If a movie can get a premiere party—why can’t a podcast?

In the latest sign that the streaming audio medium has reached critical mass, the ESPN 30 for 30 podcasts episode “Juiced,” about ex-professional baseball slugger Jose Canseco, will make its debut in front of a live audience at Logan Auditorium on October 7—11 days before it shows up in podcast feeds.

It’s part of the podcast-apalooza that is the Fest, a two-week-long festival starting October 1 that features live podcast tapings and other audio events in venues across Chicago. The Fest’s events overlap with the 17th Third Coast Conference, the annual conference for the podcast and audio-story industry conference.

“The audio premiere is long overdue,” says Emily Kennedy, Third Coast Festival programs manager. 

“A podcast episode takes just as much editing, love and attention to create as any other documentary and listening to a podcast is just as addictive, intimate, and immersive as watching a film. We think that audio documentaries should be treated with the same respect and attention as film.”

It might sound strange to listen to recorded audio together in an audience—but it’s far from unprecedented. Listening parties are becoming a bigger part of the music industry. Just ask Kanye West, who held a star-studded debut of his album Ye in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in June. Third Coast Fest has previously held events in which they’ve invited audiences to Chicago venues like the Hideout to listen to podcasts in-the-dark together.

“The model of a listening event is basically: audio is immersive. Audio is powerful. And listening all together is a unique—and transformative—experience,” says Maya Goldberg-Safir, Third Coast Fest’s artistic director.

Yes, Jose Canseco was once with the White Sox too.
Yes, Jose Canseco was once with the White Sox too.Credit: Elaine Thompson/AP

ESPN’s series of 30 for 30 audio documentaries has been praised as “This American Life but for sports.”  The podcast’s producers are leading their third season with the world premiere of the episode Juiced—also the name of Canseco’s controversial 2005 memoir about his 17-year baseball career and use of performance-enhancing drugs, to which he owns up in the book. Juiced also infamously named names of various teammates of Canseco who also allegedly used steroids.

The podcast is described by the producers as a behind-the-scenes look at the messy making of the book: “The fallout from the publication is well documented—it is the first book to ever spark a congressional hearing. Our story pulls back that curtain to uncover the in-over-his-head editor and the veteran ghostwriter that worked to contain Canseco every step of the way.”

The former Oakland A’s star and onetime White Sox outfielder still can’t manage to keep away from controversy. He got fired from a broadcasting job with NBC Sports California last year after he tweeted out careless jokes about the burgeoning #MeToo movement.

30 for 30 Live Sun 10/7, 6-7:30 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, eventbrite.com/e/the-fest-presents-30-for-30-live-tickets-49363752312, $15-$22.