Diamonds in the rough in community radio

Posted Jan. 15, 2009, at 7:06 p.m.

Before I was a newspaperwoman, I was a radio girl. I remember walking into the old East Annex offices of WMEB during my first week of school at the University of Maine and asking if I could have a show. The procedure to get on the air in those days consisted of the station manager showing you which buttons to push and asking you to please not play any swears or burn the place down or anything. My first show was from 1 to 3 a.m. I played punk rock. A year later, I was music director. Professional, we never were. Fun? Oh, heck yes.

As much as I’d love to, I no longer have time to have a regular show on WMEB, or on any of the other excellent noncommercial, community radio stations we have in eastern Maine. But that doesn’t mean I’m not listening — and you should be listening to. Though there are endless hours of great programming on WMEB, WERU and WHSN, here are a few special shows that I particularly enjoy that span a very wide gamut of styles and genres. Happy listening, everyone!

WMEB, 91.9 FM, Orono, www.wmeb.fm

Das Internationale Elektron (noon to 2 p.m. Tuesdays) is hosted by Michael Wittman, a physics professor at the University of Maine. If you have any interest at all in music that’s challenging, cutting-edge and interesting in both a musical and intellectual sense, give this show a listen. Post-classical, electronic experimentation and minimalist music — from masters such as Steve Reich and Terry Riley to contemporary composers and musicians such as Fennesz and Aphex Twin. Never heard of any of ’em? Good. Now listen to this show and expand your mind.

Lookout Below! (8-10 p.m. Wednesdays) is the product of one Aaron Pyle, a man with one of the most bizarre record collections you’ll probably ever encounter. In the span of one hour you’ll hear country, metal, punk rock, industrial music, a funk song and a novelty Dr. Demento record. It’s funny, and it’s cool.

WMEB is nothing if not diverse. Adrian Wingards hosts The Max Power Radio Hour from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturdays, playing massive metal, moody alternative rock and whatever else strikes his fancy, while Alexander Ortiz hosts Da Underground from 8 to 10 p.m. Saturdays, spinning hip-hop for the masses.

WERU, 89.9 FM and 102.9 FM, Orland, www.weru.org

Now that the signal is much, much better and stronger, WERU’s quirky, wide-ranging programming is available to even more people. Naturally, I tend to gravitate toward the stuff played on Daydream Nation (6-8 p.m. Saturdays) and Pattern Recognition (10 p.m.-midnight Thursdays). The former, hosted by Kristy Billings and Andy Buckley, is a smorgasbord of delicious indie rock and punk rock, while the latter is indie rock, electronica, dub and other nonorganic beats, hosted by Corey Paradise.

Blues the Healer is on from 8 to 10 p.m. Mondays, and is hosted by Paula Greatorex, John Blaisdell. Etta James? Muddy Waters? Marcia Ball? Albert Collins? Yes, please. Mostly Manding plays the bubbling, danceable, imminently wonderful music of western Africa, such as high life, Afrobeat and mbalax. It’s on from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays. And another personal favorite of mine, electronic music, dominates weekend evenings, with DJs Marquad and Seyffer hosting Databass from 10 to midnight Fridays, TrackLab, also from 10 to midnight Saturdays, hosted by Beltek Festival mastermind Rick Kidson, and The Matrix, 11 to midnight Sundays, hosted by Magnus Johnstone.

WHSN, 89.3 FM, www.whsn-fm.com

WHSN is a little different in that it doesn’t have themed shows like WERU or WMEB do. What it does have is consistent programming of the sort that has been lacking in our area for years. Modern rock, alternative rock, metal and other contemporary rock favorites are spun by New England School of Communications students, who are on-air not just to play music, but also to learn the tricks of the trade, too. No wonder it’s so darn popular round here — it’s both locally staffed and in touch with what’s hot in new music.

For a good sampler of the good stuff, check out Lucky 13 with Gino Devaney, starting at 6 p.m. every Saturday. The top 13 songs of each week, accompanied by the always-entertaining Devaney. At 5:50 p.m. on Fridays WHSN broadcasts Five Minutes of Fame, a brief interview and performance with a local band. Everyone from Wolves Among Sleep and USA Waste to Gristlestick and Poetic Acrimony have played the show, hosted by Shawn Garland. There’s also a fun morning show, The Unbalanced Breakfast Club, from 6 to 9 a.m. every weekday, hosted by a revolving stable of WHSN talent.

eburnham@bangordailynews.net

990-8270

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