Avoid writing about Denver radio for a few months and look what happens: hirings, firings, format shifts and random bloodletting. Let's try to catch up, shall we?
Hilary Schmidt, among the brightest DJs on the local scene over the past couple of years, is gone; after stints with the late 92X, KBPI-FM/106.7 and KTCL-FM/93.3, she's now on the air at XTRA-FM, an outlet that services San Diego but is officially licensed to Tijuana, Mexico. There she joins fellow 92X alums Bryan Schock and Malcolm, who serve as XTRA's program director and music director, respectively. What adds irony value to this shift is the fact that XTRA is the property of Jacor, a Cincinnati-based company that owns KBPI and a slew of other major stations in Denver and northern Colorado and is largely responsible for running the 92X format out of town. In response to 92X's ratings success, Jacor (in the person of KBPI operations director Jack Evans, who now oversees XTRA and other Jacor stations in Southern California) transformed KBPI to a modern-rock format that mimicked the sound of its smaller adversary. The owners of 92X ultimately changed styles, most recently to a Spanish-language approach.
As you know, the scrap between KBPI and 92X went far beyond friendly competition. On Thanksgiving Day, 1995, KBPI personnel went so far as to place a turkey on Schock's lawn alongside a sign that read, "Unlike this bird, your goose is cooked. This will be your last Thanksgiving in Colorado." Schock responded by obtaining a temporary restraining order against KBPI program director Bob Richards and filing complaints accusing Richards of trespassing and harassment. The charges were later dropped. (For details, see Feedback, December 13 and 20, 1995.)
Despite these incidents, Richards finds nothing strange about he and Schock being fellow Jacor employees. "It might seem that way to the casual observer," he says, "but when you consider that there are a bunch of companies like Jacor out there right now, this kind of thing is happening everywhere. The bottom line is, I never had a lack of respect for Brian or Malcolm--and San Diego is a perfect fit for them." Still, he concedes, the move has raised a few eyebrows. "Malcolm called not long ago, saying he was going to be in town and wanted to go skiing," he notes. "So I asked my promotions director to get him a couple of lift tickets, and she said, 'Man, a couple of years ago, I never thought I'd hear you say that.'"
Another 92X veteran, Rockfish, remains at KBPI, helming the morning shift. Unfortunately, the quality of his work, which was strong, has gone from good to miserable since his teaming with humor-challenged stand-up comic Rick Kerns. The program now emphasizes sexist routines such as "Win-a-Girl Wednesday" over music--which is about what you would expect now that KBPI has decided to go after KALC-FM/106, aka Alice. (Current KBPI television commercials feature the clever phrase "Alice sucks.") With Kerns and Rockfish in a contest with Alice's Jamie White to see which of them can fit more juvenile sexual innuendos into a single broadcast, the listening options for those of us who don't find the mere mention of the word "penis" hilarious are shrinking fast. While switching between these two broadcasts during a recent commute, I lost so many I.Q. points that by the time I arrived at my destination, I could barely remember my name.
The morning show at KBCO-FM/97.3 (a Jacor station) has also undergone surgery. Rick Ashton, a standup who was matched with the grating Kerry Gray at KBCO last year, has been excised. KBCO program director Dave Benson, who took over from Mike O'Connor (now at KRFX-FM/103.5, the Fox), is not exactly forthcoming with details about Ashton's departure; he'll say only that "Rick's contract was up in March, and we just decided to experiment and see what else might work for the morning show." That comment might raise hopes among some of you that Gray, who recently got into trouble during a guest stint on KOA-AM/850 for suggesting that Jesus Christ was gay, might soon be handed his scalp, but Benson rejects that possibility. "We really enjoy Kerry as the centerpiece of the show, and there are no plans to change that," he claims.
Other prominent victims of the morning-show shuffle include Pete MacKay and Mauri Szatkowski, who had been the a.m. drive-time jocks at KXPK-FM/96.5, the Peak, for nearly three years. MacKay and Szatkowski made a fine combination--they were amusing without being moronic, informative without being dull--so of course they were doomed. Their replacements, longtime Peak personality Jackie Selby and part-timer-turned-main-man Chuck Woodford, have not embraced stupidity as a lifestyle yet, but you never know. After all, new Peak program director Gary Schoenwetter, who replaced Doug Clifton (now at Jones Intercable) earlier this year, promises some changes in focus at the Peak. "We want to add more fun elements to the station, and more of a sense of unpredictability coming from the music, the personalities and some of the events," he says ominously. However, he rushes to reassure Peak fans that radical alterations are not in the offing. "We're not going to do nothing but Korn and Nine Inch Nails, but we won't be doing nothing but Tracy Chapman and Duncan Sheik, either," he pledges. "We're going to be a little bit more adventurous with the music, getting on bands like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Morphine right away rather than waiting, as we might have done in the past. And we're also talking about finding a way to put more local music into the mix, which is something Jackie has been very dedicated about."
Finally, KIMN-FM/100.3 has ditched its Seventies format almost entirely. Now, says KIMN program director Ron Harrell, "we've become a brighter adult contemporary station. We're not a soft, sleepy adult contemporary station, but we won't rock your world, either." Some late-Seventies music will receive spins, Harrell vows, but the bulk of the programming will be drawn from the Eighties and Nineties, with performers like Phil Collins and Whitney Houston in the spotlight. Eeesh. This move leaves KKHK-FM/99.5, the Hawk, and the Fox as the main contestants in the fight for the hearts and minds of the classic-rock crowd, and in recent weeks they've done so by concentrating on corporate bands like Journey and REO Speedwagon.
I've been dragging my feet about putting a CD player in my car. Big mistake.
The Spot, a nonprofit youth center previously profiled in these pages (Feedback, March 28, 1996), has been at ground zero of late; its address (2019 Stout) puts it only a stone's throw from the Federal Courthouse where Timothy McVeigh is being tried in the Oklahoma City bombing case. Still, says Spot program director and designated "old white guy" Dave DeForest-Stalls, "things have gone pretty smoothly so far. It's definitely been a challenge with so much media and security around us, but as of right now, we all seem to be co-existing pretty well." Indeed, things are going so well that the Spot is getting ready to launch one of its most ambitious projects yet--a CD that will feature Spot regulars and other young people into hip-hop, R&B, reggae or jazz.
The person heading up the CD project is Andronaus "Monk" PaxtonLyon, 24, who's been with the Spot in a musical capacity for about a year following a stint with the controversial local urban-music company TRIPS Records (Feedback, September 7, 1994). He knows the importance of music from personal experience. "I grew up in the Park Hill-Five Points area, and money didn't permit me to get music lessons," he says. Fortunately, he was able to attend the Fred Thomas Career Education Center, a Denver Public Schools institution where he learned the skills that he's using at the Spot. "Going there turned me around," he admits. "I was getting into a lot of trouble, and if it wasn't for that program, I probably wouldn't have finished school."
PaxtonLyon, who also runs his own label (Hood Monk Records), would like the Spot CD to provide a lifeline for other young people in similar circumstances. Auditions to appear on the disc take place Tuesday and Wednesday, May 6 and 7, from 6 to 10 p.m.; times can be secured by calling PaxtonLyon at 291-0442. Participants are asked to bring along, in PaxtonLyon's words, "a bio--a one-page history of what they've done--and their best lyrics, their best singing voice, their best music and whatever." PaxtonLyon is also set to contribute material to the project. "If we get a lot of people who just rap and sing but who don't write music, I'll probably do most of the music," he says. "But hopefully, we'll get a lot of people who do music, too."
DeForest-Stalls (who also oversees the production of a Spot magazine, Inner 303, that will soon be receiving national distribution) estimates that the album will be completed and ready for dissemination by summer's end. He emphasizes that any and all profits will be split between the nonprofit corporation that funds the Spot and the entertainers themselves. "We've got such fantastic artists in this area," he notes. "We've got to get other people out there to recognize the talent."
The present configuration of the 'Vengers, among the most popular ska outfits in the Denver-Boulder area over the past few years, will call it quits after a gig at the Boulder Theater on Friday, May 2. But that doesn't mean the group is officially dead. "I'm moving to Portland, Oregon, and I'm going to re-form the band there," reveals Chris Welsh, the 'Vengers frontman.
In Welsh's opinion, the time was right to relocate. "A lot of the people in the band are trying new things," he says. "Jeff Haycock is taking his Children's Playground Theatre group and moving it to Boston in June, Skoo B. is going to start a business in California, and Drew Keene is doing something strange with martial arts. And to me, it just didn't make sense to keep the band going at half-strength and then try to rebuild it in a place where there's not a lot of gigs anymore." He adds, "You can't really tour around here very easily, because there's nowhere to go. The mountain towns aren't paying as much as they used to, and the next big city is, like, Salt Lake. But in Portland, you can get to both the Bay area and Seattle pretty quickly."
Welsh has already made contacts with ska musicians in Portland and is determined to establish himself in the advertising community there. (He did the music for a series of commercials touting the city of Denver and recently completed a track that may find its way into next season's episodes of the Fox TV cult-toon The Tick.) As for the 'Vengers' Boulder Theater finale, Welsh claims that "we're probably going to have anyone who ever played with us sit in, and we're going to play until everyone drops--including ourselves."
By the way, KBCO is sponsoring a wide variety of events and activities in connection with its annual Kinetics celebration, including a concert at the Boulder Reservoir on Saturday, May 3, featuring the Ugly Americans. Call 444-5600 for more details. Oh, yeah--and Augy of MK Ultra is auditioning new drummers. Call him at 292-5692 if you believe you should be the Chosen One.
Choose these. On Thursday, May 1, recent Westword profile subject Judge Roughneck holds a CD-release party at the Bluebird Theater, and the Reverend Horton Heat prays at the Fox Theatre (the Rev also appears at the Ogden Theatre on Saturday, May 3). On Friday, May 2, Kingpin strikes at the 15th Street Tavern, with Inferno and Los Terribles; the Damn Shambles and Gestapo Pussy Ranch are fit to be tied at Seven South; and the Czars invade City Spirit. On Sunday, May 4, the Bug Bottom Bash, an event to benefit the Bug Theatre, takes place at the Rock Bottom Brewery. On Monday, May 5, Kill Switch...Klick gets industrial at Seven South, with Two Minutes Max; Mucis gets dyslexic at the Fox; and Lutefisk (lauded in our recent SXSW overview) opens for the Breeders at the Ogden. On Tuesday, May 6, the Saw Doctors drop into the Bluebird, with Shawn Strub. On Wednesday, May 7, Red Yak celebrates the official release of its new enhanced CD at Herman's Hideway. And speaking of enhanced, you computer types who want to read our review of the May 1 U2 show before next week's issue can do so the day after the concert at the address below. How modern you'll feel.
Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@ westword.comMichael_Roberts@. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com
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