Sunday, June 14, 2009

I've FINALLY found my new radio station.

I have to wonder how many people actually push the "seek" button on their radio? Radio "presets" have been a staple - especially in car radios - forever. Once you dial in your station(s), there's really no NEED to seek anymore. Which is why, and forgive me if you might think I'm woefully behind the times on this, I didn't know about 89.3 "The Current." It's the closest thing to the old "REV 105" you're likely to find on a Twin Cities radio today.
Back in the 1990's my favorite radio station was "REV 105" - a low-power station at three places on the dial playing eclectic/free-form music, live in-studio sets, and a big supporter of the local music and charitable causes. Then Disney/ABC/Capitol Cities came in, bought the station, changed it's format, and destroyed the best radio station I - or many other loyal listeners - had ever heard.

Hard to believe that was March 11th, 1997 - over 12 years ago. I've been searching for another favorite radio station ever since.

Under the new ownership the station's name was changed to X-105 and the format to hard rock. Oh, and all the REV-105 people were fired. Then some of them were hired back that September when it became ZONE 105 playing "Adult Album Alternative." Until 1999 when they switched to "Classic Alternative," and then 2000 when they just played "Alternative." In 2001 there was yet another name and format change to V105 playing "Rhythmic Oldies." A year later yet ANOTHER name and format change to "Drive 105" once again playing "Adult Album Alternative" until 2004 when it was back to "Alternative." A decade after the initial shot, 2007 put the final nail in the coffin - a name change to "Love 105" and format change to "Soft Adult Contemporary/Oldies."

I tried listening to 93.7 "The Edge" (Disney's "alternative" station, and the reason they wanted to kill REV 105), which I'd best describe as having been "corporate alternative rock." And like most commercial stations they had an official playlist - created no doubt from marketing research data - from which the DJs apparently dared not waver lest they be flogged or something. When 105 went back to Alternative it was only because Disney decided 93.7 needed to be the hard rock station instead. So the swapped formats. But the playlist at the newly minted "Drive 105" gradually got more and more lame as any song even approaching an "edge" was deemed in competition with their other "rock" station.

But for a lot of the time since REV 105 was killed I simply stopped listening to radio and listened to my rather eclectic music collection. Then recently my brother suggested I give JACK FM a listen, saying they at least play a mix of music old and new. I had to admit, most of the time it isn't that bad. But it's certainly no REV 105. Why? Because REV 105 wasn't just about the playlist, a lot of it had to do with the on-air talent, the dedication to the local music scene, and the station's mission to support local charities.

I was trying to recall the exact date "the music died" (that would be when REV 105 was sold) and looked it up online. Which was when I learned that three of the people who made REV 105 what it was are reunited at KCMP 89.3 "The Current" and they would be Mary Lucia, Steve Nelson, and Thorn. Also, some of you may know Mark Wheat from KUOM "Radio K." Yep, he's there too. What made me even less likely to have stumbled upon this station is that it is a part of Minnesota Public Radio (MPR). I don't know about you, but when I think of Public Radio I think of boring talk shows and classical music. In fact, a lot of critics of publicly funded radio (coincidentally many of whom are owners of commercial stations) believe MPR should restrict itself to boring programming and not act like a commercial station at all. So about the last thing I'd have expected on an MPR station was "eclectic/free-form" - which is, wow, the same format that REV 105 used to play!
The first time I tuned my home stereo into "The Current" it was like I'd just stepped in a time machine and was transported back to 1996 - there was Mary Lucia as DJ, songs by the Jayhawks, Wilco, Dinosaur Jr., and mixed in some experimental jazz and songs I could neither identify the artist nor (in some cases) pin down the genre. But that was one of the coolest things about REV 105 - the DJ's were free to slip in some really obscure, off-beat - totally NON commercial music. Radio is where you're SUPPOSED to be exposed to new stuff, right? Oh, and another way it's like having REV 105 back from the dead - "The Current" is also on more than one frequency on the dial, depending on where you live:
  • 88.7 in Rochester, MN (plays classical in the morning & switches to "The Current")
  • 89.3 in the Twin Cities
  • 95.3 in Mankato, MN
  • 97.5 in Hinkley, MN
  • Stream It from the web if you can't get it over the air.
I know this is going to sound like an advertisement, but if you loved - or even liked - the old REV 105 go to your stereo and tune into one of the aforementioned frequencies and give "The Current" a listen. I'm sure you'll do what I did and assign it the first preset button.

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