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The unsettling silence at 101.5

101.5's Whip.
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The whispers about the impending demise of 101.5 FM, a station that calls itself "The Independent Alternative," continue unabated, and an incident that took place on August 14 won't squelch such gossip. A listener tells me the station went off the air for an hour and a half, from around 9 p.m. until 10:30 p.m., that evening; he knows because he'd cranked the volume on his receiver trying to tune it in after losing the signal while driving, and when it kicked back in amid a Jane's Addiction song, he nearly wound up with permanent hearing loss. He listened for a while afterward, he continues, and no one explained what had gone wrong.

The marketing of the station hasn't gone much smoother.

The March 6 Message column dealt in part with the outlet, which formerly pumped out a Sinatra-centric format dubbed Martini. The Denver Radio Co., 101.5's owner, filed for bankruptcy in late December, but then-manager Steve Keeney insisted that the ship had been righted. At the time of the article, however, confusion reigned. The station was still using the Martini name and imaging even though it was spinning the likes of the Foo Fighters and Franz Ferdinand. If swing-era fans tuned in, they probably suffered whiplash.

Note: The address of 101.5's website remains MartiniRadio.com. As a result, a Google search for the station doesn't turn it up until the third hit.

In the months since then, The Independent Alternative formally launched, and its broad mix of modern rock and alterna-fare, delivered by fine DJs such as Denver-scene veteran Whip, is quite enjoyable. Not that there's anything revolutionary about its playlist. On my drive home today, I heard a set that consisted of Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Pearl Jam and Weezer -- hardly the planet's most obscure acts. Nonetheless, the combination is consistently listenable, and if it sticks around, it could develop into a fine addition to the radio scene.

Problem is, the station is going after the same demographic as KTCL, which has never been stronger and has the backing of the Clear Channel empire. No wonder 101.5 hasn't been able to get much traction. A radio insider gave me a figure for ad sales recently billed by The Independent Alternative, and if the number is even close to reality, it's a wonder the electricity is still on.

Then again, maybe that was the problem on the 14th. -- Michael Roberts

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