Off the Record
Can You Hear Me Now?
Modern radio is in the midst of a massive paradigm shift. The industry's foundation, the Arbitron ratings, has upgraded from a stone-age diary system to Portable People Meters. The pagerlike devices, known as PPM, digitally track encoded radio signals, creating an intensely detailed account of participants' listening habits (see "Media Watch," Dec. 25, 2009). Across the dial, the change has already led to countless tweaks: more standard playlists and 1990s reruns, less back announcing, and in the case of OTR, the moving of The Daily Dose on 101X to midnight, when PPM starts snoozing until 6am.
Austin's KOOP Radio couldn't care less.
"I don't see a lot of our listeners walking around with a beeper, having Big Brother or some corporate company tracking their every move," laughs Executive Director Kim McCarson. "We're very different from commercial stations. With us it's a cooperative, so we elect the programming committee, and they have criteria and a process that they go through to decide the schedule and ensure that everything is in line with our mission. We really are an experiment."
After more than a decade's worth of legal disputes and controversy, most recently the January 2008 arson by a disgruntled programmer that caused an estimated $200,000 in damages, the community station is finally coming in loud and clear. KOOP, which splits its frequency with UT's student-run KVRX and boasts a weekly average listenership around 20,000, has fully restored its Airport Boulevard location with an impressive, wheelchair-accessible studio capable of hosting a 12-piece band. The outlet currently offers 75 different specialty programs and is developing its Web presence with more online-only shows during dark hours, but KOOP still needs your help. The volunteer-run station is in the midst of its annual pledge drive, with a goal of $60,000, one-half its estimated operating budget of $120,000, which is only slightly more than the annual salary of one KUT associate director.
"Anyone can be a part of what we do here," smiles McCarson. "It's such a different service that we offer that it's hard to compare it to what else is out there."
To pledge, call 472-5667 or visit www.koop.org.
Five KOOP Classics
Strictly Bluegrass (Sundays, 10am-noon)
Commercial Suicide (Sundays, 8:30-10pm)
Under the Eternal Night (Fridays, 3:30-4:30pm)
The Lounge Show (Saturdays, 10am-noon)
Stronger Than Dirt (Saturdays, 8-10pm)
Moving forward through the past, the Pixies' Doolittle rewind at the Austin Music Hall on Tuesday was a well-scripted romp performed by moving statues. Bassist Kim Deal served as host ("Now each of you have to get up and turn the record over to side two"), while Black Francis gave voice to the grotesque surrealism of Luis Buñuel's Un Chien Andalou in "Debaser" and Joey Santiago free-associated on lead guitar. Beginning with a four-song B-side prequel, the Pixies traced their 1989 masterpiece with razor precision, right down to the whistling and the "shake your butt" commands of drummer David Lovering's suave "La La Love You." The encore sealed the deal, with the B-side slow version of "Wave of Mutilation," a few greatest hits ("Where Is My Mind?," "Gigantic"), and unexpected Neil Young stunner "Winterlong."
Huddled in the parking lot of ThunderCloud Subs on Riverside on Tuesday, Hollywood Gossip made the perfect poster band for the fifth annual Health Alliance for Austin Musicians Benefit Day: four young, working musicians taking a break from their day jobs to drum up support for the local nonprofit, which provides low-cost medical, dental, and mental health services to more than 1,300 Austin artists. "When you tour and have to take whatever work you can get, HAAM's really invaluable," offered singer/guitarist Tyler Womack. Though their audience wasn't a lunchtime rush in terms of attendance, the local quartet still delivered a 60-minute set of tart, whimsical pop that recalled early Belle & Sebastian in Womack's tales of young love and restless nights. The band breezed through most of its addictive debut LP, Dear as Diamonds, premiered two new gems, and stopped a few random pedestrians in their tracks with standouts "Sleepwalkin'" and "Hair Like." For the second straight year, an afternoon shower dampened the festivities, forcing Güero's and GSD&M Idea City to move their shows indoors and a cancellation at Phil's Icehouse, but with more than 125 total performances and financial support from over 200 community businesses, Executive Director Carolyn Schwarz is confident that HAAM can continue to operate without a wait list. "The community really embraced the event this year on the social network," relayed Schwarz the morning after. "Everyone was just abuzz." It's not too late to contribute, either. Text "Austin" to 85944 to donate $10 to HAAM.
On Aug. 31, KUT and University Unions formalized their memorandum of understanding in regard to the management of the Cactus Cafe. It's a sweet deal for the local NPR affiliate. The initial 10-year agreement grants the station not only the exclusive license to the name and trademark of the Cactus but also the right to suspend activity at the venue "for up to two years to raise the funds necessary to continue operations, or to terminate this agreement entirely." Surprisingly, while University Unions is responsible for maintaining the bar operations, the revenue derived from concession sales will actually be retained by KUT after all hard and soft costs have been absorbed.
Local management group the Loyalty Firm is branching out into the record business with a split 7-inch from Austin's My Education and the Boxing Lesson. Check it out on Kickstarter: www.kck.st/b8hoxE.
Austin teen singer Georgia Napolitano has been added to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's holiday tour, which stops at the Frank Erwin Center on Dec. 3.
Butthole Surfers will bring out the ghosts at the Scoot Inn on Halloween. According to owner/booker Jim Stockbauer, the BHS' classic lineup (see "Out of the Mouths of Children," Sept. 26, 2008) is scheduled to reprise its 1987 acid trip Locust Abortion Technician on Oct. 29. Bassist Jeff Pinkus isn't quite as sure of the details. "That'd make for a short show wouldn't it?" he counters, via e-mail. "Just write Jim will be dancin for us, which has been a long time dream of his."