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Not all radio is banal, commercial-ridden noise pollution. There is still good radio out there!

I remember being thirteen or fourteen and taping songs off the radio, making piles and piles of shoddily edited mixtapes that I swapped with my little brother for other mixtapes he’d made.  Those were the chronicles of everything then.  They held not just terrible pop music, but the buds of a yet-unformed character.  Unfortunately, at the time, all we had was bad radio.  Popular radio.  Even the “alternative” station played the same ten bands over and over, one hit wonders that would sell out stadiums for a season and then fade into near-nonexistence, only resurrected for an occasional ”I Love the 90s” episode.  And so, like many suburban youth, my “radical alternative” teenage years were anything but.  I am the Green Day genenration. 

Not that this is the fault of radio, lest my digression lead you to that conclusion.  But being a kid from the burbs, my access to non-mainstream music was limited.  I remember when we first got Napster, back in the days where running it over dial-up meant you could download a song an hour.  Usually.  So aside from my dad and a few of my more resourceful friends, radio was the only way I knew to find new (or old) music.  I was trapped in an dizzying eddy of pop-punk and classic rock.  Then I went to college. 

That’s when it usually happens, isn’t it?  You go off to college, meet people from vastly different backgrounds and cultures, expand your horizons, etc.  At the risk of appearing stereotypical, that was me.  I went potluck on a roommate and got paired with a chick from Chicago, and the girl was full of music I never even heard of.  I met a guy who was a punk in the old hardcore days and proceeded to absorb his entire, quite extensive, record collection.  And at the urging of my then-roomie, the two of us went and became dj’s.

And that, I guess, is the whole point of this rant.  I walked in to the college radio station, and they said to me, “Here’s two hours of airtime in the middle of the night.  You’re not allowed to play anything that’s been on the radio before.  Knock yourself out.”  Ok, truth be told it was a little more complicated than that, but that’s how it felt.  And they gave me a library.  Records, CDs, a few boxes of random cassettes even, rooms full of music that I never even imagined existed.  It forced me to dig, it forced me to find things that were different and new, and instilled in me a love of sharing those things with others.  I learned an appreciation for the well-meaning yet mediocre, the amazingly tragic, the downright ludicrous.  Yes!  Radio did that! 

I was a dj for KVRX for about 4 years.  My best friend and I did free-form shows, we did the punk-rock block, we did the power-metal show.  We never worked in the daylight, we hardly had many callers, and our biggest fans would write us steamy letters from prison.  But goddamn did we have a good time.  When I left college, I had to leave the station behind.  Not only was I no longer eligible to be a dj, but a sad series of events meant I had to move back to the suburbs, and poor college radio doesn’t carry quite that far.  I was back to pop radio.  And I just couldn’t do it.  That’s when I turned it off.  By then I had an iPod, an overwhelming record collection of my own, and little patience for crap.  So when I made it back to the city and back to good old independent radio, you better believe I was thrilled. 

I’ve just taken an incredibly roundabout way of telling you simply that not all radio is banal, commercial-ridden noise pollution.  There is still good radio out there!  I’m a huge fan of Austin’s KOOP, not only because it became home to a few of KVRX’s djs, but because every single time I turn it on I hear at least one thing I’ve never heard before.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard the same song twice.  And there are a few shows in particular that I actually look forward to on a weekly basis.  Which is what I really came here to tell you about.  Because I think every single one of you, I don’t care who you are or what you’re into, should turn on your noisemakers at 4:30pm on Wednesday, and we’ll all listen to Excavation Nation together.  The website blurb describes the show: “Music archaeology like no other. Specializing in vintage soul and funk, along with the standard-bearers of rock and roll, and other assorted musical sundries. Excavation Nation digs deep into the vaults to in search of hidden gems and buried treasure.”  I guess that’s as fitting a description as anyone could give and is at least a little more informative than my “OMG IT’S THE BEST THING EVAAAAAR” insight.  Not only is the music amazing, but DJ Rick Daddy has the energy of a caffienated spider monkey and a depth of knowledge that you could plomb for an eon.  He’s introduced me to tons of amazing artists, producers, and labels, and often reminds me of others I’ve forgotten.  I distinctly remember the day I was driving home from the gym listening to his show full of Bettys, and immediately upon returning home I aquired as much Betty LaVette as I could get my hands on.  It was one of those “how have i never heard this???” kind of moments.  I get a lot of those listening to that show. 

And every week, I am sad when I have to leave it.  Whether it’s to force myself to go into the gym or to come home and cook dinner, I want the music to come with me.  It’s not that I couldn’t toss on a record or cue up the pod when I get inside, but there’s just something wonderfully blissful about being bombarded with good tunes and not being in control.  Maybe it’s in the surprise, the anticipation and reward playing out over and over again.  Especially when every single time it’s something amazing.  So kudos and props to you, Rick Daddy, for consistently delivering the awesome and completely satisfying my aural fixation.  And kudos to independent radio for not giving in, backing down, or bowing out.  Rock over London, rock on Chicago.


Great article! Thanks for sharing. I also dig the Wesley Willis quote you used, great job!!

Posted July 14, 2010 03:07 pm
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