Friday, July 15, 2011

Radio Radio: The End Of The NY Rock Experience

This morning is the first morning New York City is without WXRP.

Right now, 101.9 FM is beginning its new format under Merlin Media--the sale is still pending FCC approval, but the organization is operating the station via a local marketing agreement--on Monday. Randy Michaels, the brains behind Merlin, has yet to reveal what he has in store for the latest attempt at an alternative rock station in the largest media market in America, but the common belief is that 101.9 will introduce an all talk/news format (the first on the FM band in NYC) with an emphasis on female listeners.

WXRP built its programming around Matt Pinfield and
Leslie Frann's morning show..I was Not A Fan.
I still don't understand how this city, which still can boast one of the greatest rock and alternative scenes in the country, cannot support a radio station that plays current rock music. I mean, we support three Top 40 Stations of varying annoyance, four urban contemporary stations, two spanish-language music stations, two light music stations, and an oldies station...surely we have enough fans of contemporary guitar-based rock and related popular music in this great metropolis to support a single station that plays current rock and alternative music. Oh sure, as far as I know we still have 'QRock' a little further up the dial from 101.9, but that abomination manages to combine all of the worst aspects of the classic rock format in a way that makes it impossible for anyone not stuck in 1979 to appreciate it.

I have loved alternative rock since I stumbled across a faint signal from 92.7 WLIR back in 1982 while looking for something to listen to while I took a bath. And yet, ever since WLIR--which became WDRE, then WLIR back again as it switched hands over and over again and weathered legal battles left, right and center--finally faded away in 1996, the city has never quite been able to hold onto an alternative rock station. And it frustrates me that once again I have no place to go to listen to music I can tolerate, where the DJs don't have to work off a computer generated playlist of sixteen songs every hour (or, in the case of WXRK, the dance-oriented top 40 station that replaced the last great alternative rock experiment--an experiment that collapsed when Howard Stern finally took his ball and went to his new home of Sirius Radio--five songs every half hour).

This, however...this was a great attempt to bring a college
rock feel to the early evening shift....
(And for those of you--and I know you're preparing to say it right this moment--who will start singing the praises of WFMU...well, I can't get a signal from that station and I'm not willing to carry my laptop back and forth to my store, so shut up...)

WXRP wasn't perfect. I quite frankly found their morning team of Matt Pinfield and Leslie Frann really boring, and their refusal to acknowledge that certain artists had more than one or two well-known songs infuriating. But I enjoyed such OAPs as Brian Phillips and Nick Carter, loved their respect for music history via such features as their 'This Day In Music History' segments, and enjoyed the fact that they rarely repeated current hits in a five hour block. More importantly, I appreciated that they actively sought out and supported newer acts, including local bands, and gave them publicity. The station really tried to create a community feel for its audience, which was something I missed ever since WLIR/DRE was handed over to the Pheonix Media Group in the mid-90's to become something a little less freeform in its programming. I felt I was listening to a living, breathing entity and not a computerized pre-programmed piece of luncheon meat forced down my throat by marketers.

And then there's Rich Russo...who managed to do a weekly...
gasp...freeform radio program every Sunday!
I guess this is partially a further reflection of how FM radio has bled out its audience so that only the very young and very old remain to consume its product. Doesn't make it hurt any less that I lost a station I grew to claim as my own.

Doesn't mean I have to like it.

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