Ear Candy

Hoping The Edge keeps tuning in

"Hey, you got your Rancid in my Mars Volta!"

"You got your No Doubt in my Postal Service!"

"Now you've got your Sublime in my Radiohead!"

A little alt, a little AOR, a little local, a little deep: KEDJ-FM is its own kind of animal.
Héctor S. Casanova
A little alt, a little AOR, a little local, a little deep: KEDJ-FM is its own kind of animal.

No, I'm not talking about the latest mash-ups by Z-Trip or Danger Mouse. Rather, this was my internalized conversation with local independent alternative radio station KEDJ-FM 103.9, "The Edge," as I listened to it over the past few weeks. It's not always as tasty as peanut butter and chocolate, but the station's improved immensely over the past couple of years, thanks to the management's inspired and unorthodox vision for the station.

Sometimes it comes off as more "album-oriented radio" than "alternative," culling 10- and 20-year-old tracks for its daily playlists, but The Edge's efforts have resulted in the best alt-rock radio we've got in the 'Nix.

This is largely because of New Planet Radio owner Scott Fey's aggressive efforts at improving The Edge by using its listeners' input to shape the station to serve and enlarge its audience, including expanding the station's power from 50 kilowatts to 100 kilowatts so that KEDJ now reaches the entire Valley. But just when you thought Phoenix finally had good radio, there comes news of the sale of The Edge to a new entity, Riviera Broadcast Group. That has plenty of folks, including me, wondering if the station is going to continue sailing its charted course.

The new owners, Riviera and its CEO Tim Pohlman and CFO Chris Maguire, are being touted by Fey both in radio promo spots and to me personally as another independent owner that will further The Edge's evolution in the same spirit it's established over the past few years. Pohlman and Maguire effectively took control of the station on the first of June, though New Planet will own its FCC broadcast license until October because of regulatory red tape.

KEDJ is Riviera's first radio station anywhere, so it's not a part of the corporate cabal that includes powerhouses such as Infinity and Clear Channel, but it's not as "independent" as are Fey and his investors in New Planet Radio. An investment bank called Veronis Suhler Stevenson created the Riviera Broadcast Group, and the press release announcing the sale on VSS' Web site indicates that Riviera may be looking to make further acquisitions. "We look forward to working in partnership with Veronis Suhler Stevenson to unlock the value of KEDJ as well as other underperforming assets across the radio industry," Pohlman says in the release. "We are actively pursuing investments as opportunities present themselves."

The question for fans of The Edge is, what next? Though I don't always agree with the selection of cuts on The Edge -- can Sublime please be permanently banned from airplay, please? -- it's still the best frequency on the dial to catch artists such as Tegan & Sara, the Mars Volta, Hot Hot Heat, Elliott Smith, Interpol, and the Postal Service. And The Edge is heavily involved in the local music scene, playing acts like Scary Kids Scaring Kids, Stereotyperider, Greeley Estates, and Before Braille on the weeknightly 11 o'clock "Local Frequency" show, and throwing a weekly "Local Frequency Live" show with hometowners at the Real Bar (formerly P.I.) in Tempe on Saturday nights.

If I had my druthers, there are definitely changes I would make in The Edge's playlist -- in one day's time, I heard Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train," Offspring's "Gotta Get Away," Beastie Boys' "Sure Shot," Everclear's "Santa Monica," The Cure's "Friday I'm in Love" (all from the early to mid-'90s) and Nena's 1984 "99 Luftballons." Not that some aren't decent songs, but we're talking all in a matter of eight hours' time -- some days, The Edge feels like VH1's I Love the '90s.

And the "4:20 Mandatory Marley" every afternoon always makes me puke a little bit of bile into my mouth.

The promises that Fey's administration made to listeners in its "Independent Declaration" are what truly sets The Edge apart. These include culling deeper cuts from albums, not just playing the hits; less repetition; not letting the DJs talk over the beginnings or ends of songs; and supporting local music on the station, its Web site (www.theedge1039.com), and at the concerts it produces. Unfortunately, the station remains relatively low in the rankings for the vital 18-to-34 demographic, and the investors behind Fey and New Planet Radio decided to get out of the game.

Fey, who now plans to divert his attention to new technologies on the tech horizon, is optimistic about the new ownership and management. "[The staff is] staying, these guys [Pohlman and Maguire] are very excited, they're buying a station in the process of improving," he says.

As for Pohlman, he explained to me that "[Riviera's] goal is to provide the resources to continue to make [The Edge] very good. We feel it's headed in a good direction. We don't have any plans to go away from what we're doing. I think that's a big reason they sold the station to us -- our vision and goals match theirs. It's a changing of the guard."

I think I can speak for the fans and occasional listeners of The Edge when I encourage Pohlman and Maguire to continue to retain the station's independent approach to radio, and to keep soliciting our feedback. If anything, I think The Edge should reach further beyond major-label alternative albums for its playlist, and put more independent-label bands in the mix.

Like maybe throw on something by Willy Mason or Dntel next time you're tempted to rock another shitty Sublime track.

 
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