I’m just getting in from a long drive back from Woodstock, NY where I was stuck with only radio. Well not only radio I did have an MP3 player with me, after all even the most basic dumb phone these days has an MP3 player, but I like sampling whats on the airwaves in different communities when on a road trip so radio it was. Normally other then listening to news on NPR and the occasional collage station I avoid radio when home in Boston.
I have realized how homogenized radio has become over the past few decades. But that has been obvious with things like Clear Chanel’s rise to dominance. What was interesting about this trip was listening to Little Steven’s Underground Garage. I’ve heard former musicians’ syndicated radio shows before like Dee Snider’s House of Hair, but hearing Little Steven was new to me.
My trip started out with listening to him on my home town station WDST 100.1 Radio Woodstock. It is usually the station I’m locked to when in Woodstock and has produced some amazing DJ’s in the past such as Nic Harcourt now the radio director for KCRW a truly influential and unique public radio music station. What WDST had on was Little Steven’s Underground Garage. Little Steven’s voice is perfect for radio and he has a pedigree of rock royalty as a founding member of the E Street Band. The tunes were a perfect blend of cool driving music and excellent for a road trip.
Where I started getting triped up was when I started to lose WDST and switched over to WPYX 106.5 out of Albany, NY and got hit with the same show. Same ad’s, same Abbot and Costello bits, and same cleb sound bites. And then it happened again when I hit Springfield and switched over to WAQY 102. Same show AGAIN! Even down to the ads.
So I dig Little Steven’s program but I’m a little lost on where his show comes from. WDST has him listed as a DJ and the show is apparently syndicated even world wide through Radio Free America but I can’t figure out where it originates from. WDST would make sense. Woodstock as a community has long been established as a haven for amazing musical talent but I’m unsure.
What was really strange about the experience was that each time I picked it up it was at a different time slot and seemed to roll right along with me on repeat as I went down the Mass Pike.
I’m all for amazing musical selection being brought to communities that don’t have a Little Steven in them, but I’m left wondering if there is any original local radio anymore?
Last Friday I had the pleasure of seeing one of the best mash-up DJ’s around, DJ Z-Trip. Live at Harper’s Ferry in Alston, MA it ended up being a near 2 hour running mix of some of the best cut from his arsenal. The one draw back came with the opening acts. These ranged from local DJs who weren’t too bad to local hip-hop groups that were really lacking any substance. The best example of this disparity was Master Piece, who while having good lyrical skills they had the odd stage presence with an overweight white thirty-something guy dancing in a tiger mask and waving a plastic ax around. Really you had to see it to understand just how odd this was.
Z-Trip as usual was solid. Opening his set up with The Dropkick Murphy’s “Shipping up to Boston” he began playing towards his audience. He had the crowd at that point and they were delivering drinks dutifully to the stage.
With out getting into all of his set the pre-election opportunity wasn’t lost on Z-Tip. He took the Some of Obama samples. This sort of political mix isn’t new for Z-Trip at all. antiwarmix.jpg” alt=”The Anti War Mix” />In early 2003 he release the “Anti War Mix” tape live from a set at the Root Down in LA. The central elements are all politically oriented and use very clever sampling choices. These includes the slam poetry track from Saul Williams “Not in Our Name” over Audio Slave as well excerpts from the Jello Biafra spoke word album asking if we “really want to end up the winners of a world war III”? Who would be mess with than? The highlight of the mix is the cut and paste State of the Union address were President Bush is heard saying through cut and paste magic “By law and by custom we gather here each year to threaten the world.” Usage of Public Enemy, Rage Against the Machine, and and a whole host of early 90’s politically conscious hip-hop the mix holds it self together as a cohesive message.
That was 2003…
Flash forward to present and Z-Trip is back with another mix, The Obama Mix. And as with the Anti-War mix he is offering this as a free download from his web site as both a regular mix and a radio friendlily mix. The latter being very novel because it opens up the possibility of replay on collage radio stations and other independent radio outlets. The mix of course features a number of Obama sound bites including his “Yes we can speech” and a cleaver opening where Obama is talking about why hip-hop is intelligent.
Unfortunately I feel the mix falls a bit short and has a rushed quality to it since it needed to be out before the election if it was to have and value. It also relies on the recycling of musical element from the Anti-War mix leaves a feeling of distaste for government. Cap that off with Reagan samples declaring “Government is the problem” and you are left with very contrasting political ideals and messages that don’t seem to be cohesive as a whole.
It is this lack of cohesion that has made me reluctant to push this onto others who aren’t into turntablism, but any vehicle that encourages people to vote, take charge of their government, and maybe vote for Obama isn’t terrible.
The two mixes discussed above are available with many more at
antiwarmix.jpg” alt=”The Anti War Mix” />In early 2003 he release the “Anti War Mix”