02 January, 2006

WXPN


This review comes from Jack McGeehin. Jack's blog,
Peeling Wallpaper, is a fun read.


In the old days, before the age of the internet and satellite radio,
a great radio station like WXPN
in Philadelphia was a prized gem of
a community. You had to be near-by to enjoy it. Once you found a station
like this, you tuned to it on your car radio and listened as you drove
to work or school. At home, it provided background music for a gathering
of friends or a leisurely Sunday morning drinking coffee and reading
the newspaper. The DJs were like old friends, comfortable voices serving
up great music and talk. This was your radio station. And if you wanted
to hear it, well, you needed to be here, in this city. The rapid attenuation
of FM radio waves on the landscape segregated those who got it from those
who didn’t.



In this way, cities develop reputations for being great radio towns.
Philadelphia was one. I grew up ninety miles out of Philly. When I was a
teenager, WMMR was considered a great station in the City of Brotherly Love.
Some would argue that it still is. When the weather was just right, I could
pick up WMMR in my car while cruising around at night. Most nights, it was
just static; I could hear the music just well enough to know what I was
missing. And while I wished that I could listen to the great music on WMMR
every night, I recognized that it belonged to Philadelphia, which only
served to raise this city in my mind as the pantheon of rock and roll radio.



Okay, so perhaps it is premature to call this the old days of radio.
Most people still listen to the radio this way. But now there are options.
Internet streaming and satellite radio are rapidly diminishing the importance
of place in radio. In ten years, will it matter at all where a radio station
is physically located? Will the loss of this sense of geographic identity
even be mourned? It will be by me.


These days, I still love surfing the radio for good stations. I live in the
Washington, D.C. suburbs now, not exactly a great radio town. A couple of
years ago, I was traveling up to New Jersey on a frequent basis. My route
passed by Philadelphia on Route 95. I discovered WXPN pretty early on. Good
radio stations jump right out at you, don’t they? WXPN is a public radio
station broadcast from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
They play an eclectic mix of music by popular artists and new acts, names
we know and names we need to watch out for. WXPN also hosts World Cafe

with David Dye, a program that brings artists into the studio to talk and
play their music live. The first time I heard World Cafe, Elvis Costello
was in the studio. I knew I was hooked.


In the short time I have been listening to WXPN, the station has extended
its listening area beyond Philadelphia and south Jersey. You can now pick
it up as far south as Baltimore and west from Philadelphia all the way to
Harrisburg. Of course, now you can also stream the station from here
(www.radioreview.homestead.com) or
directly through the WXPN home page
www.xpn.org. I am not making my
regular trips to New Jersey any more,
so I listen to WXPN on the internet whenever I am in the mood. The word
is out. This is a great station. You should give it a listen. WXPN may
belong to the world wide web now, but it will always say Philadelphia to me.
I can almost smell the cheese steak hoagies the moment I hear the call
letters.

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