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Posted at 3:53 PM ET, 04/28/2005

California Concert Carpetbaggers

By washingtonpost.com

If it isn't bad enough that we live in a region that doesn't have a single decent high-profile radio station willing to play anything other than mainstream music, now we have to suffer the indignity of having concerts being "presented" by a radio station 3,000 miles away. Santa Monica's progressive/alternative rock station, KCRW, has announced that it will begin promoting shows in the D.C. market this summer. Well, technically, it's the station's Web site KCRW.com that is presenting Aqualung on May 9 at the 9:30 and the Pixies and Bloc Party on June 13 at Merriweather. But the technical difference doesn't make it any less embarrassing that a station on the other side of the country can recognize this giant chasm in local music radio. In an effort to nationalize its brand of only slightly adventurous programming, the station seems to be targeting markets where acts like the aforementioned bands are likely to get little radio play and D.C. fits squarely into that category. They gave us our own baseball team, you'd think they'd at least give us one radio station we could be proud of. Having a California radio station/Web site present shows in D.C. is not an acceptable solution.

-- Joe

By washingtonpost.com  | April 28, 2005; 3:53 PM ET
Categories:  Music  
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Comments

While I can understand your chagrin, having just moved here a few months ago from Los Angeles, I can't help but feel a deep sense of relief, if not glee, that KCRW has decided to grace D.C. with its presence. I have been suffering from a general state of ennui since landing in a city without a single radio station worth listening to, and the fact that KCRW.com provides not one but three streaming Internet radio channels free of charge has been one of my few salvations.

Try not to think of their presence here as an intrusion, but rather an affirmation of the fact that the station has deemed this city to be inhabited with enough fans of decent (I dare not say groundbreaking, as I agree with your assessment of KCRW's programming) music to merit them coming. Outside of its SoCal market, the NPR affiliate has been sponsoring shows in San Francisco and New York for a goodly amount of time now, and those are hardly cities characterized by a lack of good radio. Rather, it seems to me that KCRW is reaching out to D.C. and saying, here, fellow travellers, we have found each other.

Granted, the fact that I may be one of only a handful of people in this city with a KCRW membership card in my wallet and therefore able to easily snag free tickets to these upcoming shows may give me a small bias. But perhaps this new D.C.-KCRW relationship will hasten the arrival of a locally-based competitor, something this city sorely needs.

Posted by: Sommer | April 28, 2005 8:30 PM | Report abuse

I find it amazing that a city with so many schools does not have a good college radio station (wamu doesn't count and the one at umd is too low powered). Oh well. I guess pirate radio and webcasts are the way to go in dc for decent music..

Posted by: evan | April 29, 2005 9:20 AM | Report abuse

With the rise of radio stations from all over the country streaming their content on line, I question how long mainstream radio markets in places like DC--that is, places where flipping through the dial causes chest pains--can last. I feel like I know quite a few people and literally none of them listen to DC radio. And why should they? All they have to do is go to www.kexp.org and listen to radio the way it's meant to be. I mean, yeah, the station is based in Washington, but sadly it's the state of Washington and not the D.O.C. This may sound extreme but look at the record industry. You can almost hear the death clock ticking on them.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 29, 2005 9:48 AM | Report abuse

I for one sorely miss WHFS but it has been missing from my airwaves for many years since I couldn't get reception at Dupont Circle. What I have done is subscribed to InRadio
www.inradio.com
which sends me a CD every other month and which I have very much enjoyed. I highly recommend it.

Posted by: Dianne | April 29, 2005 9:49 AM | Report abuse

D.C. radio stations have gone way down in quality. I agree, I miss WHFS. It has gotten so bad, I find I actually get sick of listening to the radio. Other stations play the same tired songs over and over again. The whole reason I loved to listen to the radio over a cd was because there was always a wide ranging mix. Now they are all the same. It could be refreshing to have a new station bring concerts into the area. It is, however, shameful that such a large and populated area would have to rely on states on the other side of the continent to provide a change in our music venue.

Posted by: mindy | April 29, 2005 10:32 AM | Report abuse

As someone raised in this area, this area has always had poor radio stations. 'HFS only played good music when they were owned by the Einsteins, and today, there are only 2 local stations worth listening to -- WPFW and WRNR. Luckily, though I "discovered" KCRW on a trip out to LA a few years ago and am now a convert -- I listen to KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic every morning via internet.

Posted by: Pradeep | April 29, 2005 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Just FYI HFS is back on 105.7fm complete with hfstival - http://www.live1057.com/

Posted by: Andy | April 29, 2005 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Joe, have you seen the 9:30 forum message. They're writing that as the Post's music critic you should be doing more to write about local music. Care to respond?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 29, 2005 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Well, first things first. I'm not the Post's music critic. I just write about music for The Post and I'm the music editor for the website. And I'm sure this will sound defensive, but I think I've written about a lot of local music: Medications, Washington Social Club, the Evens, Of Unknown Origin, Citizen Cope, Brindley Brothers, Fugazi, Last Train Home, Storm, Poem-cees, Bob Mould (hey, he's local now, right)Thievery Corporation and a bunch of other stuff. Of course, I'm not sure what any of that has to do with not having a decent radio station in town.

Posted by: Joe | April 29, 2005 2:11 PM | Report abuse

As one who commented in the 9:30 thread on this topic, it's great that you've written about those bands, however, it isn't happening enough and it tends to be the same acts. With this blog, it would be nice if it could be used to highlight local acts on a regular basis rather than restating the obvious.

DC's radio situation has been terrible for a long time, at least 10 years, and unfortunately, that probably won't change anytime soon. Like others, I listen to non-local radio stations online to discover new acts. Why? One, because I won't necessarily read about them in the Post and two, because there isn't a radio station playing the music I want to hear. The fact that WOXY, an online station based in Ohio, is playing DC-area bands is a good thing because where else would someone like me learn of them?

So, instead of giving backhanded compliments to KCRW, I think it's great that someone is trying to get people in this area exposed to new music. Who cares if they're from California? Is that better than Clear Channel buying up a lot of stations in the area? Heck yes, it is!

Posted by: AngelV | April 29, 2005 4:12 PM | Report abuse

I won't disagree that more coverage of local bands would be better. And, just as a reminder, if local bands want to be considered for coverage, they should make sure to send a CD and press kit to the Weekend section of the Post and to the Entertainment Guide here at Post.com

As for KCRW, I just don't see them as a local radio presence. Every media entity, almost every radio station in the country, has a Web site. And there are a few with half-decent programming, like KCRW, that stream their broadcasts. Obviously, the presenting of shows in different cities is KCRW's attempt to create a national audience for their webcast. I just wish we had a local station in town that would take some chances. I'd even take a couple of hours a week on WAMU instead of just listening to their recycled news programs at night. But, and this is where I admit defeat, I don't think anything in local radio is about to change for the better.

Posted by: Joe | April 29, 2005 4:49 PM | Report abuse

In the DC aea, we have WRNR, 103.1, which is a fantastic, small radio station playing a large variety of music that, programming-wise, puts everything else in the area to shame, and holds it own, and then some, against KCRW. Unfortunately you need an amplified antenna to get it. But it's worth the money. And they promote great local shows like Killers and Keane at Merriweather and throw exclusive luntime shows with people like Mike Doughty and Wilco. DJs include Damien Einstein, Rob Timm and Bob Waugh and the morning show - Planet Alex - is great to wake up to.

Posted by: Jess | April 29, 2005 7:19 PM | Report abuse

To Clarify - in DC you need an amplified antenna. In Annapolis, most of Baltimore, PG and the western Eastern Shore, you can get it just fine on your radio, with your regular antenna.

Posted by: Jess | April 29, 2005 7:21 PM | Report abuse

In response to the comments above about people wanting to see this blog be used more to "highlight local acts," one thing that would be nice to see is more coverage of the WashingtonPost.com MP3 page. A lot of readers probably never find it because it's buried fairly deep in the site. While some of the material on there may be a little rough, there is some quality, professional sounding music that people could be downloading for free. Maybe if the Gurus could highlight some MP3s from that site on a regular basis those would end up in more MP3 players around town. The MP3 site already does this, but I wonder how many washingtonpost.com readers find their way there. This blog gets a mention on the mainpage of the site, along with plugs in the weekly chat, and gets more exposure.

In response to Joe's comment about local bands that he's covered, a few of those bands are signed to labels or known pretty well both here and outside of D.C., but judging by Jess' comments, I think there are some people who would like to hear more about bands that serious music fans have not discovered yet.

On the local radio front, I like WRNR out of Annapolis and WTMD out of Towson, but we need a station like that right here in D.C. that can be heard in more places. I have to head East to get either of those stations to come in well. I often hear people say that the dial is too crowded in the D.C. area for us to get a station like this, but I wonder if anyone has ever done a study to determine what kind of a market there would be for a station like that in D.C. and whether or not an existing station could change to that format and still survive.

Posted by: Mike | May 1, 2005 11:27 AM | Report abuse

To add to what I posted above, Richard Harrington did a nice piece in the Weekend section in March called "Lend Them Your Ears" Breaking Stories From the Music Scene," that highlights D.C. bands:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A43643-2005Mar17.html

Posted by: Mike | May 1, 2005 12:46 PM | Report abuse

KEXP sponsors shows in NYC all the time. Big deal.

Posted by: leafblower | May 2, 2005 9:54 AM | Report abuse

>In an effort to nationalize its brand of >only slightly adventurous programming...

nice backhanded compliment for the best musical programming in all of public radio, and the most consistently interesting morning show anywhere.

Posted by: matty-matt-matt | May 4, 2005 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Ok, Joe. I was just looking thru some cool, hip, new bands' web sites for tour listing and Richmond is getting better bands than we are! Richmond. Richmond, I say!! Has anyone been to Richmond lately? It doesn't make a lick of sense! So, Joe - My question is this: what are we going to DO ABOUT THIS?! I can't live like this.

Posted by: chiclet | May 6, 2005 10:24 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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