Last weekend I was up in Michigan (GAH!), driving from Detroit to Lansing (Double GAH!), and scanning through radio stations and the thing I noticed as I scanned from radio station to station? Michigan radio kicks some major ass! Far be it for me to give props to the hated state of Michigan because we all know I’m a Buckeye through & through, but there isn’t a place that I’ve ever been that had “over-the-FM-airwaves” radio like Detroit and it’s neighboring cities do and I discovered one station that reminded me why I love college radio so much.
Since my days at the All Campus Radio Network (ACRN) in Athens, most of my radio has been narrowed down to Clearchannel-owned zombie radio stations. They play the same 10 songs…over…and over….and over. Cincinnati is FULL of these stations and I can’t take it anymore! I have really kind of given up hope on Cincinnati radio and now the only station on my dial that I listen too religiously is Alan IPod Mix & Match. When the kids are in the car, I tune to the pop Top 40 station where I can hear Lady Gaga, Beyonce and The Black-Eyed Peas all freaking day, but I tend to tune them out with thoughts of cranking up some Vampire Weekend, Social Distortion or MuteMath. This weekend on I-96, I didn’t have to dream because Michigan State college radio station, The Impact 88.9, made all my dreams come true.
I’m not gonna rail on conglomerate radio (even though I should), I know they are selling a product and are only playing what the consultants think the listening public wants to hear. When you test among high school students and pre-pubescent girls, of course the only thing they wanna hear is Ke$ha and Taylor Swift. But I’m not a young girl. I’m an adult male who is tired of hearing the same thing over & over again. In Cincinnati, that leaves me with very little to offer. We have WEBN, which is a staple in the rock community all over the country. However even they have gotten stale with their playlist of classic rock, cock rock and Metallica. I have been listening to the same stuff for years now and it’s old. Thankfully, the internet has given me other options so that I can hear fresher material, but even that skews towards stuff that I’ve already heard a gazillion times.
So The Impact was an ear-opening experience! Not since CD101 opened up in Columbus have I heard such a fresh mix of music. Bands I had never heard of were played one after the other! I have never used my Shazam app as much as I did on those drives between Detroit & Lansing! If there was a limit on the amount of times used, I might have reached it if I wasn’t driving 85 mph to & from the airport. Bands like The Veer Union, A.C. Newman, Camera Obscura, Mobile, Silverchair (who I have heard of but didn’t give them a 2nd listen on ITunes. “Straight Lines” is awesome!), City & Colour, Stellastar and the Cazals were just a few that I sampled. And oh how they sounded so good! I have missed college radio! With its disregard for the current trends and popular artists. Not once did I hear a song that I had heard a million times already. Actually, off the top of my head, the only song that I think I knew was The Dandy Warhols’ “Bohemian Like You”. Other than that…all new & all fresh!
College radio is where it’s at…especially if you don’t have access to Sirius or XM radio. It’s a place where young minds get together and listen to the stuff that no one else dares to play. College radio Program Directors aren’t looking for the next big thing, they just want to hear good music on their airwaves…and The Impact definitely does just that. So if you get a chance and are lucky enough to have a college radio station in your town, do me a favor and count your blessings and support them. Without college radio, the airwaves are a very bleak place and we owe them a round of applause for keeping it real…even when consultants say there is no need to hear the latest by The Mountain Goats. Because I’ll take The Mountain Goats over Hannah Montana any day…