By: Scott Yager
Over the past year I have had the pleasure of bouncing back and forth from New York to Los Angeles for the purposes of my other job (contrary to what some of you might think, I do not only write for The Campus Socialite, I also work in reality television). In doing so I came to a realization that I had always figured was the case but never really knew to be so blatantly true. When it comes to the music world, NEW YORK HAS NOTHING ON LOS ANGELES.
I remember growing up as an impressionable adolescent in Stamford and luckily, due to my hometown’s proximity to the Mecca known as New York City, my local rock radio station was 92.3 KROCK. It is through KROCK that I originally became introduced to all the bands that would later grow to shape my childhood, my teen years and eventually become the bands that would continue to mold my identity at an adult.
It was hard to believe that there was even another radio station in the world that mattered other than our KROCK. Back before the Internet and all the instant technology we have at our disposal it was through KROCK that we found out what concerts were going on in the area, with a large part of them being put together by the radio station itself. The new music that we grew to know and love enough to ever want to experience live was delivered and exposed to us by KROCK. Long story short…KROCK cultivated the musical landscape for millions of rock fans in the tri-state area.
It’s hard to believe that it has only been a year since we officially lost KROCK (the second time) but that might be because for the last few years it had just never been the same. Around the same time satellite radio began to take off and they stripped Howard Stern from the KROCK airwaves it seemed like they started to get their towel ready, knowing that sooner rather than later they would be forced to throw it in the ring, giving up on all they had created and all they had meant for so many people. It started with gradually removing music from the day as a whole, and then moved to almost completely removing the aspect of new music from their airwaves. By the end, it seemed as if the few real hours of music left on KROCK were occupied by the same bands that had always been on auto play in their play list. In the dying days of KROCK they had stopped attempting to build new audiences for new bands and resorted back to those fateful bands that always managed to take up a large percentage of their airtime. Some of these bands are Stone Temple Pilots, The Chili Peppers, The Foo Fighters, and Pearl Jam. Now I love these bands more than anybody but let’s be honest, we already know all their songs by heart and hearing them for the 100,000th time isn’t going to do anything more for these bands.
Upon arriving in Los Angeles for the first time, one of the first things I did was find their KROCK, known as KROQ, on the radio dial. They reside over there at 106.7. Always under the assumption that it was our KROCK that was the premiere rock radio station in the country, I was quickly swayed the other way. After only listening to KROQ in LA for a day or so I realized that even now, when our KROCK is dead and gone, their KROQ is still going strong, continuing the same perfect formula they have been using for years to build interest in new bands, expose them to the masses, all while still providing an outlet for the premiere rock acts and local bands to get their time in the sun as well. Take for instance their list of the top 20 songs of 2009:
1. Kings Of Leon – Use Somebody 2. Silversun Pickups – Panic Switch 3. MGMT – Kids 4. Incubus – Love Hurts 5. Linkin Park – New Divide 6. Rise Against – Savior 7. Muse – Uprising 8. Weezer – (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To 9. Anberlin – Feel Good Drag 10. AFI – Medicate 11. Apocalyptica f/Adam Gontier – I Don’t Care 12. Paramore – Decode 13. Green Day – 21 Guns 14. Slightly Stoopid – 2 am 15. Rise Against – Audience Of One 16. Phoenix – 1901 17. Pearl Jam – The Fixer 18. Cage The Elephant – Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked 19. Kings Of Leon – Notion 20. Incubus – Black Heart Inertia
Now, having been on both coasts I can say firsthand that people out here on the East coast are aware of some of these songs and know them well. Everyone has heard Use Somebody, Uprising, 21 Guns and The Fixer (thanks mostly to their exposure in movies like Transformers II and television like ESPN sports telecasts) but I don’t think anyone I know has heard great songs like Savior by Rise Against, Medicate by AFI, 2am by Slightly Stoopid, I Don’t Care (essentially by 3 Days Grace), and Feel Good Drag by Anberlin.
We do have a new rock station here in New York called WXRP, The Rock Experience (101.9) run by the brilliant Matt Pinfield, who I love and respect. However, because Pinfield’s music tastes are so diverse, this station tends to let their broad spectrum of rock run more towards the Bruce Springsteen side of things than the new hot hard rock bands that are coming out. California and their KROQ are still going strong promoting fresh new artists while also continuing the very hard rock vibe that our KROCK was known for at one point. Bands like Green Day, Offspring, System of a Down, No Doubt, Bush and Rage Against the Machine were once mainstays on the old KROCK. None of these bands are typically played on the much mellower WXRP that Pinfield is running. Like I said, I respect Pinfield more than most people in radio but that being said, the ship he is running is far from a worthy replacement for the old KROCK I grew up knowing and loving.
I now know why they call KROQ the World Famous KROQ cause it is clear that for a long long time they have been doing rock radio right and that is why out on the west coast you have tons of rock fans ready and willing to jam pack the many local venues that are consistently churning out rock shows on the sunset strip. It is the big radio shows however that sum up my point entirely. Everyone remembers the Dysfunctional Family Picnics and the other concerts KROCK used to put on out here. They were fun, often gathering some of the biggest bands of that year and putting them all on the same stage. Tickets were often impossible to get and once you got there you found yourself somewhat disappointed by the short set times and the lengthy waits in between bands.
I can sum up the Los Angeles rock music scene and the romance they continue to have with their radio stations (KROQ in particular) by mentioning a fantastic concert experience I had over there before coming back out east. I was lucky enough to score tickets to their annual KROQ ALMOST ACOUSTIC CHRISTMAS CONCERT (seriously look this up on Wikipedia and look at the bands that have played this show over the years). Before I reveal to you the lineup I want you to take into account that not only was this show in a modestly sized indoor
amphitheater (at Universal Studios) with great sound, ambiance and not a bad seat in the house, but this show also had a revolving stage so IMMEDIATELY after one band finished the stage simply rotated around to reveal the next band who was ready to rock the house. There was never longer than 30 seconds between each band. Here was night one:
6:00pm – Anberlin
6:25pm – Dead By Sunrise
6:50pm – Three Days Grace
7:25pm – Thirty Seconds to Mars
8:15pm – Alice In Chains
9:10pm– Rise Against
10:00pm – AFI
Where do ANY of those bands get played out here?
And here was night 2:
6:00pm – White Rabbits
6:25pm – Metric 6:50pm – Cage the Elephant
7:15pm – Phoenix
7:40pm – Vampire Weekend
8:05pm – Slightly Styoopid
8:35pm – The Bravery
9:05pm – 311
10:00pm – Muse
Now, not only were these two nights jam packed with A-listers like Muse and Rise Against (not to mention a surprise performance by the beloved Sublime with their new singer) but even the bands YOU haven’t heard of on these lists cause you’re out here on the musically inept east coast are household names out west cause they play them on the radio and they do so every day. It’s a simple formula…you find great new bands, you play them on the radio exposing them to the listeners and then you invite them out to play for the very fans who have been hearing their songs all year, etching in their minds a memory they will always have, a memory of that band being important to their rock music landscape. This is something we used to have out here because KROCK helped make me a fan of bands like KoRn, Limp Bizkit, System of a Down, Linkin Park and many artists that were new and different at the time but needed a platform to shine on. KROCK gave them this platform. That platform has since evaporated. The new Green Day album that came out in 2009 had at least 4-5 radio-worthy songs on it but simply no station that their songs fit into the mold of (not even WXRP). Out west those songs got played every day and out there Green Day is still one of the biggest bands around. Did 21st Century Breakdown get the exposure it deserved out here? I think not. Most people forgot it even came out.
If you want to work in music, succeed in music, get your band off the ground or just live your life in an atmosphere where rock music is still the biggest thing around than move to LA. If your life and job can easily lend themselves to it than make the jump because within a week of getting out there and bumping KROQ while you soar down the 405 you will be taken back, taken back not only to the days when KROCK ruled the world and shaped your personal tastes in music, but you will be taken back to an even better time that you never got to experience, where rock music means even more than ever. You will find yourself in a place where rock music is still evolving yet also continuing to embrace the wonderful music that made the last twenty years so easy to rock out during. Bands like The Offspring, No Doubt, Rancid, 311, Rise Against, Green Day and Weezer are not dead and gone, although out here it might seem like they are. In fact, not only are they alive and well in Los Angeles, they are bigger and better than ever.
Here is your saving grace…if you too are sick of the lack of rock radio out here (and excuse me if you have discovered this lovely website and application already) than you need to check out PANDORA, where you can essentially create your own radio station based on your own specific tastes. Go to www.pandora.com or download the application on your mobile device (and no I am not paid by them). For us out here this is something to look into. When I was in LA I didn’t even care that PANDORA existed and that is saying something.