Station Static

It’s a bland radio landscape out there—but there is some hope

Pj Pérez

You know Vegas radio sucks. We know Vegas radio sucks. The question is, what are you going to do about it, punk? Tired of finding out last about hot new music like Mars Volta or Hot Hot Heat because our local airwaves are controlled by radio gestapo? Here are some locally accessible options for you, varying from free Web broadcast stations to paid satellite services. Tell the corporate masters pulling the puppet strings of our radio-dialing fingers that you will not put up with their sorry excuse for FM radio anymore—by turning them off!

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94.9-FM, San Diego

There is one station that should be the template for all others: a station unafraid to switch gears from A Perfect Circle to Oasis to Elvis Presley in the same block; a station that puts music before anything else; a station that limits commercials to a minimum; a station that will play Vivaldi just because a listener dares it to.

94.9-FM in San Diego is just over 2 years old, but has remained true to its mission statement and built a solid following both in SD and across the country via its Web simulcast. The fact that the station even HAS a mission statement tells you something different is going on here. The first item in the mission? "It's about the music."

"We try and have respect for the tracks we choose and share some of why this or that is cool with everyone," says Tommy Hough, 94.9-FM's morning DJ.

Listening to Xtreme Radio (107.5-FM) one night, I got a taste of just how disrespected music is on most stations. The DJ was about to play a Nirvana song. He preceded it by rambling about how this band needed no introduction, but that he still had to introduce the song (and thereby talk over a part of the beginning) because that was his job.

"That DJ was doing his job according to his boss and the 40 know-nothing, stuffed-shirt consultants on the station's payroll telling the program director what his listeners want and how they want it presented," Tommy says. "Unfortunately, the DJ was probably also in diapers when that Nirvana song came out, and can't remember a time when DJs on the radio said their piece, then shut the f--k up and got out of the way of the song."

Amen to that, brother.

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Ethel, XM 47

We could have mentioned any one of dozens of channels on either of the two major satellite radio services, Sirius and XM. However, one in particular points toward the future of radio: the synthesis of commercial-free, Internet-style streaming music channels with traditional DJ-hosted radio broadcasts. Ethel, XM 47, features the alternative music of the years "A.K."—After Kurt (another XM channel, Fred, focuses on the '70s and '80s alt scenes). From classic, deep album cuts by Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana to the freshest tracks by Franz Ferdinand, The Killers and Snow Patrol, Ethel covers all the highlights of the alternative music era, thankfully ignoring bastard offshoots like rap core and nu-metal.

One of the channel's brightest spots is the Stabwalt show, hosted by former Stabbing Westward multi-instrumentalist Walter Flakus. Broadcast weekdays from 4-9 p.m. (PST), Stabwalt features rare tracks, live in-studio performances and interviews, music insider news, and of course, great modern rock. One recent playlist from Stabwalt included songs as wide and far as The Flaming Lips' "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" and Sugarcubes' "Hit."

XM subscriptions are $9.99 per month and receiver equipment ranges from $99 to $350. For more details, visit

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89.3-FM, Las Vegas

Air One,

OK, so it's a local affiliate of California-based Air One Radio Network. And it's Christian radio. But don't let that scare you away. First, this is one of the only commercial-free local FM stations out there. Second, and more importantly, the diversity of music heard here stays truer to the notion of "alternative" music than any other Vegas radio station. You might find your new favorite band on this station; you might find Jesus during one of the network's ministry broadcasts, cleverly geared for Generation Y. On the other hand, you might just hear more Switchfoot and Relient K. Either way, it's worth a listen for a change of pace, if you can get past the occasional shout-out to G.O.D.

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Imagine an Internet radio station that not only offered channels specific to your favorite genre and era of music, but also actually offers customization of what artists you want to hear. Imagine no more! Welcome to the world of AccuRadio, where even the most finicky music enthusiast can enjoy commercial-free, Web-based radio. Starting with main channels (including Modern Rock Classics, Hiptronica, A Flock of Eighties and much more), listeners can select from sub-channels that focus on specific eras or genres (such as '80s—No Pop, Modern Rock—The Core, and computerLove). To top it off, channels can be customized by "deselecting" artists from the channel's list, leaving only the music you really want to hear. And with a giant selection ranging from Aphex Twin to The Jam to Thelonious Monk, there is definitely something for everyone.

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KUNV, 91.5-FM, Las Vegas

Let's get past the controversy over this UNLV-affiliated station's cancellation of its award-winning modern rock program, the "Rock Avenue." Let's get past the conversion from a college radio station planted firmly in the center of the university's campus to a community jazz station. Taken on its own merit, KUNV—"Your Jazz Spot in Southern Nevada"—is a fine alternative to a lot of the Clear Channel/Infinity/Beasley nonsense. Who doesn't need a little more jazz in their diet? Aside from traditional and progressive jazz spun by local DJs and fed in from National Public Radio satellites, KUNV still offers some of the best diversity on the weekend, from the acclaimed hip-hop show "Word Up" to Stan Rankin T's "Reggae Happenings" to "Women's Voices," whose focus should be evident. Besides, face it, the "Rock Avenue" DJs are NOT coming back.

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