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There was a time when “disc jockey” was atop my list of future professions. Fifth grade, I wanted to be Casey Kasem: host America’s Top 40, play Prince and Janet Jackson. But college radio, while invaluable and a general blast, debunked my hopes. There was no future. At the turn of the century, a career [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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There was a time when “disc jockey” was atop my list of future professions. Fifth grade, I wanted to be Casey Kasem: host America’s Top 40, play Prince and Janet Jackson. But college radio, while invaluable and a general blast, debunked my hopes. There was no future. At the turn of the century, a career in terrestrial radio was going the way of the daily newspaper.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule.

To that end, 24-year-old Ian Graham is my hero.

Even given the recent boon in choice across the Columbus dial—from an the old-school hip-hop juggernaut at BOOM 106.3 to everything WCRS and Radio614 have done—his show, “The Rock and Roll Radio Show,” broadcast weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on WQTT 1270 AM, has reverted back to a time when radio was the centerpiece of how we collectively learned of new music. It was dangerous to a degree. But in a culture of choice over chance, the uphill climb to convert listeners back to the random thrills of terrestrial radio still come with diminishing returns.

“I’ll be the first to admit that terrestrial radio is not very relevant,” says Graham. “The only time anyone listens to it is in their car—if that. There’s a lot of great local radio in Columbus, but I don’t think it’s being utilized in the right way all the time.  I understand that there are different layers to it, so it becomes hard to really do what you want.”

That sentiment didn’t stop the Marysville native from pursuing a dream that started with playing an Odd Lots mixtape that included the Swinging Blue Jeans’ infamous “Hippy Hippy Shake” on loop in his youth. Since as long as Graham can remember, he’s been attracted to the classics of forgotten radio in the ’50s and ’60s, and the constant cycle back to the “garage” aesthetic. Declining higher education and formal training in exchange for real-world experience, he eventually coaxed the duo responsible for “Marty and Doc in the Morning,” whom he met at the Union County Fairgrounds, to allow him to intern at the local station. Seeing Graham’s dedication towards all of the mundane tasks that went on behind the scenes, and his insatiable urge to become a tried-and-true radio personality, the station’s owner thought it would be a good idea to allow Graham on the air.

“Mark Litton, who has been in broadcasting for almost 50 years, thinks of what I do with a ‘why not?’ mentality,” says Graham. “In a lot of ways, it’s going back to the way it was. Pandora and Spotify are so narrow in what they play and frankly, it’s a little unhealthy in developing taste.”

But that was two months ago. Let this be a cautionary tale.

As popular as the show has been since Graham started “The Rock and Roll Radio Show,” his aspirations took another turn. As of this writing, thanks to what Graham calls “changes the owner may or may not be being making to the station” his show has been dropped, much to the dismay of the loyal fan base he’s acquired. There’s a possibility they’ll have him back, but on the condition he can raise the sponsorship money to fund his salary. A good thing isn’t always a sure thing, unfortunately, such is the fickle nature of terrestrial radio.

Those who unknowingly stumbled upon his 3-6 slot, discovered through “interaction” with their radio (or the archaic practice of scanning the dial), were likely stunned to hear Black Flag in the same playlist as Bo Diddley, especially with the nostalgic “AM tinge” that Graham is convinced is sonically how we should  be hearing a lot of the garage rock that is currently en vogue.

Despite the setbacks, and somewhat nervy panic that comes from being off-the-air, Graham isn’t phased. He knows his mission is far from over. He’s an outcast with an enthusiastic voice who needs a megaphone.

“I take my persona mostly from Alan Freed, who was known as the king of the ‘moondoggers,’ up in Cleveland during the mid-’50s.” says Graham of his inspiration. “He was instrumental in changing the public’s perception of rock and roll or race records. He was the reason people discovered these records. Mark understands that my main goal is to bridge what came before with what’s going on now.”

In that regard, Graham’s “The Rock and Roll Radio Show” is two-pronged. During his tenure at QT1270 he has reached out to pioneers like Tommy James and Sandy Nelson for interviews, raised awareness of Columbus’ own contribution to the ’60s garage pandemonium by bringing light to The Fifth Order and The Dantes, but he’s also invited in local bands including Raw Pony to perform live in the station’s cramped lobby and championed singles by Psychic Wheels in the spirit of Wolfman Jack. It’s truly Graham’s infectious fervor for the music he plays that has led to his success.

His dedication to the craft is starting to reap dividends. Starting this month, WQTT 1270 will move to the FM dial as 98.7, increasing his reach and hopefully his terrestrial audience. Graham will also be coordinating and then broadcasting live in-store shows at Used Kid’s, wanting to emulate the spirit of free-form stations like WFMU and KXLP—stations with a reputation outside of their immediate range. Overall, Graham’s efforts have at the very least created a “body of work” that’s hard to ignore. Even if the populous isn’t listening now, eventually they’ll come around.

“I don’t foresee radio dying, just like there will always be landlines,” concludes Graham, almost philosophically. “In case of emergency—if the wi-fi is down—you can break that glass.”

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Curbside Concerts brings live music, hope to those in need

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Can’tStopColumbus took a quick pause when the pandemic shut down the world and asked two questions:

  1. Are we sure we're solving the needs of everyone in our community during this time? 
  2. Are we not just coming up with ideas based on our own experiences?

Our elder community was one of the major demographics to have stricter socially distancing guidelines suggested to them. Holidays and birthdays went by without hugs from grandpa or grandma’s cookies.

Out of the need to fill that missing love in the life of American seniors, the idea of Curbside Concerts was born. Anyone is able to jump on the Curbside Concerts signup page and request a concert for an elder, sick people not able to leave the house, or a simple celebration.

Sending a concert telegram is free, and you can also leave a message for a loved one and suggest what type of tunes the organization-selected Columbus-area musician.

So far, the feedback has been inspiring. 

“People cried. I cried. We cried. It was beautiful,” said Zach Friedman, one of the service’s founders and creators. “We had a powerful idea on our hands, and the amazing power of the #Can'tStopColumbus community to scale it and bring it to life.”

To date, Curbside Concerts has had over 50 volunteers. Their job is to drive around a Columbus musician and their equipment with trucks provided by Ricart Automotive. It’s a road trip around the Columbus area, delivering concerts to those who may just need their spirits lifted. It’s like a non-depressing version of Inside Llewyn Davis.

Support has come from all ends of the Columbus creative community, including The Columbus Foundation, Greater Columbus Arts Council, Streetlight Guild, and What? Productions. Through these organizations, musicians are able to be paid for a route that usually lasts five to six hours. 100 percent of the donations they receive on their route also goes to the musicians.

Friedman is asking people to keep requests to older audiences.

“Working with local musicians to perform curbside at people's homes is the vehicle or medium, but the real thing we are doing here is connecting those to older people they love, with an authentic and emotional experience to send love over,” Friedman said.

We found out pretty quickly how much as a collective that we take live music for granted. Live streams have been a temporary, dulled-down replacement. You realize how long people have been robbed of the experience when you see a musician pull up in a pickup truck, set up in five minutes, and serenade neighborhoods with songs like “Lean on Me” and “What A Wonderful World.” It starts off with a message to one house and then resonates down the street, like the citizens of Gas Town rushing to The People Eater for even a drop of water.

Photos by Zak Kolesar

For most people, it was their first taste of live music since mid-March. While we may want concerts to return as soon as possible, its productions like Curbside Concerts that display the emotional power of music.

To request to send someone a concert, follow the link here: https://sendaconcert.herokuapp.com/request

To volunteer for Curbside Concerts, follow the link here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040b45abaa22a4fb6-curbside

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Arts & Culture

Live music allowed again in restaurants and bars: how will these establishments respond?

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A major step forward in the return of live music in Ohio took place over the weekend. The Ohio coronavirus guidelines were updated to reflect the new COVID-19 Dine Safe Ohio Order.

The order outlining the guidelines on live music in restaurant and bars is as follows:

Musicians and bands may perform in restaurants and bars as long as the individuals who are performing maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from all other people including, but not limited to, fellow performers and restaurant and bar patrons and staff.

DJ's are included along with musicians and bands in the order.

Something that was on the mind of a lot of musicians with the reopening of restaurants and the indefinite closing of large venues was how restaurants and bars were going to respond to the immediate venue demand. Places like Woodlands Tavern that already have an infrastructure for live music will have no problem complying with the updated order, but will restaurants and bars that depended on jukeboxes before pivot to a live music model?

With a lot more space available in restaurants due to capacity cuts, does this leave more room for a live music set up? Or will restaurants have to get rid of even more tables if they want to make room for a performer?

The thought of live music in a venue setting is alone enough to get excited about. How these places that now have the ability to host live music execute freeing up space for a band to set up or a DJ to bring his rig in while practicing social distancing is what makes this situation a tricky one.

Not being able to get down in a MojoFlo Soul Train line will be pretty tough, but it’s a tradeoff we’ll have to accept for the return of live music.

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Arts & Culture

(614) Music Club: Sarob

Julian Foglietti

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Every week (614) Music Club teams up with your favorite local artists to build a playlist of what they’re listening to, and what’s inspiring them. This week’s playlist is brought to you by the R&B artist Sarob.


Photo by: Wyze

Tell me about some of the songs you’ve selected.

"The first one is Sobeautiful by Musiq Soulchild. So every week with my vocal coach, I have to learn a song. And I've been trying to figure out how to do vocal gliding. Which is not a strong point for me, and I remember hearing that song and being like, OK, this is it. The song is just beautifully written and composed, so when you add the technique to it, it’s just great. The other song was Workin On It by Dwele, who is one of my favorite artists of all time. Workin On It uses this J Dilla beat that just feels really timeless."

Have the past few months changed the direction or mood of the music you're creating. 

"So I have been making stuff here and there, and then I'll go into something creative for like two days. I'll just be making like a bunch of songs and then I'll stop for two weeks, not even want to look at a microphone or anything. I mean, it's a lot more inward, so I’m learning how to better communicate the things I'm experiencing, and set the scenes for people and talk about what is going on. Also not having my band has been a challenge. I’m more of a thinker, I play the keyboard, and I can build a song, but I’m not the most gifted musician so having to build a lot of it on my own is tricky."

Do you have any plans or releases coming up? 

"Yeah, so I had a song Pleasures U Like that was made for my last album, but it didn’t quite fit the story of the album. So I just forgot about it until recently and I finished the vocals just before the lockdown, and now I’m releasing it on Bandcamp as part of a fundraiser for The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. All of the proceeds from the song are going to go to support their Pandemic Emergency Fund, and it just felt like a good way to do something that would impact everything going on."

Sarob's Playlist

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