Left of the Dial

Music radio is mostly shit, with a few bright spots. A giant, bejeweled turd. People who are interested in other things — say, sacking villages and torturing heretics — may still turn to the radio for their music needs. But a lot of people rely on the Internet, or magazines that come with free CDs, or their boyfriends, etc., for finding out about new music. Some people even listen to radio on their computers — mostly shows produced in other cities, of course.

That’s why it sucks that Sonic Spectrum isn’t going to be on the radio anymore in Kansas City. On June 13, Robert Moore tendered his resignation to KCUR 89.3, his employer of 12 years.

For the past four and a half years, the local NPR station had broadcast Moore’s show, which played eclectic music that leaned toward indie rock, from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Before that, Moore hosted a jazz show called Take Five. He was also the station’s full-time music director.

“It was time to move on,” Moore tells me. He says he needs more time to devote to his new record label, OxBlood Records. Plus, “I’d grown kind of complacent. I just felt like I was burned out…. I’d like to explore new avenues for Sonic Spectrum.”

OxBlood Records is home to local acts American Catastrophe and Ghosty. It’s a good venture. As for a new avenue for Sonic Spectrum, Moore says that might be a podcast, another station or possibly syndication.

“This is forcing me to see what I can do with the show — if it’s worthy of syndication, if it’s worthy of interest at another station,” he says.

Neither Moore nor program director Bill Anderson would discuss the details behind Moore’s departure.

The kids liked Sonic Spectrum because Moore played new cool stuff (the Clientele, Feist) and old cool stuff (Lee Hazelwood, Love). The grown-ups liked it for the same reason, I suspect. Local musicians liked it because he sometimes played their stuff. I liked the show better than its local counterparts because it was well-produced. Moore could be a bit dull in his delivery, but he never said things that made me cringe. As for KJHK 90.7, Lawrence’s bastion of good sounds, well, it’s too distant for me to get a good signal.

Besides, Sonic Spectrum was a Kansas City show, damn it. Moore was keyed into the scene: In addition to having starting OxBlood, he DJs with Steve Tulipana around town. And when he believed that an area band was good enough to deserve airtime, he’d play it.

But I talk about the guy like he’s dead. He’s really just homeless.

Meanwhile, they’ve got a hole at KCUR.

Anderson says the station hasn’t decided how to fill it. After a few weeks of Sonic reruns, the station might bring back the syndicated World Café show or move American Routes (now on Sundays) to Sonic‘s old slot. Or the station might start a new in-house program.

When I asked whether that show might be like Sonic — new music with local content — Anderson replied, “The suggestions I’ve had from staff members range anywhere from Americana to jazz.”

Well, that’s NPR for you.

“We’ve even had someone suggest — and I’m not sure what this means — a ‘gritty rock and roll show.’ I haven’t had that defined yet,” he said with a chuckle (as the Grateful Dead terror alert rose to orange).

Anderson says no one has suggested a show like Sonic, but he’s thinking about it.

In the meantime, I recommend that you save Anderson from his evidently uninspired staff and e-mail him some ideas at andersonw@umkc.edu.

Just keep in mind that KCUR is a member-supported, public-service-oriented joint. In other words, the old-honky demographic has gotta be hip to it.

Otherwise, there’s always the Internets. In fact, you can download a righteous music podcast from our Web site every other week. It’s called Wayward Cast. The host is some chump who makes the show using software that came with the Apple he bought last year.

But first, you have to have a job where you sit at a computer largely unsupervised or make enough money to afford broadband (and a computer) at home.

Wouldn’t it be nice just to turn on the radio sometimes? And, like, not have shit come out of it?

Categories: News