MONEY WHERE MIND IS: One measure of your passion for and personal connection to a particular friendly, funds-hungry, non-commercial radio station is in direct proportion to your attitude come fund drive time. Of course, there is a natural human irritation factor involved when the regularly scheduled programming we know and love is interrupted by repeated and sundry pleas for lucre and donations, often triggering the desire to switch stations. But true believers and regular listeners understand the necessity of the effort — and even get into the spirit of the solidarity and the once-annual on-air rallying for a grand and worthy cause: the cause of terrestrial radio freedom.
So KCSB (91.9 fm on your terrestrial dial, or kcsb.org) has been asking for our money for the past week, in the annual fund drive running through this weekend, and I, for one, honk my inner horn in support, as well as soak up the passionate on-air pleas. As someone raised on the infamous Southside of Santa Barbara, who found in KCSB an oasis of hipness and cultural enlightenment starting around age 12, I can safely say that KCSB helped form my cultural values, admittedly left of center, but happily so. It was there, in my early teens, that I first heard Coltrane, Stockhausen, Stravinsky, Gamelan music, Miles Davis’ electric period, Blue Cheer, John Fahey, and sounds and ideas nowhere to be found on commercial radio or other mass media sources. But we digress, and wax quasi-religious, a common instinct when dealing with your own personal relationship to a life-changing source of inspiration.
It may be easy to take KCSB for granted, it having hunkered down in the fertile radio soil of the left end of the dial for 52 years now. But in fact, it is a very special species of non-commercial station in America, with a truly independent spirit and a heartwarmingly wild variety of programming for our listening pleasure, and sometimes annoyance.
On the subject of great American culture in need of tender loving care, KCSB’s jazz roster is impressively strong, from Stanley Naftaly’s long-running and fittingly-named “Jazz Straight Ahead” to the wonderful adventuring of Marta Ulvaeus’ “Roots to the Source” and Steve S.’s (who is that guy?) ear-opening “Joyful Cosmos”, Corey Dubin’s “Inside-Out”, and beyond. (On an incidental note, along with KCBX in San Luis Obispo — especially Fred Friedman’s “Jazz Liner Notes” — and KCLU at Cal Lutheran, the tri-counties regional jazz radio map is actually much stronger than what trickles out of Los Angeles).
Running a successful non-commercial station with diversity and appealing to multiple demographics (vs. the narrowcasting myopia of most formatted commercial stations) is an imperfect and ever-shifting art or science, and any such station, including KCSB, is inevitably a work-in-progress on that front.
For my money, the schedule could use more classical music, especially of the contemporary and offbeat repertoire, which I heard daily years ago — although Jack “Sonic Earscape” Fischer and Joe Miller have established a good beachhead for “longhair” music, worth expanding on. World music needs more love and airtime, too: I’m still in mourning about the loss of my favorite show, the long-running “India Show.” But these are just highly subjective observations from my personal peanut gallery.
Indie rock and college sounds are abundant, the blues gets its due, from the likes of Sunnyland Steve, Leo Schumaker and others. The folk factor is kept running thanks to such programmers as Pat Cardenas — her Saturday “Black Nag” is one of the longest-running shows on the schedule — Andy Doerr’s “Road Show” and the musical segments in Dick Flacks’ “Culture of Protest.” Ray Ramos Jr. (son of a beloved veteran KCSB DJ of old) jams old school soul on Friday nights, and the DJ presently known as Hoshwa keeps the fires of lo-fi indiephonics going on “5…4…3…2… FUN!!!”, always fun and almost always tinged by technical difficulties, but for lo-fi art’s sake. In other unique personality traits and tics, DJ-Tragic’s hip-hopping “Word on the Street” has the longest, hip-hoppest intro on the radio, and The Chemist’s Friday afternoon show, “Doom Corporation,” mixes up brain-cleaning hardcore punk with selective alternative news commentary with the Chemist’s smirking, wisecracking wisdom intact.
Lately, I’ve been enjoying dodging weekday morning work by checking out Ted Coe’s “Freak Power Ticket” and the theme-driven Frank and George Show”, and keep bumping into new shows that tickle my multicultural and multi-idiomatic fancies, as I’m sure they do others — and would for those as-yet tuned into this amazing, and strictly local, non-corporate, non-formatted oasis for the mind.
My check’s in the mail, and my heart’s in the right place, driving me daily back to 91.9.
TO-DOINGS: For anyone plugged into the vital but inherently hard-to-find contemporary/computer/experimental music scene, a prized local resource is out UCSB way, a campus whose commitment to and involvement in the educational aspects and public presentation of new sounds has deepened in recent years. This trend has been particularly notable since the arrival of composer-professor Clarence Barlow in the Corwin Chair position, in sync with the already entrenched computer music forces steered by JoAnn Kuchera-Morin and Curtis Roads.
Already this fall, there have been fascinating — and free-to-the-public — performances, in the intimate Karl Geiringer Hall venue. Los Angeles’ inspired avant-geared Formalist Quartet gave one of the most powerful concerts I’ve heard all year, focusing on music of Christian Wolff. Last week, Belgian-born guitarist Nico Couck blissfully stretched conventions of classical, acoustic and electric guitar thinking, with music willfully extending techniques and assumptions. The guitar worlds — in classical, pop and beyond — is not as conservative as it seems.
Next Wednesday, the list of recommended experimental music fare at UCSB continues with one of the academic season’s concerts by CREATE (Center for Research in Electronic Art Technology), at Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall. Featured on this concert is a rare West Coast appearance by guest electronic music artist Richard Devine, performing his Sound Storm and the world premiere of Roads’ new Always.
As for events where experimentalism muse visits upon rock ‘n’ rollers, you can’t go wrong by heading to SOhO tonight (November 14) and checking out the wonderfully wild Portlandic duo Quasi, 20-year veterans in the margins where fresh ideas, noise spices, and jolts of the unexpected stir freely into the vocab of backbeats and quirky hooks. KCSB oughtta be all over this one.