If you're like me and most fans of local independent radio, you have your favorite shows. Recently, though, I branched out and listened to several programs that are new to my rock 'n' roll radar.
This meant straying from my usuals, which are "Sad Bastards" on WSUM-FM (91.7), a diverse set of sullen and surly songwriting that airs each Wednesday afternoon; and the online archives of Tuesday-night treat "Leopard Print Lounge" on WORT-FM (89.9), which spice up my workday with some superb garage, psych and surf-rock.
Here are my latest favorites.
For the Sake of the Song
WORT, Tuesdays, 9 am-noon
WORT's Tuesday-morning folk, bluegrass and Americana show has a new name and new voice: Jim Schwall, the local guitarist who used to host the station's Thursday-morning classical show, has replaced John Fabke, who's now interning at the Country Music Hall of Fame. As it turns out, Schwall's even more passionate about modern folk than the works of Tchaikovsky and Dvorák. His Oct. 12 set featured Steve Earle's inspired cover of Townes Van Zandt's "Marie" and a spooky, stunning number called "Wonder" by Night Sun, a band from Canada's Northwest Territories that blends traditional Irish tunes with the sounds of klezmer music.
Free Sample Table
WSUM, Sundays, 11 am-noon
Nika Roza Danilova, a.k.a. Zola Jesus, has gotten too busy - and famous - to host her dark and lovely WSUM show "Information Overload Unit," which helped me space out on Sunday nights throughout much of 2009. So this year, I've tried kick-starting Sunday mornings with WSUM's "Free Sample Table," which features new releases from artists near and far. It's gotten me excited about hitting the record store in search of new albums by Lazerbeak, King Khan & the Shrines and many others.
Jet Set Radio Future
WSUM, Fridays, 8-9 am
If you're a fan of the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack or other anime tunes, this recently launched WSUM show is for you. Ditto if you're curious about the songs that make video games so addictive. DJ Xander (a.k.a. UW-Madison junior Wesley Brandt) uses these themes as inspiration for his program, which gives my Fridays an energetic and futuristic start.
"I begin the show in a way that gives people a little something to tap their foot to, then I pick up the pace a bit, then slow it down a little and end it with a spark, a little blast of something unexpected," he says.
And end with a spark he does: On Oct. 15, Xander wrapped up with a terrific piano composition called "Bound Across Time." It's a track from Essence of Lime, an album of music remixed from the Game Boy Color game The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages.
Sick Sad World
WSUM, Tuesdays, 2-3 am
I'm always a sucker for a Daria reference, and this WSUM show would make MTV's teen misanthrope proud with its cheeky blend of punk, post-punk and awesome alt-rock from the '80s and '90s. It's where I go when insomnia strikes and I'm craving a blast of L7 or X-Ray Spex to scrub dishes to - or inspire some late-night blogging. Plus, the program takes requests both online via wsum.org and by phone at 608-265-WSUM.
Songs of Safety and Manners
WORT, fourth Friday of the month, 8-11 pm
WORT lost its fourth-Friday-night program "Charlie Don't Surf" a little over a year ago when its host, Crustacean Records co-owner Jake Shut, moved to Minneapolis. However, fate smiled around the same time, sending Ted Offensive (a.k.a. Ted Putnam), a popular local radio DJ from the 1990s, back to town from San Francisco. Now Offensive is rocking the slot with one hour of live music followed by two hours of choice cuts from his personal archives and the station's. In September, the show featured a live set by local surf-metal legend Knuckel Drager and some of the band's favorite B-movie clips, and this Friday, Oct. 22, fans can hear local country-punk band the Apologists rock the studio and the airwaves.
Offensive says the key to adding a live set of tunes to the show was finding a good sound engineer, Hum Machine's Eric Geving. It also didn't hurt that his old show's charm stemmed from his enthusiasm for showcasing local bands live and unadulterated.
"We gave close to 100 different bands a chance to play. We literally had people just coming in off the street - bands or visual artists who were doing something that weekend," he recalls. "I wanted to bring it back and put a whole hour of live music in there to give the bands that are around now a chance to play on the air, too."
And it looks like local bands are lining up to play his show once again. If you'd like yours to be considered for the show, contact the station at 608-256-2001.