BAY AREA INDEPENDENT RADIO WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE by Jason Bentley

Radio - it's such a strong word. Provocative and evocative to many, myself included, radio has been a catalyst for over a century of American musical and technical creativity. Radio Shack built an empire around the mystery and power of those strange boxes that talked and played "fine, fine music" when you turned them on. Lou Reed sang of it - "despite all the computations / you could just dance to that rock 'n roll station / and baby, it was all right." Not so much anymore. Modern commercial radio - and this should be news to nobody - has become a miasma, a confused, impotent stream of "products," demographically targeted and test marketed. Turn to any of the major outlets - your ClearChannel and Infinity stations - and you'll hear the same ten mediocre songs in "slamming" rotation. One can begin to think, like I do, that Kurt Cobain was merely psychic and knew to bow out before he, too, saw the rise of Limp Biskit, monosylabbic "anger" bands (Korn, Staind, Tool, Fuel... uh...Stick, Stink, Gank, Donk...I dunno), and - got help us - Courtney Love in Versace. This wasn't always the case. Even as late as 1996, many major-market radio stations still had a certain flexibility with programming sure, the DJs were chained to the program director's whim and ego, but there was still room for local flavor and unique late-night side-trips to locally produced shows, live broadcasts, and the like.

In 2002, with very few exceptions, all this is gone. The reaction to the digital music revolution has triggered a Pol Pot-style response by radio broadcasters in concert with multinational media corporations to quash this variety and "deviation" - on radio, through iron-fisted management - and online, through ignorant and constitutionally damaging legislation. In the Bay Area where I live, the vanguard is no longer the onceinfluential KITS Live 105 (which now might as well simply simulcast KROQ in LA), or even the equally missed and detested KOME. The best radio in the world is found lower in the band - mostly in the public radio space of the FM 80's and 90's. The inexperienced young people that operate and program the Bay Area's college, independent, and community radio stations are - through simply doing what they love and feel passionate about - saving my life. They could save yours too. KSCU, KSJS, KFJC, KPFA - just to name a few. These kids consistently one-up my musical geekiness. Whenever I tune in I'm nearly always turned on to something new - some new sound, some fresh band from around here or far away. The off-the-cuff unprofessionalism of the jockeys, the stoney giggles, the creaking chairs - all work to infuse radio with more fun, humor, and humanity than all your "Fart and Dopey in the Morning" shows put together. What follows is a featured list of what I consider to the best radio market in the world. If you live close by, get to know these stations and dammit - SUPPORT THEM. Chances are, they need it. One fine morning, turn on a college station, and you won't believe what you hear at all. You, too, will be saved.