With several changes that promise to heighten its profile in the crowded Southland radio dial, KCSN-FM (88.5) appears to be gathering steam in its campaign to be the little L.A. rock radio station that could.
Starting Oct. 18, KCSN will bring Nic Harcourt back to morning radio with an expanded weekday drive-time show that will have the former KCRW-FM (89.9) “Morning Becomes Eclectic” host at the mike from 6 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday.
Additionally, the station has hired former Indie 103.1 FM music director Mark Sovel to handle the same job at the Cal State Northridge-based operation, which is enhancing its reach across Los Angeles with significant upgrades to its signal.
Then on Nov. 18, the station will host another big-name benefit concert, this time with Jackson Browne headlining an evening where the veteran singer and songwriter will be joined by Eagles members Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit, neo-bluegrass musician Sara Watkins and other friends.
Last year, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers did a rare small-theater appearance for the station, playing a pair of shows in the university’s 500-seat Valley Performing Arts Center, where Browne also will hold his performance. KCSN Program Director Sky Daniels said Browne attended one of those shows and volunteered his services then.
“I’m obviously thrilled,” Daniels said this week. “These are major names. It’s not lost on me that they’re ready to commit to our cause, which is to be an artist development platform that cares about developing new artists and sustaining the careers of the creative legends… I feel blessed that so many of these artists see the potential of KCSN and are willing to dedicate themselves to helping us reach that potential.”
KCSN has been striving to stake out a noncommercial successor to independent-minded, Southland commercial radio forebears such as Indie 103 and the Edge. Daniels, a radio veteran who spent time at former L.A. rock heavyweight KMET-FM (94.7) during its heyday in the 1970s and ‘80s, was hired in 2010 to help boost the university station’s profile. He has previously referred to the identity he wants to establish at KCSN as “smart rock.”
Its presence across the L.A. basin has been limited by a signal that predominantly covers the San Fernando Valley and parts of West Los Angeles through a booster. Daniels said a signal upgrade as well as a new booster in Camarillo will significantly improve KCSN’s reach into downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, Silver Lake, Echo Park and Eagle Rock. Ultimately, the station’s goal is to have its signal available throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties.
“Considering the areas we’re about to expand the signal into -- they are music havens -- this is a timely opportunity for Nic to get back on the air full time,” Daniels said. “I’m excited, and Nic is excited too. We’ve discussed what I call ‘Nic 2.0.’ Nic is going to get his head around our more broad and inclusive format, to which he’ll get to bring his flourishes and creative touches and reinvent himself while retaining his pedigree as a musical tastemaker.”
Sovel also brings a reputation for eclecticism and adventurousness with him to KCSN.
“I’ve said many times: I’m not a big proponent of elitism,” Daniels said. “I’m a proponent of passionate new music that can be accessible to a broader audience. Mark brings those attributes that will help us grow as a musical tastemaker.”
KCSN also has been sponsoring a series of free concerts on Tuesdays at the Federal Bar in North Hollywood, hosted by KCSN DJ Kevin Bronson, and Daniels said the idea is about to expand to a Sunday night series that Harcourt will curate at the Hotel Café in Hollywood. The move constitutes closer direct competition with the Monday night shows at Bardot in Hollywood hosted by KCRW DJ Chris Douridas.
“We’re also in discussions with other clubs,” Daniels said. “We’re really starting to estalbish a more engaged presence as it relates to concerts and showcases.”