April 05, 2006
Why KACC is my favorite radio station

Excellent "Racket" column on the pride of Alvin, 89.7 KACC, the Gulf Coast Rocker. Why do I love this station? Here's one reason:

" 'Whatever goes' is a pretty good idea of what we do," says Mark Moss, KACC's operations director and local rock radio veteran. "There are so many genres of rock, so we try to avoid just being classic or new. We try not to play the stuff that's been rubbed into the ground. Like, if we do play classic, we get a little deeper in the disc library. From the Floyd library, we'll play 'Sheep' or 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' instead of 'Another Brick in the Wall.' And Hendrix is not just 'Purple Haze.' We'll also play 'If 6 Was 9' or 'Castles Made of Sand.' "

Believe it or not, most kids have never heard those cuts, which have long vanished from the Arrow's playlists. "To younger listeners, deep-catalog stuff from those bands sounds like new music," Moss says.

Moss also wants to stamp KACC's sound with a Texas feel. "Nothing you hear on the dial really sounds identifiable as Texas anymore," he says. "It's an old theory of programming, but it makes us geographically different from anything else on the dial."

Take Los Lonely Boys, for example. Most Houstonians don't know it, but "Heaven" and the rest of the Grammy-winning trio's official debut album had been out for many months before the song became ubiquitous. KLOL was too busy spinning Tesla and crap like that; the Buzz had to make sure their daily quota of Marilyn Manson spins had been reached. Neither would give LLB a chance.

But KACC did. "I was goin' to see Los Lonely Boys when they were playing over at the Saxon Pub in Austin," Moss says. "We had four or five songs by those guys on the air long before they were ever on the commercial radio. And a few months later, 'Heaven' started getting airplay in Austin. I never really thought it should have been the single, so we never did add that song, but it did end up winning them the Grammy. At any rate, to me, those guys epitomized Texas."

Moss also spins (drumroll, please) local music. (And why we wouldn't he? In his spare time, he strums guitar in the Clear Lake-area trad-rock bar band the 4 Barrel Ramblers.) "We'll add the good local rock, and even the stuff that has a country flair. To me, that's where a Texas station should be. And the funny thing is, I get so many people that hear something and call in and ask, 'Who was that? That's a great song!' And I'll tell 'em it's [local rockers] Dune*TX or somebody like that."

I've lost count of the number of times I've heard a cut by a classic rock artist I enjoy that I've never heard on any other radio station. It's extremely rare for me to react to a song they're spinning by saying "not that crap again". I think the last time I felt that way was back in the glory days of New York's late, lamented 102.7 WNEW, when I was just learning about what good rock music is.

One more thing:

Radio is a brutal business -- and it is getting more so by the year. You can be on top of the world one week, and one crappy quarterly ratings report later, you're fighting for your survival. If the suckitude continues, you're on your ass. Again.

Hmmm. How did that WKRP in Cincinnati theme go again -- "Got kinda tired of packin' and unpackin' / Town to town, up and down the dial?" Yep, that's the radio biz.

Or, more accurately, that was the radio biz back in the good old days. You can't go up and down the dial the way you used to, because virtually all of the thousands of small companies that owned radio stations have vanished into the maw of the Clear Channel, Cumulus and Infinity behemoths.

And neither did the radio of 1978 have to cope with so much competition. Today, the whole medium seems to be in a battle for its very existence. Home listeners were already a thing of the past by the '90s, and car CD players and satellite radio have eaten away at the formerly captive commuter audience. In more crowded cities, the future is even bleaker: New York-based Houston Press DVD reviewer Jordan Harper told me that hardly any Big Apple train commuters bother with the stodgy old box. "This is iPod Nation, man," he said. "I don't know anyone up here who listens to the radio."

One reason (beyond my semi-irrational fear of new music technology) why I'm still iPod-less is just what I wrote above: I get all the variety I need, at least most of the time, with KACC. Even better, I get to hear new stuff without all that tedious hunting around for it. Oh, and did I mention they're commercial-free? This is the perfect lazy man's excuse to put off that iPod purchase - and the multi-hour commitment to ripping that CD collection - for a few more weeks. Hey, I know I'm a disappearing demographic. I may as well take advantage of it while I can.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 05, 2006 to Music | TrackBack

KACC is a great little station.

I don't know if you've tried it, but I'm a bit like you in terms of the discovery of new music. I like stations or tools that help me in that regard. I don't know if you've tried the service at Pandora.com, but I've found it's really quite good at picking music I might like.

Posted by: Kevin Whited on April 5, 2006 10:12 AM

Given fiascos like Sony's DRM crap, our fear of new music technology may not be all that irrational.

Also, folks like me, who don't feel compelled to replace perfectly good PC's every 3-4 years, probably don't have the technology to support an iPod. Still on Windows 98? Sorry, not officially supported. You can do it, but you'll need a FireWire card - 98's USB support won't cut it. And you'll need to fool your iPod installer disk - it normally refuses to run on Win98, even though the program it installs works fine!

Most folks won't go through all that trouble - they'll just shell out for a brand-new PC with WinXP and be done with it. (Apple, of course, is hoping you'll take the opportunity to switch to an iMac - which might not be a bad idea as long as you're starting from scratch anyway.)

OTOH, some fears are pretty irrational if you give them even a moment's thought. Parents have been scared of the new video-capable iPods by the prospect that their kids might download porn onto them. But if they could download porn onto an iPod, they could just as easily view the porn on the computer in the first place! The iPod isn't the source of the problem here.

Posted by: Mathwiz on April 7, 2006 3:54 PM

KACC is the best radio station around for one reason: It carries 24-5A football games live in the fall. My son plays youth football Saturday mornings -- he needs to be at the field by 7:45. I can't take him to 24-5A games on Friday night, but we (generally, *I*) can listen to them on KACC.

I love the disjointed, confused play-by-play calling and the cheesy corporate sponsors of the broadcast. On those Friday nights, KACC makes me feel like I'm in the small town I grew up in even though I'm in the suburbs of Houston.

Posted by: Greg in TX22 on April 8, 2006 12:35 PM