Living marginally north of Providence RI and slightly south of Boston Ma, in the pre-useful internet 90′s was a goldmine of college radio. At a point early on I realized I wasn’t all that interested in what pop oriented stations like KISS 108 were playing, and “alternative” stations like 95.5 WBRU weren’t quite alternative enough for me. I became enamored with turning the (actually physically existing) dial on my boombox all the way left to the stations residing below 91.9 – the world of low wattage college radio. Being so close to what are essentially two college towns meant I could almost always find something interesting to listen to, even if it meant I had to lean this way or that way, or place the radio just right on dresser next to the window to get a clear signal.
I had a stack of dubbed cassette tapes that came in and out of rotation as I taped shows. The tapes themselves became hiss filled palimpsests of radio, I could turn the volume way up and hear past tapings playing layered in the background. Oftentimes it was simply trial and error before I could hone in on shows that I wanted to tape with regularity. And just as often, the semester would change and some show would change its time slot or disappear into graduation. Tape sides that had shows that I really grooved on would be labeled and put on a separate pile, the permeant pile.
Two shows in particular consistently made it to the permanent pile. Both of which, if you know me now, had a profound and permanent impact on my music taste. The first was a reggae show on Emerson College’s station (88.9 WERS) called Rockers. I lived just on the edge of the station’s range and would often be devising ways to extend the antenna depending on the cloud cover, or a full moon, or whatever actually influences a radio signal.
The other show, which soon became a must listen for my brother and I, was on URI’s station, 90.3 WRIU. Shindig! stood out in the sea of mumbling, awkward college DJs because not only was the music selection strong, it was hosted by a crew of guys whose on-air chatter was as compelling as any song. Hosted by Kevin and Liam and a revolving crew of friends. Between song sets they would crack jokes on each other, discuss punk 7″, and tell stories. There would be narratives between some weeks shows. And it never seemed like this was pre-planned or anything more intentional than a group of friends who were into music hanging out over the course of a couple hours, yet it was compelling.
And in the Rhode Island area, Shindig became something of a hub for the punk scene. It was through their rundown of local shows that I became aware of the who was playing where. They also booked shows and eventually released a couple of 7″ records. If they were excited by an upcoming show at the Met Cafe I would try to convince some friends and beg a ride to get to it.
The Shindig! definition of punk was rather Catholic, and they played garage, pop-punk, crust, hardcore, and all the other granular sub-genres. My brother would frequent call up to request power violence and they would play a 23 second Spazz or Capitalist Casualties song, and then my brother would call back and ask for another, since it was so short.
Anyway, eventually Shindig! added on booking shows and a label, releasing a few records under the Owen Records moniker.
Just before my brother moved to Florida we decided to use the monthly radio show at Bel-air radio to do a version of Shindig! It was a fraction of the banter and a smaller fraction of the humor, but it was fun to play a stack of punk records and to crack jokes while doing so.