If you like to listen to commercial radio, stop reading right now.
If braying, ass-grabbing DJs, grating advertisements, repetitive playlists packed with inane studio-packaged 'bands', and 10 minutes of 'music' in each hour of programming are all your cup of tea, you and I probably won't see eye-to-eye about what makes a great radio station anyway.
If you're still reading and you aren't already a KEXP listener, stick around - I think you'll be happy you did. If you're passionate about all types of music and like to stay plugged in to new bands and new sounds, you may never listen to any other station ever again. Ever.
When I was a little younger - in my teens and twenties - it seemed like music was everywhere. Friends talked about it, shared new recordings, played it at parties, even argued about it. But as my friends and I got older, music was often crowded out by other things - work, family, etc. - and our musical interests became historical artifacts, vestiges of our more youthful selves. But even as our musical tastes calcified around generationally-specific formats (think 'Adult Alternative', or 'Album-Oriented Rock'), the world of music kept spinning, turning out great bands and great new ideas.
Naturally, commercial radio stations have honed their programming to address stable listener segments, each cannily catering to a different slice of musical nostalgia, all in the name of 'moving units' (whether albums or hair tonics, it doesn't really matter as long as the money rolls in). Sure, there were always college stations to keep things alive, but a widening gulf has emerged between the world of musical innovation and the realm of nationally-programmed music radio.
Enter KEXP: product of an unlikely marriage between an aggressively independent college rock station (KCMU), and an arts-loving billionaire.
Like many Seattleites, I was concerned when Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen offered to co-fund the University of Washington's student-run music station (under new call letters) and associate it with his struggling popular music museum, the Experience Music Project. I was worried that too close an association with a whimsical billionaire would undermine the station's hard-fought independence and eclectic programming, dragging it into uncomfortable servitude to Paul's personal whims.
I need not have worried. Since the rebranding of KCMU as KEXP, the station has excelled on every front: more diverse musical programming (from American roots to World to Electronica to Hip Hop, all anchored by a steady pulse of new and emerging stars from the college rock scene), more one-of-a-kind shows (including tons of live, in-studio performances with up-and-coming artists), a phenomenal website (offering both live and archived streaming downloads in a range of formats), and a broad array of talented, passionate DJs. In fact, if you took all the money in the world and tried to create the perfect music radio station, I'm not sure you could improve on KEXP.
Oh, and did I mention that KEXP is listener-supported radio? That means no screaming car dealers, no fast food jingles, no booming monster truck rally promos. Like most public radio stations, you *can* expect a quarterly on-air fund drive, which is your cue to mail in a check and leave town for a week until it all blows over.
So calling all hipsters -- from legit out-every-night scenesters to aging hangers-on like myself: Tune in to KEXP today (at 90.3 FM in Seattle, 91.7 in the South Sound, or online anywhere at www.kexp.org) and I promise you'll never look back.