Longform

Big Brain Awards 2013

Page 8 of 13

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.

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 unite fans with bands and bands with listeners, without a commercial agenda," says Kennedy.

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 says. "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. — Jason P. Woodbury


LIGHTNING OCTOPUS

Jonathan Simon has a tendency to geek out. A lot. You can tell when it's happening, as the 32-year-old blogger usually sports a boyish grin when discussing things he's passionate about, such as space ("I'm a big solar system nerd"), Super Nintendo, and sci-fi novels (Nick Harkaway's post-apocalyptic tome The Gone-Away World is a fave).

He wears an even bigger smile when gushing about a particularly favorite subject: the joys of local geek culture. Over the past three years, he's explored, chronicled, and celebrated homegrown nerd-dom in the Valley on his renowned blog Lightning Octopus, (lightningoctopus.com).

Since launching in 2010, Simon's exhaustively championed the imaginative efforts of like-minded local comic book scribes, fantasy authors, indie auteurs, and countless creatives of a geeky kind. He also has given the lowdown on nerd-oriented events throughout Arizona.

It also helped reinvent his life.

Sitting inside his cozy office, a recent addition to the Mesa home Simon shares with his wife, Darby, and their three children, this implementation analyst for a local staffing company ("It's as boring as it sounds") describes how Lightning Octopus transformed him from a cubicle drone and reclusive homebody into a nerd about town.

A trip to Phoenix Comicon on a lark opened Simon's eyes to the Valley's vast geek scene and provided the impetus for the blog he'd been itching to create. Nights spent watching TiVo gave way to unforgettable experiences with hackers, cosplayers, monsterologists, and zombie hunters, often with his family in tow.

Much as he did, Simon implores others to pull a Luke Skywalker and ditch the homestead in search of adventure.

"I've become an evangelist of opening your door and seeing what's going on right in your neighborhood," he says. "I was super-blind to it, to all this stuff to explore here, stuff I never would've done before."

Like hanging with R2-D2 at Tempe's Geeks Night Out, riding in a DeLorean during KAET's Nerd Walk, or other activities that would've made his younger self insanely jealous. Star Wars and Back to the Future were beloved to this child of the '80s, who preferred science and spaceships over sports while growing up "on the mean streets of Sandy, Utah."

Simon has reduced his blogging recently due to increased parental responsibilities (including another baby on the way), but makes time for Lightning Octopus' newest feature, the aptly named Electric CephaloPodcast. It debuted in February after web developer/graphic designer Austin Baker and Chris Dodson, a network engineer, approached him about a podcast emphasizing homegrown geekery.

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