Add good old-fashioned radio to the list of Jaunty Stuff This Bird J'Adores, not that it's to anyone's surprise. Like most people, I grew up listening to the radio. Even with the tantalizing temptation of cable television, a lot of the music I came to love was streamed through the airwaves, finding its way to my old digital clock radio (it was lavender and came with a matching hairdryer and brush, if you must know). And it wasn't just music that I enjoyed -- I loved hearing funky talk radio programs like the supernatural world of weird from Art Bell, and I remember staying up late just to catch the funny sounds of the Doctor Demento Show. And years later in college, I'd keep the radio on while I worked, listening to Loveline, before anyone ever set eyes on what Dr. Drew and Adam looked like.
As available as television was, radio still found its way into pivotal points in my life, and it continues to hold a place in my life today, most importantly, in the form of KEXP (90.3 FM), a Seattle-based radio station. It's unique in that it is a listener-supported station and remains independent from the corporate clutches of Clear Channel and private/pay-wall satellite radio. It's a station that operates under the notion that you hire talented, music-inspired on-air personalities who host live shows they program themselves, versus letting a computer randomly spit out statistic-driven Top 40/Retro favorites, the programming is not only available on the air, but online streaming as well as recorded podcasts, so that listeners from around the world can enjoy such eclectic musical selections that include indie bands, world music, electronica, jazz, vintage country and hip hop; no sound is off limits. And it's all free. Like the concept behind PBS, if you feel like you're getting enriched, then donate as you see fit, and with any hope, this Pay It Forward business model will sustain itself and a community of like-minded individuals will keep something good available to the masses.
Every year, they've thankfully been able to make their fundraising goals, but it's an ever-present challenge. They get a lot of help from corporate donors and matching contributions, and they always give out clever "thank you" gifts for individual sponsors. I was proud to add a new funky t-shirt which I will proudly wear as a reminder to keep the spirit of public radio alive. I urge people who aren't familiar with KEXP to give them a try if you're looking for unique, sincere music suggestions. Even if the first song you hear on KEXP's lineup doesn't catch your fancy, be patient, keep it on for a few hours and see what sticks, as it's such a wide variety of music, you will be educated on something new you'll love. Listening to DJs who know the music scene and aren't afraid of playing bold choices is a reminder of what good radio is, and why it's something that needs to be supported, enriched and shared with others.
Do as the Luchador otter says and support listener-powered radio! Viva la KEXP!
Jaunty Fine Print: photos by Denise Sakaki, shirts from KEXP