R.I.P. Indie 103.1

A couple of weeks ago, my favorite local radio station went off the air. It was a total shock, and sort of not. They had been making recent changes in previous months, and not in a direction I was particularly thrilled with. The morning show had been hosted by Joe Escalante of the Vandals and he had been taken off the air recently, replaced by another DJ who had previously been a fill-in dj, or sidekick on other shows. No explanation, no mention of it. The Morning Show had Timothy Olyphant hamming it up to do the sports report, frequently just obviously reading the newspaper stats, but so enthusiastically! And David Lynch reported the weather, complete with odd Lynchian music in the background, a voice from some other world. Both busy people, they reported via phone from across the globe on Mr. Escalante’s show. I would hear them on my morning commute.

And at lunch time? From the hours of 12 to 2, I could catch Steve Jones do Jonesy’s Jukebox, as the former punk rocker of the Sex Pistols would randomly play tunes, sometimes improvising on his trusty guitar, ramble about things, interview bands, play new songs with a changing panel each Friday to rate them and just be himself.

I liked Indie, it was the only thing I listened to while driving about the city, and often I would come home and continue listening to the station. I could catch tunes I hadn’t heard for years from Aztec Camera, Cocteau Twins, Depeche Mode and other moody atmospheric bands when driving home at night from something. Sometimes I would hear a song and listen to it to its end, not getting out of the car, just to hear who the band was, never having known before.

Or on the weekend mornings, I would hear bands from across the globe (Passport Approved), or take historical trips to the roots of rock and roll (Watusi Rodeo), visiting blues and country and roots and citing the influences on rock performers. The station was even sponsoring a local music night at one of the clubs up on the Sunset Strip to promote local bands. One of the recently added shows that I did enjoy was a weekly lucky listener after submitting a mix list, got to play their list for an hour on Tuesday nights. Henry Rollins even had a show, called Harmony in My Head, formerly on Tuesday nights that recently moved to Saturday nights, always a bad sign to go to a night that was bound to have its listeners doing other things than be tuned to the radio. Like seeing live bands perform!

And the station was generous to its DJs, as many of them were still performing, perhaps in part because of their shows. I heard an episode when Steve Jones talked with a former band mate about re-forming the Sex Pistols, and this last summer, they went on tour. Joe Escalante also went on tour with The Vandals, throughout my listening, to farther and farther tour stops. And the station let them, having substitute DJs cover their shows, or letting them pre-record when they could. It was fun, exciting, invigorating to hear these DJs have other lives besides their few hours on the airwaves. Other DJs were allowed to promote their own gigs around town. It seemed like a wonderfully supportive environment to music and musicians.

All in all, it was like a grown up version of a college radio station. Each show (for the most part) had a distinctive voice and ever-changing playlist, and if you liked what you heard, you would tune back again next week. There were some DJs and shows that seemed to be toeing the more corporate indie rock line, but usually I didn’t listen to those. The playlists were too short, promoting whatever flavor of the week needed to be pushed, even if the song had once had appeal, it would get overplayed. (Why I currently hate both Peter, Bjorn and John and all things MGMT.) And at most it was four hours before it would switch to something more distinctive. Just enough time to be working, and then in the car again to listen while on the way to someplace else.

And sure, like any small radio station, sometimes there were too few commercials for a break, and so you heard the same sponsors over and over. Bleh! But they also let you know about bands coming to town, tickets going on sale, and chances to win tickets to shows, even some that were already sold out, so well worth the listen.

As they went off the air, this was the message broadcast, between punk tunes. (Read the indented portion, bottom part of the post.)

Here was at least one comment on the death as reported by a former DJ.  

And this was the experience for me: So one day they were playing their normal thing, promoting specifically about their sponsorship of a new dance night at a new club come Friday, and the next day, there was a pre-recorded looping message rotating between punk tunes, and the third day, the songs and talk were all in Spanish. For the first time in over three years (the station had recently just celebrated its fifth anniversary) (What! So I’m slow on the uptake!), I actually had to scan the LA stations to hear what else was out there for my listening pleasure. I am still hopping between a few stations these days, wishing my CD player worked, but glad I don’t have an hour commute anymore from which radio saved my sanity. No road rage from me, thanks to Indie 103.

The station still exists in a manner of speaking, on the electronic waves of cyberspace, but what good does that do me when trapped in a car?

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One Response to “R.I.P. Indie 103.1”

  1. gary Says:

    Henry Rollins eh?
    \m/ F### YEAH!

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