One of my favorite things to do when I was living in Charlottesville, Va., and had a Sunday of Monday night off was to turn on WNRN and listen to the “New Rock Now” program. Rhonda Chollock was always there to give me a rundown of the top 10 albums on the CMJ chart that week, then play a bunch of new music that had been recently released or that was coming out the following Tuesday.
It’s been almost 2.5 years since I moved, and that station is definitely one of the things I miss the most about C’ville — that, and the great selection of eateries.
I’ve listened to the station a few times online since then, but I always forget to turn it on in time for my favorite show. I had Monday night off and was all set to listen in, but the schedule apparently changed and something else was on. So I instead decided to check out another internet feed.
Six hours later, and I’m still listening to KOPB out of Portland, Ore. I didn’t realize how awesome its playlist was until now. And it got me thinking about the handful of radio stations that have played an important role in my musical development.
Below are some breakdowns of those stations, as well as a song that stands out when I think of each one.
Having spent the major portion of my youth in central Illinois, I was raised on generally mediocre mainstream rock stations. Perhaps it was the subpar offerings on those stations that delayed my interest in modern rock.
Instead, during my early teens, I chose to listen to the local oldies station. It tended to set me apart from my peers as I failed to keep up on all the most popular bands. But I made up for it by building a strong foundation in all the best music of the ’50s, ’60s and early ’70s.
I feel like that background has helped me to appreciate modern music even more.
Before moving to Virginia, I’d spent a couple years in the musical wasteland of northwest Illinois, where — as my friend correctly theorized — you could always find a Van Halen or Rush song within 15 minutes of turning on the radio.
Needless to say, I wasn’t discovering too many new bands via the radio waves. I’d long considered investing in satellite radio but kept putting it off. By the time I moved to the Eastern time zone, I was all set to finally get it, but then I read an article in an alt-weekly about a local station and figured I’d check it out.
I had no idea such stations even existed. It was the musical bastion that I’d been pining for. In addition to its constant indie/alternative offerings and the aforementioned “New Rock Now” show, it also had a show on Sunday afternoons called “Les Temps Perdue” that would eventually spur my interest in post-punk music.
Despite having an awesome local station, I still needed something for the long road trips back to the Midwest. I was still several years away from purchasing my first iPod, and my spindles of CDs were rather cumbersome.
So, when I saw XM players on sale one Black Friday, I splurged and purchased one. It was a portable player that could record several hours of shows. Other than using headphones, the only way to listen to it was to hook it up to my TV and play it through the auxiliary channel.
Anyways, I discovered many a new band through the XMU station and Billy Zero’s shows and “After School Special”. I also loved to switch it up with the Fred, Ethel and Lucy stations (why one of the Latin stations wasn’t called Ricky, I’ll never know).
I was still a loyal listener after moving to South Bend, Ind., and even following the XM/Sirius merger. (I noted that XMU, which became SiriusXMU was one of the few XM stations to hold on to its old name.) But, eventually, I was forced to move on after my player’s battery died and I didn’t feel like getting a new one.
While still living in Virginia, I took a weeklong jaunt to the Pacific Northwest to visit friends in Portland and Seattle, and I took note of a couple stations out there. KNDD (107.7 FM “The End”) was pretty key for some solid alt-rock.
But it was a Portland station that stuck with me. I listened to 94.7 any time I was driving around The City of Roses, even if it was just to move my car.
I came back home and signed up to the station’s e-mail newsletter and, ever since, have received weekly reminders about how awesome the city of Portland is. Lately, they’ve included free weekly downloads, called “Slice of Heaven”.
After moving back to the Midwest, I was quickly reminded how dire the radio offerings are here. Trolling through all the stations, I was forced to stick with a run-of-the-mill adult contemporary station — although, it does have ’80s weekends every weekend, which is nice.
One of my friends’ girlfriends, who happened to be a Notre Dame alumnus, suggested I give one of the local college stations a try. After the first go, I wasn’t too excited. It was a bunch of Americana stuff I’d never heard before and wasn’t sure I’d dig.
But I gave it another try and listened to for an extended period of time. What I discovered was that, although I didn’t recognize the bulk of the artists or songs, there was some pretty good stuff being played.
I’ve found a bevy of songs that I will eventually try to download, if I can ever find them online. I also found out about David Dye’s “World Cafe” show from 4-6 p.m. that is full of the modern indie stuff I crave.
The latest entry in my list of go-to stations appears to be an online-only feed. A branch of the Oregon Public Broadcasting network, OPBmusic is a non-stop stream of great indie music.
It’s also the main curator of the PDX Pop Now! festival and CD compilation set.
I haven’t listened to the station or CDs enough to have a great feel for it. But it’s obvious that this is my kind of station. With any luck, I’ll be able to listen to it somehow when I visit Portland again in August.