The greater-metro area of Colorado is blessed with a particularly vivacious music scene, and supplementally, a radio contingent that is hard to beat. This series looks into some of the radio stations that locals can tune in to, if seeking shelter from today's abysmal torrent of advertisements by the corporate superpowers that be (if unaware of just how dire that matter is - this enlightening infographic is pretty illustrative).
The oldest surviving institution in this list was also the first radio station of its kind in Boulder – emerging at a time where a progressive populace was somehow behind most US cities in terms of underground broadcasting. When a local Free School class called “A Last Ditch Attempt To Start a Radio Station” yielded a small group of dedicated crewmembers, all the legal and financial hubbub became unfogged just enough to produce a signal, (no small feat, then or now) and on May 22nd, 1978, the first waves of this effort were airborne. Since then, KGNU has persevered through countless trials and tribulations to continue peddling eclectic programming to the world at large.
A given day can see an imposing variety of tunes as well as many well-conceived talk programs. Some of it is syndicated, (BBC News Hour, Radiolab, Democracy Now!) much of it is produced in-house, and almost all of it is a little left-of-center. Aside from many themed music shows, staple weekday programs The Morning Sound Alternative (9:30-noon) and The Afternoon Sound Alternative (noon-3:00) offer some of the finest examples of modern free-form radio that you can hear anywhere. The real quality of free-form programming is perfectly exemplified by these hours of hardcore music aficionados spinning strictly what they care about. As can be seen with other models – some structure to musical content can certainly be a good thing – but KGNU’s seasoned DJs know exactly how to piece together sets with originality, zeal and continuity. What you can expect from the Sound Alternatives is about as good as it gets, in terms of programmers who aren’t getting paid. And the variety, is simply stupendous. Remember to tune in with an open mind, and let one DJ spin a set dedicated to lethargic Americana while the next spins an upbeat set of next-gen electronica and hip hop. Jazz, folk, rock, indie, ethnic ad infinitum. It can all be found on the daily Sound Alternatives – sometimes all within 20 minutes.
The evening, weekend and early morning content is an entire universe of new musical discoveries, with whole shows dedicated to the reaches of funk and soul (Dusty Grooves) dub (Dub Palace) reggae (Reggae Bloodlines, purportedly the second-longest running reggae program in the country) country (Honky Tonk Heroes) rap (Eclipse) African, Latin, Native American (African Roots, Corriente! Indian Voices) and many, many others. Obviously, the content is often a little too esoteric for everyone, but for listeners ready for the journeys these skilled DJs can take them on, the wealth is almost unlimited. The real-world community aspect of KGNU is also far richer than any of the other three stations highlighted in this series, with the station hosting various festivals, mixers and sponsoring many annual events in the Boulder/Denver area.
KGNU relies on listener donations to stay on air, so if you find yourself enjoying their eclectic brand of radio art, consider making a contribution.