduate students are often a part of the camera crew and play a large role in the show’s development.

As the third largest studio in the Midwest, WPT hosts national, regional and local bands of all genres and levels of fame, from then up-and-coming Baraboo band Phox to Peter Yarrow from Peter Paul and Mary.

“I’ve always wanted the same things from the start,” Moore said. “I wanted it to have the same rawness and feel for the viewer that any live show has. That may seem self-evident, but it is really hard to translate onto television.”

To produce the energy of a live show, 30 Minute Music Hour added a live studio audience and live streams each performance on their website. To be truly authentic, the show’s team does minimal planning. 

Once the band is in the studio, Moore said their job is simply to accommodate the artist. There are no run throughs and no practices. Director Steve Doebel said he must roll with the punches without pause to accommodate Andy’s vision for the show.

On the day of the fated puppet show interview, Doebel had no idea a squad of dozens of puppeteers would show up and crowd the back of the set, or that Moore would conduct the interview with a puppet. But without thinking twice, he got a tight shot on Kozel’s puzzled face. The rest is history.

“It is really amazing that we can have three different groups come in here and they can be wildly different in genre, size, loudness and set up and have not had a catastrophic issue yet,”Doebel said.

The whole aesthetic of the set is in line with the idea that the show is organic and raw, Moore said. The current set includes a live studio audience that sits in old ‘60s style furniture upholstered in tweed and dotted with mid-century adornments.

The 30 Minute Music Hour studio will host another three performances Tuesday, Nov. 17, including local Madison band ME eN YOU, who have graced the stages of Freakfest and Revelry in past years.

The performances are open to the public for free. Interested students and community members can reserve a seat by emailing Andy Moore at [email protected]