The night the music came back

I’ve loved music seemingly all my life. I grew up on a steady diet of Simon & Garfunkel, Hall & Oates, Billy Joel, Elton John…and the occasional classical piece or opera to round things out a bit. Road trips were filled with music, often thematic for the trip (Billy Joel and Elton John for trips to New Jersey; Kenny Rogers and Juice Newton for trips to Virginia). When my sister played “Hot Hot Hot” by The Cure for me, when “Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me” first came out on vinyl, I knew I’d found something truly special. Only a few years later, I would get the chance to expand my repertoire even further when I got a job working at a local record store chain. I remember listening to “Nothing’s Shocking” by Jane’s Addiction, learning the Rolling Stones had a whole streak of country-esque songs, and discovered the joys of howling “Mother!” at the top of my lungs along with Glenn Danzig. Life’s always been grand with a soundtrack.

Back in the DC area, we had WHFS, which was THE source for what was then known as “alt-rock”, the “alternative” to the standard pop offerings from the more mass-market radio stations. I was a complete devotee of WHFS; the only time I didn’t have it on was when I needed NPR to keep my road rage down on the Beltway.

When I moved to the Boston area fifteen years ago, I renewed my acquaintance with WFNX, the radio station my sister (again) played for me during her college days in Cambridge. WFNX would be my new aural home – the place where I’d first hear Arcade Fire, Temper Trap, Passion Pit, Frank Turner, and other amazing, AMAZING singers and bands. When WFNX was in its death throes, having had its frequency sold off to media sucking-sound-of-evil ClearChannel, it was like part of my soul got ripped out. Would I be forced to go to Pandora and other internet services that just spew music with no context, no local connection, and no sense of why something was worth listening to beyond some algorithm’s mathematical matchmaking?

Thankfully, the folks at (the web face of the Boston Globe) had an answer: they quickly snapped up a chunk of the on- and off-air talent from WFNX and decided to launch their own radio station – RadioBDC. It’s internet-only, but that’s not a limiting factor if you don’t let it be one. And, better still, they built something with the soul and wit and style of that “alt-rock” that has sustained me for nearly three decades.


Last night was the launch party for RadioBDC, and I snapped up my free ticket to the party as soon as they were available. For a while, it was unclear if I could go, but a combination of circumstances made it possible, and I raced to get to The Paradise for the 8pm start time. It’s odd going to a show by yourself; I always go in tandem. It took me years to get up the courage to go to a movie by myself, and this was the first time I went to a rock show on my own. The only person I “knew” who was attending was OccupyFNX (now OccupyRadioBDC), a fellow tweeter with a love of great music and a passion for keeping it on-air. We wouldn’t meet until just before Boston native and former Letters to Cleo frontwoman Kay Hanley would take the stage, but it was a great few minutes of solidarity…together.

Kay Hanley

Kay Hanley, rocking out to her killer set

All of those of us who came out for the show want to see RadioBDC succeed. We know the DJ’s from their time on WFNX (in some cases, even farther back than that), and there was something so wonderful about seeing them together after hearing a few days of early broadcasts from the fledgling station. I was only a few feet away from Adam-12 as he spun tunes before Hanley and her band played, but I hung back. It’s not that I didn’t want to say “THANK YOU SO MUCH” to someone who’s played such amazing music for me; it’s more that I didn’t want to intrude. Years ago, before I left DC, one of my side-ventures was to run an online music magazine and I often interviewed bands before or after they played at local clubs. Ultimately, I never felt comfortable in that world; I always felt like an intruder. I liked listening without poking in, even if to say thank you, because I felt like I was taking up time they had to themselves. It was the same last night. The party was a celebration of the rebirth of alt-rock in the Boston area, with the people who know it the best, and I didn’t want to bother them by gushing about how much it means to me that they’re back on the air, bringing the music to my ears that I so desperately needed.

RadioBDC DJ's

RadioBDC staff (L-R): Adam-12, Paul Driscoll, Julie Kramer, Henry Santoro, and Mike Snow

It’s not as though I don’t have an iPod. I have two. I have over 1000 CDs at home. I HAVE music. But having access to a variety of music, especially new and local bands, with DJ’s to put it into true context…that’s something levels beyond what you can get from your own static collection. My iPods are filled with what I’ve learned of over the years, and these people have helped me build this collection by giving their knowledge and sharing their loves on air with me and everybody else in Boston.

Adam-12 spinning tunes

Adam-12 spins aural joy before Kay Hanley’s set

Now, thankfully, the new station reaches even farther than the former WFNX’s sometimes-limpy transmitter in Lynn, Mass. RadioBDC can be accessed via the internet on a laptop/desktop and can also be streamed to an iPhone/iPad, Android device or Blackberry via the RadioBDC app. I’m not being paid by the or RadioBDC folks to say any of this. I love music, and when I see my nearly six-year-old daughter dance into the room when she hears Death Cab for Cutie’s “Soul Meets Body” or when she tells me how much she loves Florence + the Machine, I know that it’s these people who helped me make that happen. They facilitated my bringing that love of music to the next generation.

And on and on and on. Please pass it on. Music is love. Long live RadioBDC!

11 thoughts on “The night the music came back

    • I will DEFINITELY remind you to give me a big Henry hug! 🙂 Loved hearing you talk this a.m. about your daughter’s iTunes downloads…makes me think of my dd asking tonight whether I liked Florence + the Machine. Given that she’s 5 (heading into K next week), I’d like to think I’m setting her up to be a music-lover!

  1. You’ve said it exactly, capturing my love of music, despair at the loss of WFNX and my on-air “friends” (like you, I’ve never met them, feeling as you do about intrusion), and then the beautiful hope given to us in the form of RadioBDC. Now that hope is a reality and I could not be more thrilled. It’s wonderful to have our connections and context back! Great read!

    • Aw, thanks! Yeah, RadioBDC has been a great salve for me – I can listen to amazing music, and some of it is stuff that you wouldn’t even hear on WFNX because there seems to be less constraint from needing to play what the record companies are pushing. I’m hearing more indie on this station. Even better, I can get the app going on my iPhone in the kitchen while I cook and the kids love checking it to see what’s playing! LOL

  2. I’m taking my 13 year old daughter to see Flo and the Machine in a few weeks! Her first concert and we are both so excited! Love seeing our kids “get” music the way we do!

    • That’s awesome! It really is fabulous, isn’t it? I realize that there’s some part of them that will eventually reject what my husband or I like just as a matter of rebellion, but we’re making it hard by liking so many things. We have subversive ways to get through to them, too, like the Rockabye disc that they both like to fall asleep to – it’s an instrumental, lullabied-up album of covers of songs by The Cure. 🙂

      • Yeah, my 15 year old son budding musician plays mostly drums but also guitar and played bass guitar in a band camp this summer and loved it! I’m just trying to urge them to explore different music to see what they like. So far he mostly likes rock. It seems to be a prerequisite that boys go through a Led Zeppelin stage. But he also likes 80’s alt (thankyouverymuch) as well as other random bands like Chicago, Beatles, Elton John, etc. Go figure.

        • Whenever I hear of someone getting into Zeppelin, I always think of the sign on the wall in the music store in “Wayne’s World” – the one that said “NO STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN”. LOLOLOLOL

  3. Pingback: Click here to start the music: a 3-month review of RadioBDC « CrunchyMetroMom

  4. Pingback: Click here to start the music: a 3-month review of RadioBDC | CrunchyMetroMom

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