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Out of the Blue: A great year for radio

April 24, 2014|By Billy Fried

A year ago, I stood in the KX93.5 broadcast booth with the honchos of the station, ruminating over the impact "the little station that could" had on the community. The three men came to Laguna to launch a nonprofit station with the dream of disrupting corporate by-the-numbers radio with independent music.

So far, so good. Each honcho had a time slot and played their own music. But they really didn't know the town.

That's OK. The station was only six months old and had already amassed a comprehensive roster of volunteer, local jocks. The community was beginning to notice, and the station was planning its first fundraiser, a Casino Night at the Surf and Sand.

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Now it's a year later, and KX93.5 once again faces the Sisyphean task that curses public radio — fundraising. This time it's Craft Brews and Views, to be held Saturday night at a swanky local mansion with a view that will have everyone swooning over the Laguna coastline while they listen to live music and enjoy craft brews paired with gourmet plates.

Only this time it's a different station.

"I think we've come to understand our role in the community," station principal Tyler Russell told me. "We are an open promotional source for locals in the community to get exposure they couldn't otherwise."

Indeed, when the original three came to town they had no idea of the fiercely protective character of this community, where so many pride themselves on telling you how long they've lived here or how many generations of Lagunans they hail from, as if that should carry extra clout.

"Our first goal was to simply launch a radio station that was more artist driven, and while I knew Laguna lacked a radio signal, it was never our sole focus," Russell said.

It was their good fortune that a dormant signal from a Laguna Niguel church was available. And a radio town was born. Not just because a tower was installed here but also because of the flowering of dormant local talent in the broadcast booth, hosts and performers.

Take Ida Mae on Saturday mornings, for instance (great on your way to and from the farmers market). She puts the roots in rootsy-ness. Like someone you might meet in a Biloxi bar. She spins Americana music, specifically bluegrass and alt country. Think Austin meets Nashville, with a stop in New Orleans.

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