91.7: No Satellite Here

She prefers her radio like her tomatoes: locally grown

Does the host of your favorite satellite radio channel dig up and play a recording of "In the Mood" as sung by a flock of chickens, just because you asked him to? Or refrain from playing William Shatner's "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" because you requested a moratorium on the damn thing? Or throw a New Year's Day cocktail party in the studio to celebrate his show's 10th anniversary? Didn't think so. Yet these are some of the many valuable, and well-nigh irreplaceable, services provided by River City citizen and radio host Jay Robillard.

Robillard hosts the Saturday morning Lounge Show, which celebrates its 10th birthday this month, along with KOOP, the battle-prone community station that shares 91.7 with the UT student station KVRX. The show illustrates the enduring greatness of a quaint little idea: community radio.

Robillard plays a delightful mélange of "premium Hi-Fi kitschy fun" – mambos, cha-chas, TV themes, and what-have-you. Rest assured: There's simply no better accompaniment to Saturday morning pancakes than Esquivel's space-age melodies, or cheesy crooning in French. But almost as good as the music itself is knowing that it's handpicked by this guy down the street, who has gotten his butt out of bed every Saturday for a decade to play me some nifty ditties from his record collection. It's not insignificant that Robillard inherited many of those 10,000-odd titles when his dad's small-town Louisiana radio station gave up battling the bigger station up in Shreveport. (I bet a dollar those Shreveport big boys are somewhere in Clear Channel's gullet by now.)

Now, I admit there's a certain appeal to being able to get my Afro-pop fix any time of day I please (Ngoma on XM102). And, as my esteemed colleague Jordan Smith assures me, there's an entire lounge channel on XM. But call me romantic – or even Jurassic – I like my radio like I like my tomatoes: locally grown. There's a difference between "niche-marketed up the wazoo" and "diversity," and it has to do with ownership and control. A world with 6 zillion channels run by a couple of big, big, big boys just isn't as nice – let alone as human-scale – as a lot of little wackos doing their wacky little thing in all the wacky little community radio stations in the country. I mean, are we about keepin' it weird here, or what?

Of course, Robillard is not all that's great, or weird, about KOOP. My Sunday waffles wouldn't be the same without Art Baker and Jim Bradford, perhaps the world's greatest reggae geeks (Jamaican Gold). And KOOP isn't the only gig in town: KAZI (88.7) boggles the mind, and bounces the booty, with its exuberant mix of hip-hop, gospel, soul, and talk. Granted, there's plenty that's not great about KOOP, like its long history of gory internecine warfare over what the "community" should sound like. Still, you'll still have to pry the shiny brass dial on my antique Fisher receiver out of my cold, dead, bloody fingers before I'll go satellite.

The Lounge Show plays Saturday mornings from 10am to noon. Tune in for details of the 10th anniversary party.

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community radio, KOOP, Jay Robillard, Lounge Show

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