up on playing catchup to the prior week, The Sego Arts Center is
making a move! The Provo art center is taking a change of venue and
will be making downtown Provo its new home. Cementing itself as a
home for alternative art in Utah County was no easy task, but Sego
pulled it off and made a name for itself in both the community and
the art scene. And with fresh offers from both Provo and SLC to take
up new residence, the board voted to stay in Provo to continue that
influence. But for us up north, fear not. Plans seem to be in the
works for a possible second location in Salt Lake County.
This week brought some sad news too as Portia announced her departure from Simmons Media, thereby ending her weekend shift and probably putting the kibosh on Live & Local on X96. This all coming off the news that Simmons is going through another round of cutbacks which apparently includes all of X96’s weekenders and Andypants on overnights. I gotta be honest with you… this hurts, both as a broadcaster and as a fan. Whether you liked the show or not, Portia made one hell of a difference on the air! She gave local bands an opportunity to get airplay on what’s considered a mainstream station in Utah. A station I might add that stopped playing local music in 1994 to play more national alternative music and only started up again a decade later when local bands were becoming “popular once more.” Whatever that statement means. When Portia took control of the show she developed it to be more listener-relatable, bringing in locals to play on air and to a degree gave the audience some control over the playlist by taking requests and music from bands. She earned public recognition and admiration, shown later by City Weekly awards she won for her work, and became a public face for all things local in both music and the art scene. If anything, she brought back some of the appeal that place had from back in the days when it was running out of Arrow Press Square, and is one of the people I can honestly say gives a damn about local music. So to lose her and the show from X96 is a cost that can’t be measured.
With that said… I feel I need to voice something. I’ve had a long love/hate relationship with both X96 and Simmons Media as a fan. I grew up on KJQ as a kid, X96 as a teen, and somehow managed to become friends with a lot of the staff and on-air talent. Surreal fond memories of chatting music with Cuzzin Brad, sitting in studio with Seanboy Walton, and having long discussions about broadcasting with Todd and Artie before I even got a job in radio. But the Simmons Media buyout changed all that, and being a fan of X96 became a give-and-take situation. You’d enjoy something they did, and absolutely hate the next three things. The content changed drastically to more nu-metal and then emo music, playing the same song every thirty minutes and giving no room for other alternative-like music to gain airplay. Commercial breaks were increased to the FCC allowable limit, talent was let go for automated convenience, and the BASh became an overpriced snooze (or at least that’s what I’ve been told… I stopped going after 2003).
There’s about a dozen other reasons that I’m sure most of you who say you don’t listen to mainstream radio anymore will agree with, so let’s cut to the chase. I still listen to Radio From Hell and Todd Nuke’Em on occasion, but the majority of the music has become what Radiohead’s Thom Yorke once described as “refrigerator noise.” Just something in the background to take up the space and not really pay attention to. When it comes right down to the musical content, Portia’s show was about the only safe-haven on the entire station (which I might add… Sunday night is the most ridiculous time to allow locals on the air), but now it’s gone. And anyone who could have taken up her spot and made some kind of effort to keep it going (like the also sadly departed Jon Paxton who was released last week) are gone or on their way out the door as we speak. The corporate entity of Simmons (who can only claim to be local because their main offices are sitting in Trolley Corners) look to be slowly turning this once grand destination into nothing more than an auto-run entity that plays nothing but crybaby-rock. Making the top morning show in this city the last remaining marker that defines them apart from being just another pre-programmed spot on the dial.
I’m not going to go off on a tangent about how corporate rock doesn’t sell well anymore, and stations who don’t give airplay to local music for it are basically declaring that they don’t want a dedicated portion of the audience. Clearly very few in radio listen, and I’m sure no one in Simmons corporate gives a damn what I believe. So let’s move on and let Alan rot in the hole he’s dug the station into. I’d rather spend my time listening to Portia's new shift over at UtahFM (that she picked up just a few days later) where she'll finally be able to play and say whatever she feels like to an audience that wants to listen. Her new show kicks off Monday afternoon from 3-6PM. If you're a local band, drop by the station and say hi to her, and drop off your CD!
Moving onto my junk, I'll have new interviews the next few weeks and an updated calendar for the rest of May, not to mention some of the upcoming festivals that will dominate the next month or so and setting plans made for more concert coverage. As always, we'll see what happens.