Local radio station WNKU signed off for good a couple of nights ago. It was the only local station worth a damn, and now it’s gone. They started as a bluegrass and folk station in 1985, but over the years had morphed into a “Triple A” (Adult Album Alternative) format, and recently had shifted more toward modern rock/indie rock, a format very similar to 97X, a now-defunct station where I worked as a DJ back in the mid-90s. In fact, WNKU had even added Matt Sledge — one of my co-workers at 97X — to their on-air staff a couple of years ago.
That’s the real gut punch – I feel like WNKU was just hitting their stride and picking up momentum when the rug was pulled out from under them by their owner, Northern Kentucky University. I get it, there’s a budget crunch in higher education, and especially in Kentucky, where Governor Matt Bevin cut funding for all state schools by 4.5% in 2016. So the university had to get out of the radio business… especially when the format favored outlier artists over the pop pablum, bro country and other lame formats favored by the (m)asses. WNKU broadcast on a few frequencies around the area – two were sold to a Christian broadcasting company, and another signal went to a local country station.
It’s a big loss for music in the area. WNKU supported local artists by playing at least one track from a local band every hour. And they helped draw national acts to the area. This past winter I hosted a house concert by Craig Finn, lead singer of The Hold Steady. That never would’ve happened without WNKU, because Craig scheduled his house concert tour around in-studio appearances at radio stations, promoting his new solo album. He was on the air with Liz Felix in the afternoon, doing an interview and playing an acoustic set. Liz even came to the house concert that night. No WNKU = no more Craig Finn visits = no more amazing house concerts at my place.
For indie music fans of a certain age in the Cincinnati area, it’s reliving a nightmare. 97X signed off in 2004 and left a similar void in their lives. There aren’t many folks who are into the artists who are weirdos, rebels, up-and-comers, but those fans are as passionate as you’ll find, and losing a beloved radio station is like the death of a family member – for listeners and staff alike, as you’ll see in this video from the Cincinnati Enquirer:
The Enquirer story is here.
Sure, it’s a bluetooth, wi-fi, satellite radio world. We can stream Spotify or Pandora or Google Music or Sirius/XM or whatever is out there in the ether. But it’s not the same. It’s not as personal, and it never will be, because those folks (or more fittingly these days, those algorithms) don’t live here, they don’t know us and get us like a local radio station does.
Aaron Sharpe wrapped up with a great Talking Heads song. I’d like to add a couple more to the swan song playlist. One is a local band, This Pine Box. Guitarist Joe Tellmann is the son of my friend Dave, who worked at 97X for more than a decade. This band should be on every station in America, not just a tiny station that no longer exists.
And here’s the song I heard on WNKU more than any other tune, it was played nearly every Friday morning during the request show, and it’s a beautiful song about death from a brilliant artist ignored by the mainstream. Seems rather fitting.
“I know the ‘sit’ command… now give me my treat!”
He’s a 4-month-old Golden Retriever/Yellow Lab mix and the latest addition to the dubbatrubba menagerie, which now numbers two dogs, two cats, three teenagers and one tween.
Bibo (pronounced “BEE-bow”), a.k.a. Justin Bibo, Bilbo, Bippo, Bibonator, Bibbity-Bobbity-Boo, et al. is a loaner. He came from a non-profit in Xenia, Ohio called 4 Paws For Ability, which provides service dogs for children with disabilities and military veterans. He’ll be with us for about five to seven months, then will go back for his official service training. So we just have to get him socialized and used to going to new places, along with the typical puppy training.
Yes, an excitable, chew-on-the-shoes, pee-on-the-floor, chase-the-cats ball of fur is the last thing we needed. But dogs like Bibo are exactly what a lot of kids and their families need.
Half a year of extra work* to help provide years of peace of mind for kids and their families? Yeah, we’re in. Welcome aboard, Bibo!
*Our daughter Leah is doing most of the work, she’s a future Dog Whisperer.
Yesterday felt a bit like Ferris Bueller’s Day off, except without the Ferrari.
In the morning, I biked nearly 30 miles in the local Cystic Fibrosis Cycle for Life event… and raised more than $800 for CF research (#humblebrag). Our route took us along the river on the Ohio side, and then across a bridge to Kentucky and along the river on that side. It was quite scenic, and other than the killer hill at mile 15, rather enjoyable.
Meanwhile my wife Tina took our youngest child Andrew to his soccer game, and his team avenged their only loss of the season with a 3-1 win.
In the afternoon, Tina and I hit an outdoor beer festival at a local brewery/restaurant. We hadn’t made advance plans to go, but since the weather was nice, we figured we’d check it out for a couple of hours. Dozens of local brewers were serving up some of their standard brews, as well as a few specialty beers, and there were bands playing on three stages. We ran into my friend Todd – a loyal and faithful listener to 97X back in the day when I was a radio dude — who had volunteered to serve beers at one of the booths. (He’s a giver, that Todd. Probably should mention that volunteers got to drink free.)
Todd took this artsy angled shot… must’ve learned that trick from his teenagers.
Then the missus and I needed some grub, so we decided to check out a neat little restaurant that recently opened up nearby.
We’re glad we tried it – the food was delicious and the atmosphere was really cool. (I brought down the hip factor several notches, of course.) While we were there, Tina saw a Facebook notice that her cousin Mike was playing acoustic tunes in the courtyard of another local restaurant/bar called POP. We had no other choice… we HAD to go. (Sidebar: what’s “Facebook”?)
Sometimes the best days happen when you just go with the flow.
The Replacements are one of my all-time favorite bands. They definitely had a Mae West attitude toward performing:
They’re almost as famous for their crazy, drink-and-drug-fueled, self-destructive antics as they are for their music. But in February of 1986, they played a legendary show at the now-defunct Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey. 29 songs… for the 30 people in attendance… in what would wind up being one of the final performances for lead guitarist Bob Stinson, who was summarily sacked by a band that included his kid brother.
L to R: 19-year-old bassist Tommy Stinson, Chris Mars on drums, lead singer Paul Westerberg and lead guitarist Bob Stinson.
Luckily a 24-track mobile studio was recording the whole shebang. The master tapes sat collecting dust for 30 years, but are finally going to see the light of day on October 6th.
You can check out five of the tracks via the links here. (Side note: I think it’s pretty cool that Rhino sprinkled the tracks across different music blog and music sites… smart marketing too.) If you only have time for one link, the Consequence of Sound article features 10 fun facts about the release from Replacements biographer Bob Mehr.
Once you listen, you’ll understand why the ‘mats were such a great rock and roll band. Can’t hardly wait ’til October 6th.
I take the bus to work every day. When we run out of bread or milk, I usually ride my bike up to the Kroger that’s three blocks away. I also bike or walk to the library and church when the weather is nice. So I’m in a car a lot less than most folks. Yet somehow, someway, every time I get into one of our cars, here’s what I see:
I’m convinced that my wife and my 17-year-old son have no idea what that yellow light icon means, and couldn’t find the gas cap if you gave them a map. How they manage to stick me with the refueling chore (and bill) every time is a modern wonder, a sleight of hand called “now you see the wallet, now you don’t.”
I think they’re conspiring against me – when they know I have to take another kid to soccer or swim practice, they make sure they leave the “empty” car in the pole position in our driveway. My wife even jokes about it:
Then again, Tina could turn the tables and say that I have no idea what this means:
But that’s not true – I know exactly what a sink full of dirty dishes means… time to switch to paper plates!