In the age of iTunes and Myspace, where comprehensive music choices are ubiquitous, more listeners are also recognizing the potential that web radio offers to satiate maturing music tastes. New Jersey is currently experiencing a surge in web radio programming. WFMU-FM (www.wfmu.org) broadcast on 91.1 from Jersey City, is a prime example of “the longest running freeform radio station in the United States.” In laymen’s terms, freeform relies on programming created by the respective shows’ DJs as opposed to a station-mandated format. Non-commercial and listener supported, WFMU, like other web radio stations, operates under the perpetual machination of volunteers, underwriting, and listener donations.
According to WFMU’s website, “Rolling Stone Magazine, the Village Voice, CMJ, and the New York Press have all at one time or another called WFMU ‘the best radio station in the country,’ and the station has also been the subject of feature stories in the New York Times and on the BBC. In recent years the station has gained a large international following due (to) its online operations and counts Simpson’s creator Matt Groening, film director Jim Jarmusch, and Velvet Underground founder Lou Reed, among others, as devoted fans of the station.”
What can you hear on web radio? WFMU’s eclectic selections include punk, gospel, R&B, “uncategorizable strangeness,” and even “Andrew Lloyd Webber soundtracks in languages other than English.”
Another New Jersey station representing the future face of web radio is HomegrownRadioNJ (www.hgrnj.org), launched on Halloween, 2004. According to its mission statement, it “provid(es) a performance and creative outlet to independent and local talent as well as an open forum for music, commentary, literature, and theater.”
One example of HomegrownRadioNJ’s contemporary programming is the Sher Delight show, broadcast by Sher Stec directly from her home in Long Valley. Stec, the daughter of the late Hilda Weston and retired Army Col. Jack Weston, graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1974 with a BFA in interior design and is a part-time artist and photographer. Sher Delight, which airs Tuesdays from noon to 3 p.m., features an imaginative mash-up of diverse indie artists, with an underlying emphasis on Brit-rock.
In an E-mail interview from her home, Stec describes her passion for music in the Queen’s English: “Most of my favourite groups have been British. Even when I was a kid and loved music and didn’t know where the group was from, they usually ended up being British. I never really cared where they were from — it was the sound that captured me. I have been at HomeGrownRadioNJ for three years now bringing (listeners) my mix of imports, indie, and cutting edge new music. Remember, ‘It’s all about the music.’”
Another growing web radio station is danandrichradio.com, the brainchild of Dan Cooley, 21, a resident of Howell,and Rich Palmros, 24, a Freehold resident, both students at Brookdale Community College. Cooley’s mother, Barbara, is a brokerage director. Palmros’ father, Richard, is retired, and his mother, Zeniada, is an ICU nurse.
Both Cooley and Palmros share a passionate interest in movies, and Cooley is currently studying acting, directing, and writing. Palmros is studying acting and psychology. But what really bonds the two is their shared zeal for indie music, particularly on the developing local scene. Cooley and Palmros’ unique, no-holds-barred talk/ music show airs Monday nights from 6 to 9 p.m. and was recently picked up by 88.9 WMCX Monmouth radio. On their website they write, “there’s been a lot of talk about whether we’re going to be on Internet radio, Terrestrial radio, or even Satellite…and that’s why Rich and I put this site together, so that no matter where we go or what station we’re on you’ll have a place to find us and we’ll have a place to be heard.”
The pair recently featured evocative pianist Jerzy Jung and Alfred James, who headlined the July 5 Sounds for S.A.V.E. concert, a benefit for the Princeton animal shelter S.A.V.E. (located at 900 Herrontown Road, www.savehomelessanimals.org), sponsored by danandrich radio and the Arts Council of Princeton (U.S. 1, July 2). Cooler and Palmros are organizing a second S.A.V.E benefit for Saturday, August 23, at Pettoranello Gardens in Community Park North.
Future danandrichradio shows, available as free podcasts, will include S.A.V.E. II performers Todd Alsup, the Remnants, and Joy Simone. They also plan to interview established national artists including songwriters Matt Nathanson and Philadelphia-based Amos Lee.
Cooley describes their collective music preferences as “styles ranging from artists like Incubus, Eminem, Sarah McLachan, and Alicia Keys, to lesser known artists like Jack’s Mannequin, Mandalay, and Matt Pond PA, and even darker sounds like Tool and Korn. Basically anything that has interesting melodies and strong lyric depth.” While the Dan and Rich show continues to broaden its niche, it is indicative of the web radio revolution, offering music and topical diversity that evolves daily.
As for the strongest talent to emerge on the local level, Cooley sees Jung in the top echelon. “Jerzy has such an incredibly powerful presence in her live performance, it’s unbelievable how she captures an audience,” says Cooley. “It’s something I would recommend seeing at some point, she’s just phenomenal.”
In an E-mail interview while vacationing in West Virginia, Cooley says the first S.A.V.E. benefit concert raised over $500, despite the fact that rain forced the concert to move to an inside venue at the Paul Robeson Center, the new home of the Arts Council of Princeton. “The support shown by the Princeton community was amazing,” he says.
The five-hour Save II concert will feature an encore appearance by Sarah Donner, as well as the Remnants, Mouth of Wilson, Joy Simone, and Todd Alsup.
Donner is rapidly emerging as an animal-friendly local celebrity, and is the founder of Indie Night at Griggstown Pavilion (U.S.1, January 10, 2007), in addition to being a frequent performer at Small World Coffee in Princeton and at KatManDu’s weekly acoustic showcases on Wednesdays. Her album title, “Reluctant Cat Lady,” refers to her adoption of several abandoned kittens found in her apartment complex, who she housed in her bathtub. “Cats are people too,” is her favorite Myspace comment expressed on friends’ pages.
The original idea for the S.A.V.E. concerts was Donner’s. “I had the idea for the benefit on Dan and Rich’s show off the cuff and didn’t expect it to come to fruition,” says Donner an E-mail interview while on tour. “Dan and Rich stick to their word and fully support their artists. These guys did all the hard work meeting with the Arts Council of Princeton and organizing meetings with S.A.V.E.
“By coming out to the S.A.V.E. II benefit, anyone can give support for the shelter, the artists, and the Dan and Rich show. I’ve been trying for years to build a musical community for the artists in central Jersey, and I think Dan and Rich are doing the same thing. Together we can rock Princeton and save kittens and puppies.”
Cooley is highly optimistic about the potential for web radio. “Web radio in New Jersey is alive and well. It still has a lot of development but with stations like HomeGrownRadio and danandrichradio starting up, people have plenty to listen to online.”
Sounds for S.A.V.E. II, Saturday, August 23, 3 to 8 p.m., Pettoranello Gardens Amphitheater, Community Park North, junction of Route 206 and Mountain Avenue. Benefit concert for S.A.V.E. animal shelter of Princeton. Sarah Donner, Vana, Mouth of Wilson, Joy Simone, the Remnants, and Todd Alsup. Donations invited. Dog chew bones, large rawhides, paper towels, sponges, cat litter, dog and cat food, antibacterial hand soap, laundry detergent, latex gloves, garbage bags, glass cleaner, and cash are needed. www.artscouncilofprinceton.org or 609-924-8771.