Buffalo gets a radio alternative

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I first heard about the radio savior that is Alternative Buffalo 107.7 a few months ago from a friend. He told me that The Lake was back, but that they play better music. He was right, kind of.

Formerly 107.7 The Lake, which played classic rock and adult contemporary between May 2004 and April 2011, Alternative 107.7 now graces The Greater Buffalo Area with modern alternative and indie rock. Their motto: “A new alternative for a new Buffalo.”

Owned by Entercom Communications, the same corporation that owns WBEN Radio, Kiss 98.5, and Star 102.5, WLKK (107.7 FM) has changed formats frequently — seven times since the days of “The Bear — High Quality Rock and Roll”, which aired from 1986-88.  Let’s hope Alternative Buffalo breaks the trend and sticks around a good while.

Nik Rivers, program director and on-air personality at Alternative Buffalo, is confident they can do just that.

“I feel that we have the right format, with the right music, and the right staff at the right time,” Rivers said. “Alternative music as a whole has seen on a tremendous upswing over the last couple of years. Starting with the massive crossover success of bands like Mumford & Sons, and Foster The People, the format is breeding hits that have mass appeal and are crossing over to Top 40 radio. It’s our job to lead Buffalo’s new music discovery, to step out on new music and introduce it to the masses.  Then phase two is to start [bringing] those bands to town, and put them in front of listeners, which we have started to do with our ‘You Saw Them First’ series of shows.  If we continue to execute all the phases of our plan, and deliver them to a hungry audience, I feel that Alternative Buffalo will be here for a long time to come.”

They’re definitely doing all the right things to spread the news, get people involved, and gain a loyal audience, and they claim to stand by the “Alternative Buffalo 107.7 Mantra,” which can be seen on the front page of alternativebuffalo.com. It reads: “It’s different here. We want and respect your ideas. We actively support our community. Our DJs will be knowledgeable and passionate about the music they play. Music in the morning. Prepare to be surprised.”

Before Alternative Buffalo began broadcasting out of Wethersfield, New York in September of last year, Buffalo alternative and indie rock fans like myself had to rely on radio waves coming from across the border, streaming from 102.1 The Edge out of Toronto. The signal failed me at times, but was usually pretty clear considering the distance.

Given, Toronto is a much bigger market, but Buffalo was still too big not to have a radio station that catered to the tastes of alternative rock fans.

What’s more is that aside from having something good to listen to in the car, Alternative Buffalo is bringing tons of awesome concerts to the area, from big-name acts like Vampire Weekend and The Arctic Monkeys to emerging artists like The Orwells and Bear Hands.”

— Dan Almasi

“It came about after our parent company, Entercom, conducted extensive market research and found that there was a hunger amongst Buffalo music fans for alternative music,” Rivers said. “That coupled with the fact that there hasn’t been an alternative station in Buffalo for quite some time produced the decision to launch Alternative Buffalo.”

Of course Buffalo has 103.3 The Edge, but they play more progressive, hard-edged rock, which any music fan knows has an entirely separate fan base and audience. I listened to Buffalo’s Edge occasionally, but I’d take a bit of static on Canada’s Edge (102.1) over it almost any day. I’ll always love Toronto’s Edge; it was my favorite radio station for the past several years.

Then Alternative Buffalo came along and knocked both out of the picture, for me at least. Not only do they play all the stuff I like that I could only hear on 102.1 The Edge, they play a lot of my great music that I had never heard on the radio before.

And despite being a modern alt and indie station, they also play the classics like The Clash, Beastie Boys, The Ramones, and Nirvana (yes, those are classics. It’s 2014).

What’s more is that aside from having something good to listen to in the car, Alternative Buffalo is bringing tons of awesome concerts to the area, from big-name acts like Vampire Weekend and The Arctic Monkeys to emerging artists like The Orwells and Bear Hands.

Alternative Buffalo has already announced three big concerts already for this summer — Vampire Weekend is playing at The Outer Harbor on June 9, The Arctic Monkeys will rock Lewiston’s Art Park on June 18, and City & Colour, Young the Giant, and, completing the trifecta, Tokyo Police Club, will all play Buffalo’s Outer Harbor on July 11.

The Arctic Monkeys are an international sensation right now, after releasing their chart-topping album AM in 2013. They’re only playing nine shows in the US this summer (at least of those announced so far), three of which are Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and Firefly music festivals, which all cost hundreds of dollars to attend. The fact that Buffalo is not only lucky enough to have them playing here, but to have the opportunity to see them for just 10 dollars a ticket is crazy. You can’t find tickets to any of their other shows in the US for less than 40 bucks, even to the other outdoor amphitheater-type venues. This isn’t just a show, Buffalo, it’s an opportunity. Take advantage.

As part of the aforementioned concert series titled “You Saw Them First”, Alternative Buffalo has teamed up with The Waiting Room on Delaware Ave. to bring in emerging acts like Bear Hands, ITCH, and The Orwells. The best part is that tickets are just $1.07 (I guess a dollar just seemed a bit too cheap) and both lot and street parking are free.

I’m not really into the “I knew them before you” thing, but as they say, talent recognizes talent. Plus, it’s definitely cool to see an artist in the stage where they’re still developing and growing as musicians.

The Orwells, who play The Waiting Room on April 23, are just five kids that are barely out of high school, but they’re definitely not your average high school band. They have a garage band quality to them, and by no means is that a bad thing. They do it well. In the age of synthesizers and electronic music, they’re a refreshing throwback of purely vocal and instrumental punk rock with an angsty sound that can only be pulled off by a younger group.

We don’t see enough of this kind of stuff anymore, and I have two theories.

Theory one: There’s a lot of these kinds of groups out there, but not many make the big stage.

Theory two: Punk rock has been replaced by screamo.

Both are equally disheartening.

Rivers said that some shows represented by Alternative Buffalo are booked and brought to Buffalo by someone within the station, often himself. Other times, promoters who work for the venue contact Alternative Buffalo and decide Alternative Buffalo would “be a good fit” for the show.

I asked Rivers if we could expect any more shows to be announced for this summer, but as expected, he didn’t provide a straight answer.

“Let’s just say…It’s only just begun,” Rivers said. “I’d love to let the cat out of the proverbial bag on a couple things, but I must remain silent…for now.”

Alternative Buffalo also prides itself on exposing its listeners the newest music first, part of the program termed “new music discovery”.

Rivers explained how he and Alternative Buffalo discover new music, and how a lot of the time the music finds them.

“There are a few avenues,” said Rivers. “We receive CDs in the mail daily, and .wav files via email that we sift through and listen to. There is constantly music coming into my office…sometimes people pop in and ask what I’m playing, and sometimes it’s my ears alone that make the decision. I also travel the country each year and attend major music festivals in hopes to find the next big thing. I just got back from South By Southwest, and am actually off to Coachella later this week, and then Lollapalooza later this summer. It never ends, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I guess one could say music truly is my life.”

Alternative Buffalo always makes sure you know who you’re hearing too, making sure to mention the artist and song name of every song you shouldn’t know already.

If you text “song” to 47183, you’ll receive a text back listing the last three songs played on Alternative Buffalo. Also, if you text “concert” to that number, you’ll be added to the alert list and will receive a text anytime a new concert is announced that Alternative Buffalo has a part in.

Rivers also talked about what they want to accomplish within Buffalo’s music community – whether you’re just a fan or a musician yourself, Alternative Buffalo wants you to join the team.

“We really want to create and establish a close knit music family,” said Rivers. “We want Buffalo to feel that they are a part of and involved with the station. We listen to suggestions on what [listeners] want to hear.  The Alternative Buffalo staff will be out at shows. We want to connect with local Buffalo musicians and give them an outlet to be heard. We are working on this last part with our local music show, ‘Localized,’ which airs Sundays from 8-9 p.m. with Chelsea O., A local musician herself. Shameless plug: Local bands, submit your music to: Localized@AlternativeBuffalo.com.”

He also talked about what he personally wants to accomplish as program director of the station.

“I just want to create a station and brand that the Alternative music fans of buffalo will embrace for a long time to come,” Rivers said. “We are here for the Alternative fans of Buffalo, to help them discover new music, to get them to embrace the radio again, and to let them know that there is a station for them. If I can accomplish that, I will be a very happy man.”

Thanks for being here for us, Nik.

Email: almasi.record@live.com

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