The very badass Los Angeles radio station Indie 103.1 went off the air last Friday. The station's eclectic mix of alt rock, old school punk, listener faves by Morrissey and L.A.'s own hometown band X, the always entertaining blatherings of Steve Jones and his afternoon show Jonesy's Jukebox (where the ex-Sex Pistol once spent a day playing showtunes and another with an insightful two hour interview with Tony Bennett), a station where you could listen to Dave Navarro hitting on girls who called into his late night music show, and, of course, hear the Modern Lover's sublime single Roadrunner played at least once a day...all of this contributed to a true L.A. sound: modern, nostalgic, absurd, unpretentious, vaguely Chicano, knowledgeable, pretty and vacant.
One of the best shows on the station was Joe Escalante's morning show, "The Last of the Famous International Morning Shows," (a very funny title if you're a Morrissey fan). Escalante was a lawyer, record label owner, amateur matador, and bassist for the So Cal punk band the Vandals and member of the best Smith's tribute band in the world, the Sweet and Tender Hooligans (YouTube here and here). Escalante's smart and funny morning show featured great music as well as daily weather reports by David Lynch, sports reports by Deadwood TV actor Timothy Olyphant, and a tone of ironic DJ detachment that never annoyed. (Call me a reverse racist, but irony from the mouths of Brown people somehow doesn't grate on my nerves as it does when I hear it spouted by white hipsters.) Escalante's show abruptly ended last November. Should have read the writing on the wall.
Indie 103 was one of the last unique and independent voices in a corporate-dominated American sound scape. DJs picked the songs they wanted to play, not from a list of over-produced, soulless, Top 40 so-called hits by Britney, Coldplay, Rascal Flatts and their ilk. I mean, who do you know who actually buys a Nickelback CD? And who wants to hear it?
Rolling Stone has the sad story on Indie 103's demise here, and a link to an earlier story calling the station "the best radio station" in the U.S. is here. The station was a favorite of recent settled L.A. resident Prince, who debuted four of his new songs on Indie 103 last December. There is an informative interview with the station's now ex-musical director Mark Sovel here. Recommended.
What's not so well known is that the owners of the hippest, coolest, independent alt radio station in the entire United States was Spanish language broadcasting chain Entravision Communication, owners of many Univision TV stations nationwide. The fact that a parent company making their money broadcasting Spanish language telenovelas subsidizing a radio station that gave valuable air time two hours a day, five times a week to a guy who played guitar for Sid Vicious used to delight me to no end.
Well, the party's over. Latest word is that Indie 103.1 is now going to be known as El Gato 103.1, and will be playing "contemporary Mexican regional music." Corporate radio sucks no matter what language it's speaking.