The Beatdown

Giving KTCL’s Project Next a whole new spin.

Although corporate radio stations still suck a king-sized kielbasa, bashing them is almost as futile as cursing the bus driver who transports murderers and rapists from one hoosegow to another. They're just doing their job, man. For its part, however, KTCL is taking major steps to make things a little more palatable. Sure, it's a little late to the local-music party, but better late than never.

Yes, I know that KTCL has had a local-centric specialty show for years. And while I'm sure the handful of acts that get spins each week relish the That Thing You Do! moment they experience when their song is played on Sunday's Locals Only show, that's not the step I'm referring to. No, the major deal here is that K-Tickle is now spinning indigenous talent during prime hours -- you know, when people are actually listening.

A little more than a month ago, Channel 93.3 added songs by Love.45 and the Fray -- both worthy acts -- to regular rotation. Granted, airing provincial artists isn't exactly innovative -- Bob Richards, Willie B. and Uncle Nasty took a chance on unproven talent by adding Sick's "Seize the Day" to KBPI's playlist in 1998, and 99.5/The Mountain, KCUV and Radio 1190 consistently give love to the locals. Nonetheless, this move by KTCL is noteworthy. For starters, Channel 93.3 is owned (and ostensibly controlled) by the Deathstar. (At the time "Seize the Day" hit the airwaves, KBPI was still owned by Jacor.)

It's refreshing to hear local input on Area 93 and know that the station isn't programmed entirely by some faceless suits in South Texas. It's also exhilarating to see a station finally giving deserving homegrown artists a much-appreciated push. I remember a time not all that long ago when Spell, then signed to Island Records, couldn't get a sniff from any mainstream stations in this town. Ditto the Fluid, Sixteen Horsepower, the Apples, Dressy Bessy and, hell, even Five Iron Frenzy, all of which were ignored.

Needless to say, Mootown radio has come pretty far in the past decade. And for that, you can thank KTCL program director Mike O'Connor and his staff: assistant PD Rubin, music director Hill Jordan and Alf, the host of Locals Only -- although they'd likely deflect any accolades to the listeners, as Rubin did when we spoke last January.

"Ultimately, the listeners put it on the air," Rubin said, explaining how Love.45 made the cut. "I know it sounds cliche, but the people who fill out the surveys really do have a say."

The station is now running promos for something dubbed "Project Next." Its mission: to get listeners to sign a petition for the Fray to get a major-label deal. Here's a portion of the e-mail I received urging me to participate:

"Dave, you helped get Denver's LOVE 45 on the air," the missive read, "NOW THEY'VE GOT A RECORD DEAL! Now it's time to hook up local band The FRAY ('Cable Car')."

Forgive me if I find this a little goofy. Again, props to KTCL for being down with the scene, but a better name for "Project Next" might be "Project No-Brainer." Let's be clear: Love.45 helped Love.45 get a deal. It had nothing to do with me, you or anybody else. The band writes great, accessible pop songs, period. And by the time "Don't Ask Me" was added this past January, the Loverboys had already been courted by several labels -- one of which it eventually inked a deal with. The same goes for the Fray: The very day that "Cable Car" made KTCL's playlist, the act was in New York, showcasing for a major.

Still, somebody at the station has a great pair of ears, and hopefully they're listening right now. Because if KTCL really wants its project to earn that "Next" status, there are plenty of other artists worth hearing. In my book, here's who should be on deck: Yellow Second, Hot IQs, Roper, Swayback, Rubber Planet, Drug Under and Rose Hill Drive. These outfits all have killer records either just released or in the pipeline. One band in particular warrants attention: the Gamits. Sadly, Chris Fogal, the group's mastermind, announced late last week that the Gamits will soon be toe-tagged.

"It became pretty obvious that the band had run its course and that we'd all be better off doing something new," Fogal explains. "It wasn't as fun as it should've been. Even though we're really proud of the Antidote record, it didn't look like anything spectacular was going to happen with it, and that was going to be kind of the deciding factor of how long we would continue the Gamits -- you know, how well the record did. And we're happy with what it's done -- it's gotten really good reviews and all that -- but it never really translated into anything more than we've done before."

Oh, but it should have translated into so much more. I've followed the Gamits since Come Get Some, the band's first seven-inch, and while the music back then was clearly pop punk, the arrangements were well-orchestrated and had more in common with Propaghandi than with Green Day. By the time Fogal and company released Antidote earlier this year, I'd argue that the trio was on a similar trajectory to that of Green Day, at least creatively. Like that band, the Gamits had just released their most accomplished, intelligent and cohesive work. A career-defining masterpiece, Antidote is not only the Gamits' best record, it's one of the best records of the year. So to throw in the towel now seems wrong.

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