Peter Sprague dug a football field-length trench in order to get the internet speed he needed to produce high quality online concerts.
Jazz guitarist Peter SpraguePeter Sprague had just returned to San Diego from a Danish tour with vocalist Sinne Eeg when the pandemic struck, and the musician soon found himself on lockdown with the rest of us — no live gigs, no face-to-face guitar lessons, and no sessions in his acclaimed home studio. He looked around and saw the plethora of musicians doing livestream concerts, and decided he wanted to do something similar — with a higher sonic signature.
“It’s actually been a thought in my head for several years,” Sprague commented over the phone. “I like the idea of doing the concerts, but the sound is usually really compromised with so much of the stuff you hear. It’s marginalized because of the technology.”
The downtime afforded by the pandemic gave Sprague the opportunity to address the notion of presenting high quality concerts from home. That opportunity didn’t come without sacrifice from the pocketbook and significant sweat equity.
“I had a really crude internet connection with an upload capacity of about 1.5 megabytes” says Sprague. “I talked to AT&T, and they weren’t interested, and I called Cox Cable, and was told that my house in Leucadia was an ‘internet island,’ and it is too far from the closest pole. They suggested getting together with my neighbors and come up with $12,000 to make that happen.”
That was not possible, so Sprague sought out allies from the political and cable worlds and found that if he were to obtain permission from a neighbor, he could dig a substantial trench (375 feet), bury conduit that ran to the closest pole, at which point Cox would run the cable. There was no guarantee that all of that labor would actually pay off, however, since the signal usually trails off after 300 feet. Somewhat miraculously, Sprague’s neighbor consented to the intrusion and the guitarist and a good friend were able to dig the trench and bury the conduit in two days. It was not without challenges though.
“We had to crawl through bushes and we hit some cactus, of course. Even though I wore gloves it was still pretty brutal on my hands. Plus we had to navigate around a huge palm tree and other obstacles and the whole thing could have gone wrong in so many ways. But at the end, they were able to pull the cable through and hook it up, and now I have really righteous internet speed, which has opened the door to do these streaming concerts.”
As of this date, Sprague has broadcast three live concerts from his home studio. The concerts take place every Thursday at 7:30 pm. Each musician arrives wearing a mask and then heads to a separate room with its own sound and video. Even though the guitarist has performed thousands of gigs over the years, and made hundreds of recordings at Spragueland Studios, now that the internet connection issue has been solved, there is still plenty to worry about.
“We were kind of nervous about the technology aspect. We did a dry run before the first show, and nothing worked! Everything is rife with danger and possible trouble. But we’re getting better each time. It took a while to not be thinking about the details and concentrate on the music.”
Sprague’s livestream concerts appear via YouTube every Thursday evening at 7:30, and each concert features a revolving cast of musicians. There’s even a tip-jar to pay the band. How is that part working out?
“Pretty good. It’s comparable to a good gig. Which is great because I spent a ton of money on necessary gear.”
How long does he plan on doing the livestream?
“The congregation of large amounts of people close together doesn’t look to be coming back anytime soon, so I think we’re going to keep at it.”
Peter Sprague July 1987 with Bob Magnusson & Tripp Sprague