Frank Vespe: Sneakin' In the Local Scene

Videographer helms new video shows on cable channels.

Frank Vespe, a videographer who moved to East Hampton three years ago, has immersed himself in all things East Hampton.

In December, he made a splash with his public service announcement about not drinking and driving called, "." From the satirical PSA, he's now turned his attention toward local nightlife.

In April, he premiered Sneakin' In on , which features locally and nationally known bands performing at Amagansett's famed . He has also recently created Comedy at the Bowl, a show for WVVH that he shoots at East Hampton Bowl.

These aren't his first televised shows.

His interest in what was going on locally started after he moved here and began shooting footage of bands for the store . "I was filming bands for Crossroads' owner, Michael Clark, once a month. He was having bands play at church venues, but he didn't have the money to pay me. He'd charge at the door for the shows, I think five or ten bucks or something, and he'd donate the money to local food pantries -- he's a good guy," Vespe said.

Vespe said he was more interested in networking than making money from his efforts, so he settled for a little bargaining in lieu of payment.

"I thought I'd just shoot the shows and put them out there for the community, as I figured it would be a good way to meet people. So instead of payment, I'd just say, 'Michael, give me a guitar, give me a trumpet, give me a harmonica.' And it worked out great. My house is full of instruments thanks to him," he said.

No money, perhaps, but good word of mouth.

"Then, because of those videos," Vespe said, "Michael would tell people that went into his music store, 'Call Frank, he'll shoot your band.'"

Vespe said he'd take the band footage that he shot and make it into little shows. It wasn't long before he decided to take those shows to dubbing them "Crossroads Coffeehouse," after the music store's name, in a bid to get them on the air.

Early Crossroads Coffeehouse shows, Vespe said, ran for more than a year, and included so many bands he can barely remember the names ("I think Renegade and Hot Lips Houlihan were a couple," he said). Eventually, he started shooting bigger bands performing at places like the Talkhouse.

"I shot Malea McGuinness -- she's opening up for Kenny Loggins now. And a band called Feed the Need from Sag Harbor -- great kids, they should be signed -- and another great band called The Blaggards," he said.

Sneakin' In was developed as Crossroads Coffeehouse's follow-up, which he pitched to the Talkhouse's manager, Nicholas Kraus, by enlisting a DJ friend of his.

"I used Andrew Steeley from WEHM Radio," Vespe said, "and had him do a little introduction to the bands as he walked into the Talkhouse through the back door."

That was part of the concept for the show's title -- "sneaking in" to the venue, so to speak.

"Every time I'd go in to the Talkhouse to shoot a band, I'd go in through the back of the place, to bring my equipment in," Vespe said, "and I thought, 'wow, this is cool,' you know, it reminded me of going to James Bond movies in Queens, where one guy would go to the front and pay to get in, and then go sneak the other ten of us in the back door." 

For the show's debut, Vespe shot , complete with a virtual front-row-seat view of the band and interviews, also taped at the Talkhouse. The second episode featured local folksinger Caroline Doctorow.

Shows are set to run around one per month, with repeats. Vespe hopes the show to be weekly during the summer.


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