Big Brain 2013 Finalist: Dust Circuit Radio, Online

You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives and the results are in. Introducing our Big Brain 2013 Finalists.

Leading up to the Big Brain Award awards announcement and celebration on April 27, Chow Bella and Jackalope Ranch will introduce the finalists.

Up today: Dust Circuit Radio

Ziggy Kennedy has a hard time defining the focus on his Internet radio program Dust Circuit Radio, but he's certainly enthusiastic about trying to pin it down anyway.

"I guess we focus on Americana and roots," the jovial 41-year-old laughs. "I sometimes say, 'If it has a banjo in it, I'll probably play it.'"

But Dust Circuit Radio is hardly strict about its roots format, just as likely devoting time to thrashing rock 'n' roll or spiraling shoegaze. It's an anything goes format, but instead of alienating listeners, it's quickly attracted them. The 24-hour stream consists of pre-recorded segments, live shows, and an archive of "DCR-approved songs." Kennedy features a cast of hosts in the DCR HQ (his house), including shows hosted by his wife, Kerry Kennedy, Mills End frontman Jeff Bump, Shain Mayer, and World Class Thugs player Jim Bachmann (Kennedy calls Bachmann's show, "Ripsnort Radio Hour," DCR's "finest program").

Kennedy launched the site (dustcircuitradio.com) with local musician Jason McGraw in October 2012. McGraw since has departed, but Kennedy's kept up, surviving strictly on donations, mostly from the very bands that Dust Circuit Radio plays and the kindness of musicians like Carol Pacey. ("Dust Circuit wouldn't exit without Carol," he laughs.)

"People do beautiful stuff if you just give them a chance," he says, his voice still betraying his Oklahoman ancestry. There's a trademark twang present when he discusses his time operating HAM radios in his hometown, Ava, Oklahama. (The same place that gave the world Blake Shelton," he sneers.) He's been in Arizona for 11 years, playing in local bands and impressing himself in Phoenix culture, and while Dust Circuit Radio plays a lot of Phoenix bands, there's music from all around the world featured on the station.

"My motivation was to be a conduit to unit fans with bands and bands with listeners, without a commercial agenda," says Kennedy. "I wanted to stay as far away from the money-go-round and bypass the usual sources of music licensing and go directly to the artists. Radio for the musicians rather than the marketing suits, I suppose."

Listenership varies, Kennedy says, from 80 listeners to 500, depending on the show and time. Unsurprisingly, Kennedy's freeform format hasn't attracted a lot of advertisers, but that doesn't bother him. The station occasionally features sponsors, but mostly he likes to keep it free and wild. The music -- even bumper music and show intros -- is cleared directly by each band played. "We play stuff that's a little blue, maybe askew," he explains. "No need to involve the FCC or BMI."

The station has recently begun broadcasting live from events at local watering holes like the Ice House Tavern and Yucca Tap Room (at the time of publication, DCR was set to live broadcast all 14 hours of the infamous Valley Fever Quarantine at the Yucca). The live events fit the social nature of his broadcasts. "People plan BBQs and parties around our shows," he says. "People put it on in their shops and just let it play for hours."

Dust Circuit Radio's format may be hard to define, but that's part of what makes it thrive, Kennedy says.

"We cuss, we make strange references," he says, still laughing. "Our fans get turned on, big money gets turned off." He wouldn't have it any other way.

Buy a $10 ticket to enjoy an evening of food, drink and entertainment April 27 at the Monarch Theater in downtown Phoenix. Meet the finalists and learn who won during our Big Brain celebration, Artopia.

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