Last Thursday I tuned into oWOW Radio, Cleveland for the first time. They were running a test stream of music.
I knew of John Gorman's quest to start a new radio station, this time on the internet and not the airwaves. In the 70s he created the most adventurous radio station in the country with WMMS, focusing on a more urban sound as opposed to the southern boogie that was the backbone of much AOR at the time. It worked, and the Buzzard became legend.
So I was hoping for something adventurous for the 21st century and Cleveland's renaissance but instead what I heard was a tired, dated and boring playlist. I was very disheartened.
Fastforward to this morning when oWOW went live with Ravenna Miceli behind the mic. Within an hour I was convinced otherwise. Here was a well-polished, professional sounding Cleveland station playing everything from Fleetwood Mac to alt-J to Ryan Adams to vintage Bowie.
We will look back upon last Friday as an important day in the history of Cleveland radio and rock and roll. It is our rebirth as home to a radio station that we can rally around, be proud of, and be a part of. Gorman gets it. Radio needs to be a visceral, personal relationship with the listener.
Expect oWOW to grow in influence both locally and nationally. It will become a bellwether, leading to the future of radio. Popular internet radio that can be heard worldwide yet be totally committed to the local community.
It appears that oWOW is not going to pay lip-service to local music either. They're incorporating it into the general playlist. Just as WMMS did back in its day. Isn't it something? The future is very retro when it comes to radio.
Can an internet radio station have a definable impact on a city, acting as a beacon to people looking for a cool place to live and keeping its youth here because they feel a part of something? I say yes. And that is the legacy that oWOW will pursue.
I gripe about this quite a bit. It's just that I see examples of it constantly, especially on social media. Someone will ask a question about music and my peers will respond with nothing but comments pertaining to old music.
For example, recently someone asked about hearing live music on the radio. The nostalgic posts poured forth. FM simulcasts, Coffee break concerts, live Sunday night series. There was nary a comment about anything new until I chimed in.
What about the fantastic in-studio sessions on KEXP that are shot for video as well. Or NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts and The World Cafe. How about the countless live sessions on BBC radio? Does no one my age listen to anything current? I know some do but it's tragic, to me, how many don't.
How about when you go on a vacation? I bring along music, of course. I suspect some of these oldsters do so too and it's probably a stack of CDs. These days all you need to do is create a playlist on Spotify, make it available offline and sync it to your smart phone. Plug it into the aux jack in your car stereo, bring along a bluetooth speaker and you're all set for your vacation soundtrack while cruising or just chilling.
The question is whether that soundtrack is the same music you bring on every other trip? The way my mind works is that certain songs are associated with specific events in my life. How can a Beatles song trigger multiple remembrances? You need new music for new experiences.
The best thing to do is tie-in a present day experience with present day music. A good soundtrack right now might consist of some of the great new releases over the past few weeks like Father John Misty, Natalie Prass, Belle and Sebastian, Sleater-Kinney, or Punch Brothers. There's plenty more.
What? You tell me you have never heard of these artists. Please, do yourself a favor and wake up to the abundance of great music that is being created everyday and add it to your life. Stop living in the past Jethro Tull.
John Gorman took radio station WMMS to unprecedented heights back in the 70s and 80s. He started his quest for the top when FM radio was new. All ears were on the AM dial and little attention was paid to the FM band.
It's not unlike the landscape today where internet radio is still in it's nascent stage. There's so much room for listener growth and, like FM, once there's a player built into cars, enabling everyone to access it easily, the numbers will rise quickly.
I love the location of the studios in the 78th St. Studios. Now the name of the building has a double meaning. I totally agree with their emphasis on being community focused. It's been lost in radio since the conglomerates took over in the late 90s. As for the music being played, not so much. But I'll hold out judgement until they hone things.
You can listen yourself as they run a test stream before the official launch tomorrow.
The high temperature on Sunday is going to be 2 degrees. Cleveland hasn't seen a day that cold since the early 90s. It makes us all dream of being on a Caribbean island. But if you're stuck here I have the cure.
The annual Winter Reggaefest takes place Friday night at the House of Blues. There's been a lot of reggae music the past couple of weeks as folks celebrate Bob Marley's 70th birthday which was February 6th. The annual Reggae Brunch was held last Sunday at the Parkview and there's the new Working Man's Reggae Show every first Thursday of the month at the Grog Shop where the music gets underway at, the reasonable, 7pm.
Tomorrow night's winter fest features The Ark Band, Carlos Jones and P.L.U.S. along with some Marley videos and DJ sets. I wonder if HOB could crank the heat up to about 85 and dump a bunch of sand on the floor?