By Noah Hubbell
By Kiernan Maletsky
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Alex Distefano
By Darryl Smyers
By Jon Solomon
By Britt Chester
Because of various negative comments I made in print about the state of Denver radio late last year, I spent the month of December being excoriated by jocks at four radio stations--a personal record for me. These enjoyably vituperative attacks were offset somewhat by a couple of nods I received from the folks at KTCL-FM/93.3, which I lauded in this space (Feedback, December 5, 1996). But approximately ten seconds after this flattering column hit the streets, the station's music mix, which had been improving dramatically, suddenly took a serious turn for the worse: The challenging material that had snuck onto the playlist prior to the arrival of station consultant Dennis Constantine was banished in favor of a lot more tunes from the back catalogue, a veritable avalanche of modern shlock from "soft" alternagroups such as the Wallflowers, and far too many ditties by folks like those in the Freddy Jones Band that were once the exclusive province of KBCO. Some of this sellout was amusing--like hearing a twenty-year-old Talking Heads song immediately following a link that dubbed KTCL "the adventure"--but I found nothing funny about hearing "Peace Train" by 10,000 Maniacs at 8:30 in the morning. To paraphrase Nas: If I ruled the world, spinning that song wouldn't simply be a bad idea. It would be a felony.
But even as KTCL embraced mediocrity, a number of other stations were doing something totally out of the ordinary--playing tracks by local, unsigned bands. So sit down, folks: These next few paragraphs will contain nice comments about three Denver-Boulder broadcasters.
Our first recipient is KBVI-AM/1490, a Boulder outlet that uses the frequency previously associated with KBKS-AM, which earned a Best of Denver award in 1995 because of its focus on area musicians. The approach at KBVI (which signed on in November 1995, seven months after KBKS went dark) is somewhat different than its predecessor's in that approximately a third of its airtime is filled with talk--a percentage that should increase over time. (KBVI's initials translate to "Boulder Valley Information.") But during the rest of the day, music rules--and the tunes that are played constitute a nicely varied mix. Sets are dominated by mainstream acts of the sort that appear on other rock signals in the region (Chris Isaak, the Bodeans), but the selections tend not to be the ones that are overplayed elsewhere. In addition, music director Tony Kindelspire doesn't see anything wrong with eclecticism: KBVI recently played some country (Steve Earle), some hip-hop (Fun Da Mental), some folk (Michelle Shocked), some R&B (Toni Braxton), some reggae (Maxi Priest) and some alternative (Liz Phair) over the course of just four hours. Moreover, each hour of music features a contribution from at least one local act; the period referred to above spotlighted pieces by area artists Blackdog, Howard Arthur, Martha's Wake and Timothy P. Irvin. And Kindelspire personally hosts a local-music showcase Fridays at 3:30 p.m. "We have the artists come right into the studio," he says. "We've had some really great acts, like Sponge Kingdom and Sweetwater Well. A lot of them are every bit as good as the national bands we play." Kindelspire encourages local performers to send more mate-rial his way: Address it to KBVI-AM, c/o Tony Kindelspire, 3085 Bluff Street, Boulder 80301, or call 444-1490.
Also deserving a pat on the back for her efforts on behalf of locals is talk-show host Erin Hart, who can be heard on KTLK-AM/760 weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Given the constraints of her program, which deals with topical issues, she can't devote entire broadcasts to local music. But as a self-described fan of Colorado acts, she's found a way to boost them by using their music as links on what she's dubbed "local band Fridays." Among the artists she's included in her sessions thus far are the Garden Weasels and Durt, "who heard themselves being played when they were on the way to Grand Junction to do a gig," Hart says. "They were so excited. It was really cute." She adds, "I feel it's important to support local artists. To me, it's necessary for the lifeblood of any city." Hart, too, would be interested in receiving more CDs from Denver-Boulder performers: Send them to KTLK-AM, care of Erin Hart, 8975 East Kenyon, Denver 80237.
Finally, a salute to KXPK-FM/96.5--the Peak, which has lately been giving local artists an increasing presence in its programming. There's some self-interest in this item: Among the area platters on the Peak CD-player is Westword Music Awards Showcase '96, an eighteen-song sampler keyed to the event referenced in its title. But even so, jocks Jackie Selby and Sam Stock (himself a local musician) have gone out of their way to talk up Colorado recordings and artists, pushing the envelope of the Peak's format in the process. And that's a positive development for all concerned.
In other radio news, Jefferson Pilot, a national media giant that controls four Denver signals, has been doing some shuffling. KQKS-FM/104.3, a so-called rhythm station that has spent the better part of the year sans DJs (see Feedback, November 28, 1996), has been moved to another Jefferson Pilot spot on the dial, 107.5 FM. As a result of this shift, K-Hits, the format that had resided at 107.5, is no more, and Bob Call, Jefferson Pilot's senior vice-president and general manager, is unsentimental about its demise. "The format K-Hits was in, where they played heavy doses of alternative and pop Top 40, was shared by six or seven other stations," he says. "People had a lot of choices, and they exercised them in a number of ways that didn't benefit us." Hence, Call is putting his money on the urban sound--a decision that should lead to a head-to-head battle with KJMN-FM/92.1 (Jam'n), whose execs seemed to be betting on having the rhythm-and-blues market to themselves. An indication that Jefferson Pilot is serious about pushing KS-107.5: K-Hits jocks Rick Stacey, Leah Brandon, Larry Ulibarri and George McFly have been retained and are already on the air at the new station.