As I write this column the fog is rolling in deep and I’m listening to Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood crush a version of “Voodoo Child.”
There’s a full gospel chorus behind Clapton’s wailing guitar. It’s “Blues On The Beach” Friday night at KX93.5 FM, and I’ve got it turned way up — and just right.
By now you know about Laguna’s start-up radio revolution, or your head is in the trees that block everyone’s view. Six months in and these guys have built an independent radio model from the ground up that doesn’t answer to corporate suits, where they actually play artists that aren’t dumbed down and force fed from the major labels.
You might not like everything they spin, but they tirelessly explore a broad swath of music from every decade, both familiar and obscure — “generational alt rock” as they call it. And the volunteer evening and weekend jocks round out the edges with forays into jazz, reggae, indie pop, electronic, local music and talk shows. A high school sports show is even on the way.
So where did a 23-year-old kid from Tucson named Tyler Russell get the stones to launch a radio station in our town? Most of us were caught scratching our heads wondering how he did it and we didn’t.
Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds. First, you have to find a radio license for sale because the FCC isn’t issuing any. Then you have to find an area to transmit that doesn’t interfere with any others. And you also have to adhere to the strict protocols of a nonprofit.
That’s a lot of bureaucracy. But in lucky Laguna, Russell found the perfect maiden with a serendipitous need for a signal and an eclectic community ready to embrace it.
It’s remarkable what Russell, Music Director Marc “Mookie” Kaczor, and jock-of-all-trades Shawn Whitney have accomplished in six months. They built a swanky studio that’s all glass and looks really cool at night from Coast Highway. They compiled an awesome roster of volunteer jocks (read: kooky locals).
They have an impressive array of sponsors, built a great and functional website and tirelessly show up at every event for a remote broadcast.
Best of all, they’re having a ball. When I visited them, Russell and Kaczor were plotting an elaborate prank on Whitney known as getting Rick Rolled (kind of the musical equivalent of a flash mob).
My interview was the ruse. As we sat in the studio and Whitney announced his setlist on air, he believed he was about to spin punk rockers Agent Orange. But on came Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” Sean’s eyes went wide with horror, and Russell hilariously captured it all on camera.
This kind of camaraderie is a big part of their success. They’re living their dream, something they all knew they wanted to do as teenagers. Their passion is contagious. And what a good on-air vibe they’ve cultivated.
The backbone of the broadcast is Kaczor, who tirelessly curates the music we hear all day.
“Mookie just gets it musically ... Laguna is lucky to have a DJ as connected to music as this man ... what a natural wonder,” Rick Conkey says.
Evening and weekend shows on KX93.5 include gabbers Stu Saffer and Shaena Stabler (6 p.m. Wednesdays), music and artist patron Conkey (“Music Matters,” 7 p.m. Thursdays), and mad rants from our troubadour Jason Feddy (“Full English Breakfast,” 9 a.m. Sundays). Not to mention the large following for Armen Gasparian (“Skong Show,” 7 p.m. Mondays).
But who would have expected the most popular show to be Eric Rankin’s “Awakening Code Radio” (10 p.m. Tuesdays), a chatty two hours about mystics, shamans and next-level consciousness.
Rankin is a science fiction author with a large Facebook following who streams his broadcasts all over the world. That’s what is so groovy about radio today. With the Internet and podcasts, KX93.5 can be heard anywhere at any time.
We are so lucky to get a wide range of musical expression, personalities and points of view. And we get local news, personalities and music.
As Feddy says, the station “should be the glue that binds the community together.”
So please help these guys. Mark your calendars for April 6. It’s their first annual Casino Night at the Surf and Sand, and it promises to be a doozy, with dinner, gambling, great prizes and, duh, live music and dancing (Guns and Roses and Beatles cover bands).
It’s for a great community cause — creating another unique and enriching facet of life in Laguna. Information and tickets are available at https://www.kx935.com.
BILLY FRIED is the chief paddling officer at La Vida Laguna.