Thursday, March 27, 2008

Radio, Radio

I haven't written about the radio scene here in Victoria, and it's an oversight of huge proportions to a small but devoted cadre of my musically-orientated friends. Before we moved, I often said I would not go somewhere where I didn't know the job market, the record stores or the radio stations.

I knew from previous visits that the Mac market here is larger per capita than it was in Orlando (and Vancouver, I'm told, is even more Mac-centric), I think I've found the good record stores here (nothing compared to some of the big/wonderful places in other cities, but a pretty decent variety for a town this small, more about them another time) and now I present a brief run-down on the radio stations we listen to here in Victoria.

First off, I should mention that Victoria, being where it is, is in perfect tri-angulation to a huge number of radio stations: you can pick up US stations from Port Angeles, Belleville and Seattle/Tacoma, as well as all the usual Vancouver stations, and then we have a fair number of home-grown stations, and even a few from "up island." Lots and lots of choices, but as with most places, most of the choices are crap music. :)

Still, by sheer dint of quantity we luck out and have quite a few that we like to greater or lesser degrees. Better yet, if any sound good you can click the links (where available) and listen to them for yourself. Let's start at the bottom of the FM dial, skipping the crap stations:

CBUX (Espace Musicale) 88.9 - A French-language station that plays mostly jazz, but will try out a lot of other stuff as long as it's in French. :) This one is a lot of fun to listen to, since the DJs have to skitter between French and English when talking about the names of records, performers and so on, and it can get quite amusing. Also, French DJing is nothing like the US style. Here's the homepage, here's the Listen Live link. (Almost all these stations require WiMP or Flip4Mac QuickTime plugin in order to stream, except where noted.)

CBC Radio One 90.5 - This is the state-run all-news and talk/analysis station. Great for keeping up with what's going on across Canada as well as what Canadians are thinking about the news of the day, but I find it hard to listen to for protracted periods. Definitely nothing like US talk radio, more like NPR. Their homepage, the live link.

CJZN "The Zone" 91.3 - "Modern rock." This one is real hit-or-miss, mostly miss as you can imagine, but occasionally they'll put on some new rock that doesn't suck (in my opinion anyway), so if you get lucky you can listen to this station for up to 15 minutes. Their homepage.

CBC Radio 2 92.1 - It's really hard to peg this station, but it certainly copies the model of BBC6 in England. A very eclectic mix, though they tend to stay away from "rock" music in favour of pop, ambient, electronica, historical recordings, and yes, a little bit of rock and a little bit of classical (on weekends). Oh and a few documentaries and radio exploration type shows. Basically, music radio for erudite brainiacs who don't "rock out" anymore. :) Here's the homepage and the Listen Live link. They also have an experimental ogg feed but I've never gotten it to work.

CFUV (University of Victoria) 101.9 - One of two local college stations, and our #1 pick by far, but this is the only one that works like you'd expect, with highly eclectic programming with an emphasis on rock (though there is some classical programming and other formats as well). I love that I might drop in to an hour of Hawaiian music "to beat the winter blues!" or the exact kind of indie-rock that WPRK (Rollins College) and WRAS (Georgia State) raised me on. My main complaint with these guys is that their transmitter reminds of WGAG (Orlando) -- inside joke to the Orlando gang -- but I hear they are working on replacing it. Homepage, and Listen Live link (works with iTunes! Yay!).

CHTT "Jack FM" 103.1 - The new-ish "Jack" format, in which radio stations attempt to replicate an iPod shuffle in a desperate attempt to stop you from listening to your iPod shuffle, is both a good and terrible idea. I applaud their freewheeling mix of rock music with the occasional "what th-?" ringer thrown in to keep you on your toes. For most rock-radio listeners, the "Jack" format (usually marketed as "we play what we want!" like a petulant two-year-old) is actually an improvement on the complete crapola most mainstream rock radio has become. They really do throw 60s to 00's stuff fairly randomly into the air, and the variety is appreciated. OTOH, the ads and general bombast that accompanies rock stations is saddled on this one as well, so the effect is kind of like you picked up someone else's iPod shuffle by mistake and while they have some things that aren't bad at all, even a few you didn't know about, most of it (not to mention the inevitable commercials) sends you scrambling for your real iPod. After all, the reason iPods are so incredibly popular is because most radio sucks balls. Jack FM is fine to "drop into" for a short time, but overall it more often reminds me of why I've given up on mainstream radio. Here's their homepage, and their Listen Live link.

CILS 107.9 - A Francophone radio station sponsored by UVic, but not the same programming as CFUV. Online only at the moment, going "on air" in the spring. Hopefully this will feature French music of other genres beyond the mainly-jazz stuff that CBUX plays. Check em out.

On the AM dial, there is Village 900, a world-music station that is broadcast from Camosun College (WiMP or RealPlayer options), and a Chinese-language station that plays Chinese music for the (small but historic) Chinese community here.

We listen to these stations mostly in the car, but also online. Speaking of online, truly Internet Radio is a godsend to people like us who miss the good stations in cities we've lived in or spent time in. I listen to a lot of BBC Radio, and we regularly tune in to our favourite shows on WPRK, my old home station in Orlando (iTunes compatible). If WRAS in Atlanta would join the 21st century and broadcast online, I'd be in hog heaven.


Anonymous said...

Hey Chas,
Mark in Atlanta says:

Despite a huge number of requests, it doesn't look like WRAS is going to broadcast online anytime soon.

Funny thing, "Jack FM" sounds like the exact same station as "Dave FM" here in ATL. Now I'm wondering how many cities out there have these large-and-varied playlist stations named after your fictional guy buddies? And what are all their names?

Anonymous said...

Hello from Salt Spring...
Just wanted to clarify one of your comments, and suggest something for you to listen to.

CBC is not "state-run". Not in the sense that its programming and editorial content is controlled by the federal government. Media in China and Zimbabwe is "state-run". CBC is funded by the government, and has certain conditions it must adhere to (eg it must be available as widely possible -so it maintains transmitters in locations that no commercial station would even dream of installing, etc etc..... but the content is not controlled by the government.)

CBC Radio, both 1 and 2, have some very interesting content - tucked into nooks and crannies. If you like classic rock, and its stories, listen to Randy's Vinyal Tap - CBC 1 Saturday at 7pm. Listen to 3 or so shows to get a sense of what happens because every show is different - and some are much better than others.

Stay tuned to CBC 1 for the 9pm show. "A Propos" is on then. This show is about the music of Quebec. Again, give a few shows before judging - each week is different. Quebec rock is not like any commercial stuff. Mastery of the French language is not necessary to enjoy this show.

CBC 2, at 8pm on weeknights plays live recordings of concerts from across Canada. Again, each show is very different. One night you get an Indie band, the next Blue Rodeo. The other night was Harry Manx. If you don't know his music, check it out.

One of the advantages of a national broadcaster like CBC is that you can "time-shift" national broadcasts by listening to the show on-line from a different timezone. Just watch out for the weather forecasts if you forget that you are listening to Halifax.

CBC Radio also does a lot of experimenting during the summer. The shows can be awful, or they can be gems. Its hit or miss. We actually ended up enjoying a summer's worth of a program on country music! (Ackk!!)

Good luck.....

chas_m said...

Thanks very much for the comments.

Mark -- All is revealed in Wikipedia:

Thanks to "Anon" for the excellent clarification of the CBCs mission. "State-run" wasn't really the right term, and as a BBC listener I should have known better. "State-funded" is more correct. Thanks also for the recommendations on shows -- I was aware of "Canada Live" but did not know about the others, will check them out.