Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Guest Post: To the Left of the Web

Hey all--while I'm at my writing residency, I will provide two guest posts for you to enjoy.  The first comes from the lady behind the blog that proves politeness rocks, heeeeeeere's Etiquette Bitch!

I live in Chicago where radio, unfortunately, blows.

I live in the 21st century, where the internet, happily, rules.

Chicago radio used to rock. In the mid-80s, WXRT DJs did whatever they wanted. I recall being 13 and listening to a very odd David Byrne composition called “In The Future.” With its tuba-and-bass-line, it was just this side of a spoken-word piece. It was cool, ground-breaking and different. These days, WXRT plays only what Sheryl Crow and Michael Frente’s labels tell them to play, on repeat, every 15 minutes. Can you say “suckitude”?

Happily, no matter where I go, I can hop online and hear some of the best music and entertainment in the world. Here are my favorites, which I sincerely hope you’ll give a listen.

Etiquette Bitch’s 3 favorite online radio stations.

  1. KCRW – kcrw.com; On Air; Click “Listen Now”
An NPR station with a passion for excellent music, KCRW is truly a gem.  Its flagship show “Morning Becomes Eclectic” features indie music and gets all the attention, but I encourage you to check out their other DJs who have amazingly varied – and good -- tastes. My personal favorite: Eric J. Lawrence (10:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m., Mondays)  who revels in playing “criminally overlooked music.” He’s introduced me to “The Clientele” and ‘50s Spy Movie Scores. Don’t be daunted by his late-night spot. The beauty of KCRW is that everything is available via their site, and you can listen to Eric (or any of the other cool djs) any time.

Listening Tip: Three online channels to choose from: “On Air,” “All Music,” and “All News.”  Eclectic-24 (“All Music”) is especially wonderful.
Turn On: Guest DJs with cool stuff (Jason Schwartzman), in-studio live performances (Spoon). Music-only option on the site if you don’t feel like listening to Michele Norris recap the day’s news. Track list manually updated by the djs. Option to listen to news or past shows.

Turn Off: After a set, the djs will talk over some ambient music that fades in and out. Track lists, especially on weekends, can take longer to update, so I’m often left scratching my head over “what was that song?”

(Image: Eric J. Lawrence plays "criminally overlooked music."  Photo by Jessica Holmes Photography courtesy of KCRW.)

  1. the current – the current.org > click “listen to the stream.”
Another NPR-offshoot, The Current has the best mix of alternative and indie music anywhere. I find better music here than I do from any Chicago resource. (Musically speaking, we really are a lame-ass conservative town.) The current introduced me to Jack Peñate; I went to see him at the Empty Bottle, where I saw another amazing act, Miike Snow, open for him. Whose CDs did I buy that night? Yeah, both of them. Have I put any money into Michael Frente’s bank account? Fuck no.

Listening Tip: The morning djs can be a tad chatty. Listen  after 10 a.m. CST.

Turn On: At 4 p.m. CST M-F, the “No Apologies” track. The DJ picks and plays one of her favorite songs that, usually, is passé, cheeseball, and has no street or indie cred whatsoever. Mariah Carey? Biz Markie? You got it. My favorite? Jane Child’s “I Don’t Want To Fall In Love.”

Turn Off: Sometimes bad connection, can lose the music for minutes at a time or take a few minutes to load.

  1. BBC Online – http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/ > Click the BBC Radio Channel you want, then click the Sound Icon to listen.
I’m a sucker for all things British. I don’t know if it’s the sexy accent, their witty, dry sense of humor or just that they’ve always had cooler music (and better TV) than us Yanks. In high school, I listened to “Rock Over London” every Sunday on WXRT (see? They used to be cool.) to hear what cool import I would later run out and buy at Record Swap.  

The BBC Player allows access to all their music channels. I’m partial to BBC 6 (“Music 6”) but there’s something for everyone on the BBC – arts, comedy, sport (Not “sports.” “sport.” It’s British.), Jazz, Blues, Politics, children’s programs, theater, quizzes, and culture.

Listening tip: Pick a channel, then futz with the volume in the player. It goes to 11. Seriously.

Turn On:  Variety up the bum.

Turn Off: No track listing. If you hear something you like, you’ll just have to take a guess, or wait for the dj to name it. BBC online also offers TV shows online, but only to UK internet connections.

The first two stations, you likely noticed, are listener-supported. Please, please, please  -- at a bare minimum – click through to their advertisers, and if you listen regularly, send ‘em a few bucks. I joined the current months ago, and I now get discounts at my favorite Minneapolis restaurants. (Don’t laugh. I’m there at least once a year.)

Etiquette Bitch’s  Three Favorite podcasts:
I just became a podcast fan this past fall, and I’m now an addict. I don’t know why it took me this long to make the jump from Books on CD to online. A podcast is like someone reading you a story, if it’s done well. Fortunately, my three favorites are.
Warning: None of my favorite podcasts are quick, 10-minute episodes. The shortest one is 30 minutes. And I’m the kind of person who can be running late for work, get sucked into something, and just, you know, be late for work.

The Hollywood Podcast – http://hollywoodpodcast.com/
Full disclosure here: Tim Coyne, The Hollywood Podcaster, is a former teacher of mine. I tuned in just to see what he was doing in podcastland…and was thoroughly sucked in. The Hollywood Podcast features interviews from the trenches of Hollywood, including interviews from Sundance. My favorite feature is the “Unkempt” series, first person accounts from Tim as he navigates the worlds of dating and LA-actorhood. His tales are honest, painful, raw, hilarious, and late-making – I advise listening after work, not 10 minutes before you need to leave. Tim can sometimes be over-descriptive, but it’s well worth a listen.

(At left: Tim Coyne tells stories from LA on The Hollywood Podcast.  Photo courtesy of Tim Coyne.)
Listening Tip: With “Unkempt,” start at Episode 1, and listen to subsequent stories in order. Do this, and references to “Root Canal” and “The Muffin Incident” will make a lot more sense. Note: Mostly R-rated material. Use earbuds.

2. dicksnjanes - http://www.dicksnjanes.blogspot.com/
 Canadian  professor The Scarborough Dude talks about his life, present and past. Wistful, pensive and chuckle-inducing. Sometimes the pace is languid, then he’ll throw something at you like, “I remember being 13 and answering the phone at home, and a man said, ‘I want to suck your cock.’ I didn’t know what to do. And I couldn’t very well call downstairs, ‘Mom, a man says he wants to suck my cock. What’ll I do?’”  Bonus: Stories tied together with very cool music.
Listening Tip: This is a Blogger site. Click on the post title to bring up the audio. The opening intro can sometimes echo or be long. Be patient and you’ll be rewarded with a lovely story.

3. “On The Blog” - BBC Radio  Program  
On this side of the pond, we would call this “radio theater.” I’m gonna say that Radio Theater was the original podcasting…except you had no pod (well, except your wireless radio in gramma’s living room). I’m lumping it with podcasts because you can listen to it online.  “On The Blog” is a hilarious sitcom with trademark British cleverness and with. Andy Glasgow is a 38-year-old temp who still lives at home with his overbearing mother and fends off demands from his ex-girlfriend. (“Where’s my Lionel Richie CD?”) Maybe I love it so much because it combines every aspect of my life from the last 15 years: temping, soul-sucking jobs, and blogging.
Best quote: “What is this modern obsession with documenting everything online? Why can’t people just live a little? Stop wasting their lives on the internet and do something interesting for a change?” This said while our hero is updating his (you got it) blog.
Listening Tip: “On the Blog” episodes air every Thursday night at 10:00 pm GMT (4 pm CST) and are available online for 7 days after broadcast.


  1. Good to read this. DC area radio sucks ass also.

  2. WXRT still is the ONLY radio station in Chicago, and most likely the only major market station in the country where the DJs pick their own songs. And, you'll never hear a song repeat every 15 minutes as you mentioned...sort of an exaggeration. At max, a top song has approx 16 spins a week. Its fine to not like what the station is playing, but if you listen, XRT has been the only station meticulously supporting many new indie bands featured at festivals such as Pitchfork, as well as bands that Chicago loves like the Stones and U2.

  3. I don't usually listen to the radio but this sounds really cool--great post!

  4. EB: no worries, I love your writing!

    Everyone: Etiquette Bitch mentions Miike Snow, and you all should be listening to them. Self-titled album, really good. If you're into "Gossip Girl," their song "Animal" was used an episode this season.

    Stay tuned for another great guest post Monday!

  5. whoever anonymous is, i promise you, Michael Franti gets waaaay more than 16 spins per week. Try "day." And yes, they sponsor fests, which is awesome, but see how many of those indie acts actually get airtime. The only xrt dj who shows any balls (or personal picks or taste) is Jason Thomas.