Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Buzz" Kill

Truth is, I hadn't really listened to West Palm Beach's 103.1 "The Buzz" with any regularity for over 10 years. The programming simply ceased to be interesting to me. It being a commercial station, it was merely a reflection of what was popular in "New Rock". I'm sure it mirrored the playlists of many other such stations around the country.

I can trace it back to 1999. I was driving to a friend's house and had the misfortune of hearing "Nookie" by Limp Bizkit for the first time. I knew even then that if this was the sound of new rock, I'd be looking for an exit. It only got worse, as the likes of Creed, Nickelback, and Puddle of Mudd began to take over the airwaves. In 2000, I liked exactly 2 new songs The Buzz played: Dynamite Hack's droll, white boy cover of "Boys in the Hood" and The Dandy Warhol's "Bohemian Like You". I twisted the dial elsewhere, though there was little of interest anymore in the radio wasteland.

The Buzz had signed on sometime in 1995, while I was living in Atlanta. It was there I discovered 99X, an alternative station that played classic Cure as well as newer things by Weezer, Pizzicato Five, Rage Against the Machine, and Juliana Hatfield. I loved it. I had moved from West Palm and its dearth of radio choice (The Gater, still in existance this day, was my usual preset, but I heard Zeppelin's "Livin' Lovin' Maid" a few thousand too many times). 99X was as guilty of repetition as other stations but overall it was some sort of oasis, playing music I wasn't used to hearing on mainstream FM. What a nice surprise to find a similiar station when I returned to WPB!

For a few years, it was pretty good. When it seemed there would be an electronic revolution in '97 or so, artists like Prodigy and Orgy were played quite a bit. The coup fizzled, but the music on the Buzz was still good, even if the novelty had long since worn. Then came Limp Bizkit.

In 1997 I also attended my only Buzz Bake Sale concert, their yearly daylong outdoor festival of rock and art. It was quite an experience. Plenty of concertgoers were plenty "baked", and I clearly recall a girl on all fours, a dog collar around her neck being led on a leash by her boyfriend or something. That year the lineup included Goldfinger, Cake, and the headliner, Green Day. They were all smashing. I regret leaving after Green Day, as Echo and the Bunnymen closed the show. What was I thinking? I'm sure it was the weariness that won out, for me and the girl I went with (a co-worker). The Bake Sale has been held ever since, but the lineups again reflected the new rock scene of the day and to me, most of it was/is aural sludge.

So CBS Radio lowered the axe on 103.1 this past week, switching to a pop format that plays Lady Gaga, Adele, and whoever else lands on the Billboard lists. Yeah, WPB needed another pop channel, sure. The station management, however, stated that their extensive research did indicate the desire for this change.

We've all seen this before. I documented the demise of 97 GTR back in 1990 in a previous post. That was disappointing. This one was, eh. I was long since uninvested. Plus, 103.1 The Buzz will continue to stream on their website and through smartphone apps (and HD radio). But it illustrates the fickle nature of the Arbitron diary fillers and focus groups. Additionally, local radio seems to becoming a thing of the past, at least for music. You've heard my Clear Channel rants.

It is sad that there are fewer and fewer local stations to get to know, to feel a sense of community with. But, streaming stations of all types are definitely the refuge, my favorites being Radioparadise.com and the Soma channels. We are living in an interesting time, watching the slow death of local radio, bookstores, DVD rental outlets, and the U.S. Postal Service. Perhaps this century will see a special museum for each. What will we tell the grandkids?

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