KEXP is a public radio station based in Seattle, Washington. Wait, wait, don't leave yet. Like all well funded radio stations nowadays, KEXP has an internet presence, so it's available and potentially relevant to an area greater than just the Seattle metro.

KEXP was formerly known as KCMU, the University of Washington's public radio station. But one day Paul Allen rolled into town, built a visual earache known as the Experience Music Project, and purchased all of Seattle in the name of his temple, including KEXP. Technically, KEXP and EMP are partners. This partnership allowed the station to increase its signal wattage and spurred the name change. EMP has been helping the station become self sustaining, a goal it should reach by next year. This year, only 6% of its funding came from EMP.

Around these parts, KEXP is known primarily as the indie rock station. They do have specialty shows for world music, reggae, jazz, blues, etc. but most of their programs are described simply as "Variety Mix," which translates to "four hours of indie rock". Certainly, the various Variety Mixes incorporate hip hop, punk, and other genres, but let's put it this way: the only time I've ever heard a song repeated three times in one day on KEXP, it was "Chicago" by Sufjan Stevens.

Better example. These are the artists played in the last hour, as I am writing this: Arctic Monkeys, Garageland, The Faint, Tom Vek, Ladytron, Breakestra, Ben Lee, Cat Power, Sufjan Stevens, Stephen Malkmus, Dios (Malos), Crystal Skulls, and the Blake Babies. So. You believe me about the indie rock.

Besides playing the stuff Clear Channel won't, KEXP continues the KCMU tradition of playing local and unsigned bands. One of very few mandates to the station's DJs is that they play one local band an hour. Rarely does that mean Nirvana or Pearl Jam - more likely it's Tullycraft, The Evil Tambourines, or The Sonics. They take requests all day, creating a relationship where listeners' tastes inform what gets played just as what gets played informs the tastes of the listeners.

Besides setting a standard for independent radio, KEXP has been a pioneer in utilizing internet technologies since its KCMU days. In 2000, KCMU was the first radio station to offer its programming in CD quality over the internet. Currently, KEXP offers streaming radio from its website and through iTunes, with low bandwidth streams available for small devices. It also offers archives of recent shows and in-studio performances, and podcasts created by the DJs. Their clever use of the internet has given them strong bases of support outside of Seattle, especially in New York, where they do broadcasts during the CMJ music conference. For a listener funded radio station, obviously, this is excellent.

KEXP's success is not only a blueprint for public radio, it's proof that there is support for good music and a market for something more than the lowest common denominator. They're fucking great and you can find them at:

Recommended Listening
(just one noder's opinon)

John in the Morning - John Richards is Seattle's answer to John Peel. Ok, perhaps I exaggerate a little. While all three of the weekday DJs are pretty impressive, John in the Morning most consistently exposes me to brilliant new stuff or blows my mind by juxtaposing standard indie fare against classics like Suicidal Tendencies or Nick Cave.

Wo' Pop - The world music show. Not just a bunch of yodelling and bongos, this show includes French rap, throat singing, and pretty much anything exotic that didn't come from a US artist.

Shake the Shack - Rockabilly. Sassy DJs. And, if you happen to be in Seattle, you can go down to the EMP's upstairs bar and watch them do the show live.

Audioasis - KEXP's local music show. Depsite the death of grunge, Seattle is still a city where local music thrives, and the crew of DJs running this show seem to miss nothing of quality.

Sonic Reducer - This is a relatively new show. It's devoted to punk fucking rock. Did they play "Morrissey Rides a Cock Horse" on the radio? They did indeed!

Preachin' The Blues - Sunday morning blues show that will make you feel wise, patriotic, and cultured all at once.

Expansions - I include this only because it and the DJs who put it together every week are so critically acclaimed. It's the techno and electronica show and the mastermind, DJ Riz, is pretty famous locally.

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