Power to the Tower

Tuning the radio dial from channel to channel can be time consuming here in Chico. It’s a constant debacle sorting through good tunes, old tunes, tunes you might not want to hear or tunes you have never heard of, inspirational or disdainful talk radio, or a sermon here and there…

A steady stand-by is KZFR 90.1 FM.

KZFR is Chico’s one and only community radio station, making their home right here in downtown atop the big green building that sits at Broadway and 4th Street. They are a non-commercial and nonprofit public service organization, dedicated to playing the finest music chosen by their volunteer disc jockeys and radio personalities with the utmost love and appreciation for their audiences.

As any true community radio should, KZFR reflects the priorities of the Northern Sacramento Valley communities. They host many news radio shows to keep community members updated on current events globally, nationally, regionally, and locally. The station’s mission is to entertain, educate, to contribute to cultural understanding and appreciation, furthering the enlightenment of all listeners.

What makes KZFR possible? 

Well, first off: the station has been broadcasting since 1990, celebrating its 24th birthday this year. Of course, this was not actually the beginning, but rather the first time they went live on air. KZFR truly began years before; gathering funds through yard sales and car washes to get a transmitter (the tower) to send out the radio signal, in addition to all the licensing that had to be signed and approved.

This radio station happens by the sweat, tears, and laughter of roughly 120 community volunteers who provide a wide variety of music programming as well as local public affairs and sensationally electrifying programs, and who assist a small paid management staff with fundraising, outreach and events.

They are completely community-supported by donations—through membership drives that are organized twice a year in the fall and spring; events with big headliners like David Nelson, and Jackie Greene; and underwriting, which allows local businesses to be spotlighted and provide a consistent income for the station.

Agreement with the principles and goals of KZFR is the sole criteria for participation; opportunities to volunteer at events, in the  studio, or being trained as a programmer (as the DJs are called at the station) are always available.

Doesn’t sound too shabby. 

Now that you have a better idea of who KZFR is and what they do, it seems like a good time to take a look into their current situation. If you’re a listener—or are plugged into the vibe of the community—you’ve probably heard about the Power to the Tower campaign.

What is Power to the Tower? What does the tower do? And why does it need power? 

The tower is a real thing; it exists somewhere in the cuts near Magalia. It’s what allows the radio signal—with all the dedicated work the programmers have spent hours preparing— to get out into the world, to be heard in your car, over the airwaves, and on the internet.

The tower is a costly piece of machinery— in the ballpark of $40,000. That’s for the whole shebang: the equipment to send the signal out, and a sweet comfortable secure structure away from the elements for it to live in. It’s not only important that KZFR have it, it’s pretty damn essential.

KZFR needs that tower yesterday, so the station has put itself into overdrive to raise the necessary funds to get it. What’s in the works to get Power to the Tower? A concert series and an IndieGoGo campaign. The IndieGoGo method has proven successful for a few of our local landmarks such as The Bookstore and the Pageant Theatre, so why not KZFR? The campaign to raise the much needed funds will go live on Tuesday, January 28th. Show your support by making a donation here—indiegogo.com/kzfr. 

The concert series kicks off Saturday, February 1st, with Midnight North featuring Grahame Lesh & Walking Spanish. Doors will open at 7:30pm, and the show will commence 8:30pm. Tickets are $12, available online at kzfr.org.

Not familiar with these great bands? Here’s a bit of insight: Grahame Lesh, joined in the songwriting department by Elliott Peck, has formed Midnight North, a band who lets their songs and performances speak for themselves. Midnight North follows the path of a long line of successfully crafted California country music that spans from Bakersfield to the Bay. Walking Spanish is enigmatic in style. Their music is an honest expression of the band’s dynamic, magnetic prowess. It will be a night to remember, and a show you will feel good supporting, since all funds raised will go to KZFR and powering the mandatory installation of the tower.

Two other concerts in the series are coming up next month as well: Mardi Gras Party, with Bahapki and Karma Kings, on Friday, February 28th. Doors at 7pm and show at 8pm, Tickets are $10. On Saturday, March 8th, Commander Cody and his New Planet Airmen will be playing. Doors will be at 8pm and show will be at 9pm. Tickets are $25. Both shows will be hosted at the Women’s Club and tickets are available online at kzfr.org. 

Why support KZFR? 

In the words of some of the staff and programmers:

“Bottom line—we are broadcasters, and the Power to the Tower emergency has seriously detracted from our ability to broadcast. The tower is the heart of KZFR and what keeps everything going. Right now we are pumping at 500watts— less than a tenth of the 6300 watts we need. Without the tower we are off the air. All funds raised will go directly to Power to the Tower. We still have a serious amount of work ahead of us but I am confident that our listeners and supporters will come through.”  – Rick Anderson, General Manager 

“KZFR promotes local venues, organizations, musicians and political actions. It is a beacon of light to delve through the abyss which is commercial radio. It is also the only live and local music, so at any point listeners can call in and talk to the DJ. KZFR offers diverse programming that is not available elsewhere. Being a Reggae fan there is no where else to find it. Reggae DJs pull songs from their personal collection, from their passion of the music, exposing people to songs they rarely here. KZFR is not run by a single person, no fat cat at the top calling the shots. It is community members.”  – DJ PhG 

“KZFR is of the community. It allows eclectic programming; news you don’t get from other sources. Maybe you do not agree with everything but at least it is out there. Grassroots from the ground up; no corporate money.”  – David Samuels 

“It’s an important resource to the area; commercial free alternative views.”  – Marc Albert 

“Primarily, and most importantly, to keep us on the air. Amy Goodman did a segment in the past about the importance of community radio. A town had a derailed train creating a toxic waste emergency in the midwest, [the first instinct of] people who lived in the community was to call the local radio station, but no one was there. If local radio stations are up and functioning some one will be there to put the news on the air. We enjoy [hearing] ourselves on the air, but that is not our primary purpose. Our primary purpose is public safety.”  – Ed Pitman 

I’m sure that you are now totally amped to help KZFR keep delivering greatness through the airways. Do you want to try out your radio voice? To become a programmer, KZFR hosts training sessions twice a year in the fall and spring. There is no prior experience necessary; no fancy degree in broadcasting. They will walk you through everything you need to know for the certification process.

Not sure what shows to tune in to? I will let you in on a little secret—all the shows are outstanding, so it is best to just leave your radio dial at 90.1FM. But if you are looking for something more specific, there is the program guide at kzfr. org/programs. Or, you can try out the shows of the hosts quoted above. Here’s a little info about them:

Kitchen Sink: hosted by Jon D, on Fridays from 6 to 8am. The show is exactly what it says, everyone plays everything else; he plays what is left: The Kitchen Sink. It is extremely eclectic. It gives listeners an opportunity to listen to music and artists they have never heard.

Afternoon Reflux: hosted by Ed Pitman, on Tuesday afternoons, from 3 to 5pm. It’s a variety show with bad comedy and fake news. Listeners know Ed from other shows such as Morning Sickness, Another Blue Show, The Point Is, and Another Ed Show. If you know why you should listen to Ed’s show give a call, he asks himself the same question.

KZFR Evening News: hosted by Marc Albert, Monday through Thursday at 5pm and Friday at 6pm. The show provides an independent perspective about global issues and keeps community members abreast of issues in California, all in 28 minutes. Why tune in? To stay informed and try out a new news source. Listen to professional news on international top stories produced by Pacifica and National Native News, a five minute round-up of pertinent information for native people across the United States and Canada.

Creole Stomp: hosted by rotating DJs— David Samuels, Hondo, Kyle Porter, and Bill DeBlanc—every Wednesday night from 10pm to Midnight. Creole Stomp is Louisiana music from the southern border of Appalachia to the Northern border of the Caribbean. This means brass bands, jazz, zydeco, mardi gras, and rhythm and blues. You get raw indigenous music that is not played anywhere else.

Caribbean Dance Radio, hosted by DJ PhG, every other Saturday from 10 to midnight (Next time to tune in is February 8). Carribean Dance Radio is two hours of dancehall and reggae music from latest and best artists of reggae in a party format. Listen to the tracks that no one else is playing, recent songs that are coming out, and tracks that helped influence reggae and dancehall to be what it is today.

And of course a crash course in KZFR radio programming would not be complete without plugging my own show, Love in the 21st Century, which airs every other Thursday at 5:30pm. It’s a philosophical to practical look at love in our everyday lives; one third dating advice, one third compassion training, one third self-love guide. Tune in to get inspired, learn about how to take better care of yourself, and start seeing love in everything.

As I am sure you understand now, KZFR is bursting at the seams with community involvement. Support Power to the Tower, and keep KZFR on the air. Need more information or reasons to donate? Check out KZR.org. Keep community radio broadcasting, in the end you will be happy you did.

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