World Wide Radio

There’s a new radio station in town—sort of.


KEXP live broadcasts October 3rd through 5th. Free; sign-up is first come, first served at kexp.org. Engine Music Studios, 1644 N. Honore St., #300. Equalizer October 4th at 8 p.m. Free. Darkroom, 2210 W. Chicago Ave.; 773-276-1411

There’s a new radio station in town—sort of. Local indie-rock lovers are increasingly turning online to Seattle-based KEXP, a listener-supported station that streams its programming 24 hours a day via an award-winning Web site, kexp.org. It’s a mutually beneficial gig: Chicagoans get fresh, under-the-radar rock in a commercial-free format, and KEXP gains a national following. But the station doesn’t rely solely on its Web presence to broaden its audience; in an effort to connect with listeners nationwide, KEXP has started sponsoring concerts in selected cities and hosts live broadcasts in the station’s top markets. Chicago scores both in October.

Management first realized just how much favor KEXP had garnered locally when Chicago pledged the most money in a 2006 drive. This year, Chicago led again (beating Boston by only $60, but still . . . ). The prize: live KEXP broadcasts from Bucktown’s Engine Studios. For the October broadcasts, which are open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, KEXP DJs will air the station’s regular programming from Chicago, augmented by in-studio guests including the local bands Office, The 1900s, The Narrator, Kinetic Stereokids, Airiel, and Mason Proper.

Also in October: Equalizer, a KEXP-sponsored showcase of up-and-coming Chicago bands. KEXP launched the monthly event in July at the Ukrainian Village bar Darkroom; October’s lineup includes the twee Scotland Yard Gospel Choir and sonic blasters Airiel, with DJs Johnny Kesh and Mikey Dance Panther, plus one more band to be announced. The bar night serves both to bolster support for KEXP and help the station find fresh talent. “[Equalizer’s organizers] are listeners and appreciators of KEXP, and they get what a powerful vehicle this radio station can be,” says KEXP’s Timie Ann Dolan.

With the fate of Chicago’s own independent station WLUW-FM up in the air (Loyola University takes back control of the station in June 2008), KEXP’s popularity in Chicago could continue to grow. “We hear quite often from listeners in other cities, ‘Oh, my God; I can’t believe you play this great local band [because] we don’t have any radio stations here who would play them,’” Dolan says.

Photograph: Clayton Hauck

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