Sunday, December 13, 2009

DJ's Assistant

I've been playing along with Gwen Bell's Best of 2009 Blog Challenge. You can read more about it here.

Day 10 Prompt: Album of the Year. What's Rocking Your World?

My music collection used to grow by leaps and bounds during every school vacation, particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas, when A. would sign up for a slot or several slots at KUOI, University of Idaho's student-operated radio station. During those vacations, the building would be abandoned except the two of us and the occasional janitor. Generally, we'd make our way to the station after stopping for coffee at One World or sometimes after a beer or two.

Last time, I was introduced to artists like Abe Vigoda, Adem, All Girl Summer Band, Brazilian Girls, Camera Obscura, Common, Dim Dim, Dragon Fli Empire, Gemma Hayes, Hello Seahorse!, Hot Panda, Jared Mees, Loquat, M. Ward, Mi Ami, Polka Dot Dot Dot, The Black Ghosts, and Vetiver.

While it's certainly possible that I would have eventually heard about these bands -- perhaps they might have gone mainstream -- it's doubtful. That's the beauty of college radio. You hear some of the greatest music that not everyone will get to hear. You hear the opposite of what the music business believes that you should hear. Sure, some of it is crap, but a lot of it is great, and these bands deserve recognition, but I'm also glad they don't become part of the industry machine--a bland, non-discerning entity that pushes what will sell and image over substance.

More than the music, I think I valued the experience of being able to witness someone I love doing what he loves. I sat there and watched him in action, marveling about how his voice, which was nice anyway, became so smooth and professional, when occasionally he had to take scheduled breaks to make announcements to listeners: identifying bands and song titles, commenting on the weather, explaining that he'd been a long-time KUOI fan and had DJ'd in the past, and wishing people well during the holidays.

I felt like an insider. I wasn't just some schmo driving around in her car and listening to the station. I wasn't washing dishes or cooking dinner with KUOI on in the background. No, I was there. In The Wizard of Oz, we look behind the curtain and find out that The Great Oz is JUST a man, but I can truly say that I never lost my sense of awe about the inner workings of a radio station.

While he worked, I studied CD art, read the band descriptions, enjoyed being privy to KUOI's in-house system of sending CD's home with DJ's, who scrawled little reviews on office labels. A. always let me be part of the CD selection process, even though he knows I'm a fan of a specific vein of music, so it was a given that I'd ask him to play folk-y, accoustic-y, or angsty chick music.

However, I also tried to choose CDs whose blurbs compared the band to bands I knew A. already liked or bands that described them in a way that sounded like A.'s taste.

I can't settle on one of those CD's I like best. The experience itself--being a DJ's assistant--finds its way to my Best of 2007, 2008, and 2009. This Christmas, A. will work his KUOI shifts solo. And I'm sure I won't be able to resist logging into KUOI online, listening to my favorite voice wishing strangers well.

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