The rich world of college radio is an underground treasure to many people on and off their local college campuses. However, most students are completely unaware that they have fully equipped broadcast stations tucked away into the shadows of their college campuses. As a result, the mainstream of campus is oblivious to the magic that occurs within those seemingly random, overlooked buildings. Those who do curiously stumble into those corners know that within those buildings something special is taking place; students are learning to host radio shows, become DJs, promoters, event planners, journalists, producers, audio engineers, social media experts and so much more.
A college radio station, is a school of its own, where you learn to be an expert in many different media formats yet simultaneously critical of the corporate systems that deliver them. This community is vital to not only sustain college radio but to encourage the growth and innovation of stations during this modern age of technology and streaming. Fortunately for KUCR and many other California stations, this sense of community became a lived experience on Thursday, Feb. 27 at the Los Angeles College Radio Night (LACRN), hosted by UCLA radio at the Bootleg Theater.
LACRN brought nine college radio stations, six musical acts and over 10 panelists from different areas of the music industry together for one night. There they commemorated the foundations of college radio, the people who have worked hard to keep it alive and those hustling to make it even better. This all came together in three different parts: tabling, live music and Q&A panels. The first room of the Bootleg Theater consisted of tables from college radio stations which displayed student led efforts like handmade zines, stickers, pins, shirts and more. The tabling room felt like the perfect spot to relax and get to know fellow college radio DJs more intimately as it was lit by iridescent pink fluorescent lights, had paper rose petals on the floor and cozy bunk beds to sit on when you wanted to just sit and talk. This set the tone of the night to network and form new meaningful connections with fellow DJs and music enthusiasts.
Q&A panels with music industry professionals that got their foot in the door by being college radio student managers, music directors and DJs was the most inspiring aspect of the night for those who hope to continue their journey in the world of radio and music. The wide variety of input from recent college graduates like radio promoter Dawood Nadurath of Terrorbird Media, to KCRW DJ legends like Anthony Valdez was refreshing because it provided a sense of mentorship in a very obscure and seemingly elitist industry. Furthermore, tips from accomplished veteran in the field like Adam Lewis, founder of the music marketing company Planetary Group, about entrepreneurship and what students should be doing now to ensure they have the right assets to enter the job field once they graduate was valuable information you don’t typically find at your college campus job fair. This sense of direction and the willingness of these professionals to network with the students was extremely appreciated and useful.
And of course, the night would not truly be a celebration of college radio without live acts from a variety of up-and-coming musicians like E Arenas, Fell Runner, Your Angel, Carter Ace, Ryan Pollie and Dylan Meek. In between chatting at the tabling sections and taking notes in the panel room, gangs of college radio fanatics and people from the community who purchased tickets for the show united under the fundamental characteristic we all have in common: our love for fresh, original music. This unity was highlighted during the electric, yet trancy performance by E Arenas. Led by the bassist of Chicano Batman, Eduardo Arenas, the band was fully stacked with incredible musicians: Kevin Marten from Brainstory on the guitar, William Alexander on drums and b.i.g.f.u.n. on the keys, which created incredible chemistry on stage. E Arenas seamlessly blended different styles of music like corridos, psychedelic rock and funk into one transmission that energized the crowd. As a result of the music blending so many different genres, the crowd reflected this in their dances as people were chain dancing, grabbing partners during the more corridos influenced songs and even moshing all at once. By the end of their set a vast majority of the audience went outside to get fresh air and take in the beauty of what had just happened.
Overall the night was a true celebration of what it means to be a part of college radio, which is to be a member of a community dedicated to bringing diversity to the music industry, a constant pupil and an entrepreneur of the arts. LACRN was a reminder to those working in college radio that their efforts are appreciated and their goals are attainable. The event also served as proof that college radio stations are important spaces that bring communities together to share valuable knowledge that is hard to find anywhere else. The experience was a unique one in that it brought us all together under one roof to celebrate the history and future of these underground spaces which we cherish so deeply.