WRFL at 25

wrfl anniversaryYesterday at roughly 2 p.m., 88 equaled 25.

In other words, WRFL-FM, the student-run radio voice of the University of Kentucky – a station that crammed just about every style of music into the 88.1 position that was ignored elsewhere on the airwaves – hit the quartet century mark.

The first song broadcast – Big Audio Dynamite’s C’mon Every Beatbox – typlified the station’s mission. It was assertive, fun and full of groove.

During its first spring on the air, WRFL quickly established itself as something of a musical sanctuary. Sure, there were great genre shows devoted to reggae, jazz, Americana, psychedelia, world music and more. Many of them continue to this day in one form or another (a personal current favorite is WRFL Surfs, which airs on Friday mornings). But the big fun in listening always involved a sense of discovery.Tuning into WRFL at any time of day guaranteed exposure to music you very likely had not heard. Sometimes it was unforgivably loud and confrontational – so much so that I set my clock radio to the station throughout the ’90s. It woke me up in more ways than one. It had other effects, too. Having Bad Brains blasting from the radio at 6 a.m. drove the neighbors’ dogs nuts.

But you were just as likely to hear Frank Sinatra or Antonio Carlos Jobim next to, say, Public Image or Public Enemy. You never knew what surprises were in store.

Tonight, the celebrations begin in earnest. Al’s Bar and Al’s Sidecar, at 601 and 607 North Limestone, respectively, will host a double-barreled birthday party of free live music in honor of WRFL. Among the performing guests will be Hair Police, Big Fresh, Jovontaes, PezHed, Trance Substation, Alex Vans and the Getaway and Mail the Horse. WRFL DJs past and present will be on hand, too. The fun starts around 8 p.m.

Additional anniversary events are being planned throughout 2013. That should keep the beatboxes pumping.

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