I’ve written about Chicago “progressive” rock station WXRT-FM before. It’s truly the only commercial music station in the city that I can tolerate listening to for any extended period of time. Sure, its commercial stop sets can be as long and annoying as any other stations, but everything else about the station stands pretty far apart from typical commercial rock radio.
Last night I was reminded again about why I like the station when it aired a full concert set of the British post-punk band The Jam recorded back in 1980 at the Park West theater in Chicago. The Jam were very popular in the UK, but never achieved much more than cult status in the US. While contemporaries like the Clash will find their way onto most classic rock stations’ playlists, it’s much less likely you’ll hear the Jam on those same stations.
So it’s remarkable that WXRT has that 31 year-old concert recording in its archives, and all the more remarkable that it gets played three decades later. WXRT plays all of its Sunday night concerts commercial-free, aside from a short sponsorship announcement at the top and bottom. It’s a home taper’s delight, if there are any of those left. (Actually, I did record it, straight to a USB thumb drive using the MP3 record feature on my home receiver.)
I don’t habitually tune in to WXRT’s concerts, nor do I check the website schedule (which currently hasn’t been updated for over a month). I just happened to be listening during a car ride Saturday, heard an announcement and made a mental note to tune in Sunday night. The station doesn’t always feature artists I’m that interested in. Nevertheless, looking back at the past schedule I’ve missed more good concerts than I realized.
Certainly I can go and search the internet for torrents of bootleg recordings, many actually recorded off the radio back in the day. And there are plenty of sites that legitimately record and feature live sets, especially of new artists. But I really never would have thought to look for a Jam set, nevermind one recorded in Chicago in 1980. Hearing a promo for it on the radio is what made me realize it’s something I want to hear.
It’s that kind of synchronicity that radio can uniquely provide, and which, sadly, most commercial stations fail to even attempt. That’s why I celebrate it when it happens.
Use the comments to share with us if there’s a station that continues to provide you with that kind of synchronicity.
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