07/09/2013 – around 10:00 am: I am listening to Beth Bush-Greenstein and Jules Greenstein’s “Free for All” show on HomegrownRadioNJ, an Internet radio station that operates from a studio in downtown Boonton, New Jersey. The duo come on most Tuesdays from 9 am through noon, and have just played the second movement of Mahler’s First Symphony. It is a bit frustrating to play symphonies, one of them notes, because they’re quite long (especially Mahler’s). So the show is airing the piece one movement a week, Jules explains.
“Now for something different,” he continues, and a series of folk/rock tunes ensue, the latest being Blame Sally’s “Living Without You,” preceded by performances by Richie Havens and Buffy Sainte-Marie.
Mahler followed by Blame Sally—what I love about stations like HomegrownRadioNJ is that they completely defy conventional norms of music programming, and somehow it still works.
HomegrownRadioNJ will be nine soon. “When we started this project on Halloween, 2004 (or, ‘Mischief Night’ to be exact), we had around a dozen DJs onboard,” explains the station’s general manager Todd Mills, “but as we went along we gathered another couple of dozen and really filled out the schedule. In this past two-and-a-half years, we’ve grown to over 40 different shows with over 50 DJs, each with their own tastes in music and commentary for the world. You can hear Jazz, Rock, Alternative, Classical, World . . . just about anything.”
Following the Blame Sally set, Mr. Greenstein comes on to make a correction. “We had a fight!” Beth gleefully confides. Turns out the next deejay, Sher, is on vacation, Jules humbly explains. But this will “give you a chance to sample HomeGrown Radio’s automatic deejay!” Beth adds, which presumably plays a database of tunes popular with programmers and the audience.
Boonton, New Jersey isn’t too far from the City of Paterson. Or, take the 237 to the 80 and drive east and the next thing you know you are in the town of my birth, Fort Lee, and then over the bridge to Manhattan. But you can listen to HomeGrownNJ from anywhere. Programs include the “Telefunken U-47 Radio Show,” (“from Alt-Country to Frank Zappa and everything in-betWEEN every Monday from 4 to 7 pm.”); “Dr. Bubba’s Black Mountain Underground,” hosted by “the infamous and somewhat dubious Dr. Bubba”; and the Red Earth Show with Noralee. A crew of exquisitely nerdy music aficionados if ever there was one.
Following another “Free for All” set comes an amusing PSA for the station—a knockoff of the final exchange between Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre in Casablanca, in which the two note that at least they agree on HomegrownRadioNJ. ‘Radio just like it was in the old days,’ the parody declares, the ‘old days’ presumably being the free form days of the 1960s and 1970s.
What an irony that I have to turn to the Internet to get back to the old days, but there you are. Listen to HomegrownradioNJ here.