Next you'll be telling me The Record Peddler is back
July 31, 2013 8:47 AM   Subscribe

Once upon a time, there was a little yellow house in Brampton, just northwest of Toronto, that housed what we used to know as CFNY. (Americans: think WKRP, but without Bailey Quarters.) Before it turned into the slick abomination 102.1 The Edge, CFNY was the commercial station that (along with community/university stations CIUT and CKLN) supported new and independent music. But starting at noon today, Indie 88 will be inheriting CFNY's mantle, except that kids these days don't wear mantles, so they will have Alan Cross in place as their Guidance Counsellor instead, which is way better than any silly old mantle. They're promising a pretty eclectic playlist, but for the next 12 minutes, this is the one song you'll hear (if you can actually pull in a signal on your terrestrial radio).
posted by maudlin (37 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
play good music, not what the industry wants you to play. Let the DJs themselves make the majority of the decisions. This is what make CFNY great. Anything else is just annoying hype.

Also this. Not because I'm a huge RUSH fan, but it was written about CFNY.
posted by philip-random at 8:53 AM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

My very first magazine feature -- for the Ryerson Review of Journalism in my graduating year at Rye High -- was a profile of Alan Cross. This was ca. 1998, just as the last vestiges of CFNY eclecticism were being stamped out in favour of abominable slickness. I spent a bit of time in studio with him and went out to Hamilton to sit in on his DJ night at a local club. Totally decent, unpretentious, genuinely music-geeky guy, who never once acted like hanging with a J-school student was in any way a burden or poor use of his time.

I would love to see a station on broadcast radio with some of the spirit and playlist of Sirius XMU, so here's hoping this takes off and spreads coast to coast. X92.9 here in Calgary does alright, but it's a bit heavy on the Smashing Pumpkins and Foo Fighters nostalgia and a bit light on the oddly angled and unexpected.
posted by gompa at 9:02 AM on July 31, 2013

Are there any commercial/terrestrial truly freeform radio stations left out there? I'm tempering my expectations.

(Opening: an excerpt from Hammer On by Nick Thayer. They're soliciting requests which "influence" the playlist. And the first song: yeah, Arcade Fire - Ready to Start. Second: MGMT - Electric Feel.)

Anyway, one reason I love seeing this station launch is that it caused Moses Znaimer to totally lose his shit. From Cartt's site (which may lock you out if you're not a subscriber):
Znaimer wanted to move The New AM740 Zoomer Radio, his station aimed at the 45 and older demographicthat suffers from, well, being an AM station and all the sound quality and interference challenges of that brings, to FM. Zoomer also owns another Toronto FM station, The New Classical 96.3 FM as well as Vision TV, JoyTV, One: Body Mind and Spirit, Zoomer Magazine and other assets.

The long-time broadcasting executive whose whole business is aimed at the 45-and-up set is very angry that with this new station a demographic which he and many others say just don’t listen to radio any more will still get another station.
posted by maudlin at 9:10 AM on July 31, 2013

Americans: think WKRP, but without Bailey Quarters.

The sound you just heard is half of my dude friends wailing in anguish.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:12 AM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ryerson still needs to give us back our Sam the Record Man sign.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:12 AM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

Once I got a car, I noticed the dearth of good radio stations in Toronto. I'm excited about this!
posted by xekul at 9:13 AM on July 31, 2013

So far, so good. I've heard some of my favorite stuff (that never gets airplay), and I liked the stuff I hadn't heard before. I hope these guys stick around for a long time, like xekul said we were badly in need of something like this.
posted by papafrita at 9:16 AM on July 31, 2013

Man, why does everybody use Never Gonna Give You Up? The stupid internet forgets that Rick had TWO massive hits, the aforementioned Never Gonna Give You Up, obvs, but also Together Forever which is superior in every way (other than chart position - NGGYU was #1 in UK, US, US Dance and US Adult Contemporary, TF was #1 in all those except #2 in UK and #2 US Adult Contemp).

And Together Forever was covered by the Softies, for Pete's sake!

In conclusion, get off my lawn.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:17 AM on July 31, 2013

They're promising a pretty eclectic playlist

It would be wonderful if they deliver. I desperately miss truly free-form radio and really idiosyncratic DJs who played pretty much whatever, especially late at night.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:17 AM on July 31, 2013

I won't let myself get excited until the play the 'Toast' song.

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo!


Just a little spot of -- Toast!

posted by Capt. Renault at 9:17 AM on July 31, 2013 [7 favorites]

Request it, Capt. Renault! You have to create an account (REALLY?), but I can deal with that, I guess, because I'd like to fuck with their demographic expectations re who's listening. I also want to break Znaimer's heart.
posted by maudlin at 9:20 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, wait. No direct requests. Just music surveys sent to you by email. Hmph. I will request Toast if at all possible.

Pretty mainstream "indie" so far. I mean, I love Pixies and Spoon, but nothing surprising has played yet.
posted by maudlin at 9:24 AM on July 31, 2013

Twenty years ago, CFNY was to Toronto radio what CITY-TV was to its television: independent and continually surprising, and absolutely cool in a way that none of its competitors was. (Both now exist in name only, of course, and have become generic and bland.) In the very early nineties, I was working in a retail store in Yorkdale Mall and CFNY was the unanimous favourite of the twentysomething staff. I used to call in to CFNY's all-request noon-hour show at least a couple of times a week, to the point where Alan Cross greeted me by name.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:27 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also this. Not because I'm a huge RUSH fan, but it was written about CFNY.

I was kind of hoping that was the song they were repeating.
posted by Spatch at 9:27 AM on July 31, 2013

I grew up with CFNY in the late 80s/early 90s during its long steady decline into irrelevance. I pretty much wrote off radio entirely until I moved to Seattle and found 90.3, which is pretty much early CFNY times a million, commercial-free. Radio heaven.
posted by simra at 9:32 AM on July 31, 2013

The main site (not the countdown site) is up now. Things looks a little more eclectic there. Throne of Glory might be worth checking out.
posted by maudlin at 9:35 AM on July 31, 2013

> Man, why does everybody use Never Gonna Give You Up?

It's not even Canadian content!
posted by ardgedee at 9:43 AM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

indie88 only gets CFNY's mantle if it also gives me my 20's back.
posted by GuyZero at 9:49 AM on July 31, 2013

This could be interesting. I'm about to go to my car to see if i can pick it up here in Buffalo. I listened to CFNY as a teen throughout the late 80s and a bit into the early 90s (crystal clear from 90 miles away), and have pretty much not listened to any radio except NPR since they transformed int "The Edge."

With Alan Cross involved, they have a shot at being good (assuming the suits stay away).
posted by jonathanhughes at 9:51 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

I once got to see Tori Amos from only 10-15 feet away, thanks to CFNY and lining up on Bloor St for a couple of hours.

But don't let it be said that Toronto has no good radio - we've still got CBC radio one! (I would say I must be old now, but I've been listening to CBC regularly since I was 8. Also quite fond of 96.3 Classical FM as a teen).
posted by jb at 9:53 AM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'll never forget the early CFNY. I'd struggle through lonely high school days, shuffle home and let Marsden comfort me with John Cooper Clarke's "Beasley Street". Magic drifted out of that little yellow house.
posted by davebush at 9:55 AM on July 31, 2013

Interesting article by Denise Benson that suggests that the sound of the station may still be in flux, with listener input over the next month playing more of a role than you think.
Thompson can’t yet give a precise picture of what a typical Indie88 playlist might look like, because he’s currently missing a crucial piece of information: listener feedback. On the station’s website, users are invited to sign up and take part in regular surveys about what new songs should played more or less often and, over the next month, those results will play a decisive role in how the station will sound once it officially launches Sept. 3.”That’s the biggest piece of information we’re going to use,” Thompson says. “This sounds like corporate-speak, but it’s all about engaging anybody who chooses to listen, and letting us know what they like. The onus is on us to present what’s really relevant—like, if it’s a local band that’s busting through, then we have to play them. And then it’s up to the audience to say, ‘Hey, we like that as well,’ because that band is already connecting on many levels—they’re selling out venues, people are talking about them, and people are buying or downloading their music, so they’ve already broken through in a sense. It’s our job to pay attention to Toronto and to Canada and go, ‘We’ll put these artists who are busting through on the air, and see what works with the listeners in Toronto.’ It’s like a Reddit-style or Hype Machine approach to a playlist, which is really necessary in my mind when you’re broadcasting and serving an entire city.”
posted by maudlin at 10:10 AM on July 31, 2013

Are there tech issues? I hear nothing in the livestream and I can't get the signal where I am at yonge and eg.
posted by captaincrouton at 10:13 AM on July 31, 2013

Why on earth are people talking about Alan Cross's involvement as if it's a positive?
posted by Old Man Wilson at 10:14 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh crap. I got rickrolled by a MeFi post.
posted by surplus at 10:16 AM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Are there tech issues?

The live stream has been wonky. I had to switch to Chrome instead of Firefox when it started stuttering.

The signal is impossible to get on all three standalone radios in my house (Junction), with only my iPod and stereo receiver bringing it in decently.
posted by maudlin at 10:22 AM on July 31, 2013

We used to listen from across the lake back in the early eighties.
posted by pracowity at 10:23 AM on July 31, 2013

No, it's not going to be early CFNY, but I'm looking forward to it.
Alan Cross's involvement is a huge plus, if he gets to influence the playlist in any way.
posted by rocket88 at 10:53 AM on July 31, 2013

+1 for Alan Cross. *but* when the OP said 12 minutes I assumed it meant they were daring enough to play a 12 minute song. It will be interesting to see whether they stick to radio edits. On the way home from hockey the other night I was in a somber mood and KEXP rewarded me with all 18 minutes of Tarentel's For Carl Sagan.
posted by simra at 11:10 AM on July 31, 2013

CFNY might have gotten its start in a little yellow house on Main Street (which is no longer there?) but I and other Bramptonians will remember it from 83 Kennedy Road south.
posted by sudasana at 11:49 AM on July 31, 2013

If Alan Cross is involved then this will likely be awesome.
posted by asnider at 12:07 PM on July 31, 2013

I can't find a citation, but I understand that CFNY, fairly early on, used the CN Tower as its broadcast antenna. That explains why Buffalo and Northern New York could receive it so clearly, and, in turn, why that market was exposed to CanCon bands like The Parachute Club, Rough Trade, and The Spoons.

I, too, used to listen to CFNY in the late '80s, and despaired over its descent into Morning Zoo stupidity. I believe the arrival of Mister Goohead signalled the start of that decline.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 12:39 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

I once got to see Tori Amos from only 10-15 feet away, thanks to CFNY and lining up on Bloor St for a couple of hours.

I think you have to be 10-15 feet from the tower to pick up their signal. (I kid)

Seriously I wish them luck and hope they deliver on all their promises. But I also wish they had a stronger signal — I tuned into their broadcast test and it was breaking up constantly while I drove along Eglinton in near Keele and Black Creek.
posted by samhyland at 12:54 PM on July 31, 2013

Some of my favorite memories growing up in Toronto in the 90s came from my weekend job through high school delivering chinese food. Sunday nights, driving around smoking joints listening to Alan Cross's Ongoing History Of New Music, kept me sane from the endless Chinese takeout fumes (I still can't eat it to this day).

Funny timing though, I hadn't even though of him in years, and two days ago I wound up on his site after a debate with a friend about early 90s Canadian alternative rock bands. I saw that he had a blog so I bookmarked it, wound up going back to it late last night and saw something about Indie88 but didn't give it too much thought. Should be interesting to see how it works out.

Also thanks to the blog, I started listening to his podcast, Geeks & Beats. So far so good.
posted by mannequito at 1:06 PM on July 31, 2013

I grew up in Brampton and a guy I knew in high school was an intern at CFNY. I fondly remember going to Edgefest at Ontario Place in the early 90s.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 1:21 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

So they've broken into the stream of music for a spontaneous interview with -- Moby? Guess he was hanging around Liberty Village. Still chatting now ...
posted by maudlin at 2:11 PM on July 31, 2013

I remember the airplanes flying around with Bring Back the Spirit or something like that banner flying behind them (Hey, I am getting old!). A surprising number of my Mississauga based Secondary School classmates went on to work at CFNY. In high school during the 80s that radio station was just about the only thing mattered to me. I am forever indebted to my friend Edwin for turning me on to it. It probably saved me from complete bro-dom.
posted by srboisvert at 4:06 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

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