Both the beauty and the curse of 89.9 FM, KBGA College Radio, is the station's dedication to educating aspiring broadcast talent and to programming a diverse lineup of shows. In short, it can be wildly hit or miss.
This gorgeous mess of music makes for some adventurous listening and, over time, it has delivered some of the most beloved original shows on any radio dial. We're talking about stuff you can't get anywhere else, even in this time of podcasts, satellite radio and streaming online stations.
In honor of KBGA's annual fundraising drive and its EndofThon celebration concert on Friday, Feb. 17, we highlight six programs that, through their longevity and creativity, epitomize the station's free-flowing spirit.
The Outer Limits
Nothing else on KBGAor any other terrestrial stationsounds quite like this musical and metaphysical journey down the wormhole. Graham Woolley and DJ Dog Majik (Majik prefers not to give his real name) enter each two-hour show with a decided theme and then shovel a largely pre-produced audio mishmash of content about that topic onto the airwaves. There's music, but also spoken-word essays, movie clips, commercials, poetry, live banter between Woolley and Majik and the required PSAs or station promos all seamlessly woven into one continuous, trippy, stream-of-consciousness delivery.
"I'm a fan of old-school progressive rock," explains Woolley, who's in his last semester as a forestry major. "Those long instrumental sections and quick changesI like to create the same thing in our radio show."
One recent "Outer Limits" focused on "imagination" and included every possible version Woolley could find of "Pure Imagination," the song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, as well as Shpongle's "Circuits of the Imagination" and The Temptations "Just My Imagination," among others. On Groundhog Day, the duo dialed up clips from the famous Bill Murray film where he plays a weatherman doomed to repeat the same day over and over again. Murray's famous line, "Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn't one today," bled into a comedy bit from "Mr. Show," which rolled into a spot for the KBGA events calendar and then into an extended existential talk by some articulate scholar-type about the cosmos, mathematical theories, the end of days and, well, you get the picture. It's a wonder what dial wanderers think when they come across the program.
"We don't get requests anymore," says Woolley, who's been doing the show for nearly two years.
Woolley says he spends about three or four hours in preparation for every hour of on-air programming. He'll scour online videos, film libraries, his LP collection and other files for possible inclusion in a show. A lot of the material will be put together beforehand, but he and Majik always leave room for a certain amount of improvisation. Whatever direction they go, it's usually worth the ride.
Tune in: Thursdays, 9–11 a.m.
Powerhouse of a Show
Few things can make someone look forward to the world after a rough Friday night like the honeyed tones of KBGA's longest tenured DJ. H-Rap has held down the station's Saturday morning slot since 2000. He plays old-school funk, R&B and soul, which make for a wonderful tonic on its own. But it's H-Rap's infectious attitude and distinct dialect that's made him a local legend.
Listeners may not always know what H-Rap is saying through his staccato delivery, but it doesn't matter. As he sings along with the music, or taps a tambourine to the beat, or preaches positive vibes to his audience between songs, the sentiment is clear.
"H is dressing fine, drinking fine wine," he says. "Can you dig that, my sweet?"
Tune in: Saturdays, 9 a.m.–noon
Swimming with the Mermaid
Like most Missoulians, and most people on this list, the ever-present Adelaide Every wears a few different hats. She plays bass with local rockers Rooster Sauce, works at Ear Candy Music and displays her experimental artwork at various venues around town. But Every's arguably best known for her long-running Friday morning show on KBGA and for spinning records at local events.
Ever since 2004, DJ Mermaid has promised to prepare listeners for the weekend with a slow build of feel-good tuneage. Through her other endeavors and years of work on the air, program director Jon Van Dyke says she's built one of the station's more loyal audiences.
"We have a couple shows that draw in consistently high listeners," he says, "and I'd say DJ Mermaid is definitely on that list."
Tune in: Fridays, 9–11 a.m.
Ultra-Mega Ultra Blast and Muffin Tops
Josh Vanek needs little introduction to local music fans. As the founder of independent record label Wäntage USA and the driving force behind one of the region's best and longest running DIY musical festivals, Total Fest, Vanek has established himself as a curator of underexposed and underappreciated artists. The easiest place to hear what he's currently diggingand what may be next on the Total Fest lineup or Wäntage catalogis during his regular Thursday afternoon show.
Vanek leans toward loud, obscure and different, and he has a soft spot for bands from Latvia, but just about anything can end up on his show. One day he'll play 11 straight songs by Herätys, a hardcore Swedish punk band that sings in Finnish. On another, he'll offer a tutorial on Vaz, a Brooklyn-based indie band with ties to an old North Dakota trio called Hammerhead; Vanek will play cuts from both, and toss in a phone interview with a band member for good measure.
It's hard to beat Vanek's passion for discovering and sharing new music. In fact, one of the few who can stand with him track-for-track is his wife, Niki, who follows "Ultra-Mega Ultra Blast" with an hour-long show of her own, "Muffin Tops."
Tune in: Thursdays, 4–6 p.m.
For many, local musician Larry Hirshberg's name is synonymous with KBGA. He's had the late Thursday night slot for nine years, in addition to other programming positions.
Hirshberg has eclectic taste, and "Downspout" reflects that by featuring a wide range of genres. His most recent show jumped from Andrew Bird to the Star Wars theme by John Williams to one of Hirshberg's favorites, the Grateful Dead, to, eventually, a long piece by found-sound composer P. Miles Bryson. The result is accessible but adventurous.
Tune in: Thursdays, 10 p.m.–midnight
Simply put, Randy Katen gets people to talk. We're referring specifically to other musicians, big ones, the types who otherwise only appear on KBGA through recorded albums. His list of live interviews is impressive: Ian MacKaye of Fugazi and Minor Threat, Henry Rollins, James Williamson of The Stooges, Sally Mutant of The Mutants, Mike Watt from Minutemen, Erik Sandin of NOFX, the members of Deranged Diction, including current Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament, and dozens of others.
Katen's contacts make him stand out, but he backs up the interviews with a playlist of old-school punk tracks that could stand on its own. The only downside is that his show only airs twice a month.
Tune in: Every other Sunday, 6–8 p.m.
KBGA College Radio continues its annual RadioThon fundraiser through Fri., Feb. 17. Call 243-KBGA to pledge support. Then celebrate with the station's EndofThon at the Badlander and Palace, Fri. at 9 p.m., with Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band, Rooster Sauce, Hosannas, King Elephant, Eskmo, Logisticalone and DJ Kris Moon. $10.